Book Reviews 2

The History of an Airscrew Company
1937 - 1960
by Bruce Stait

Hardbound, 9.3" x 6.2" x 0.9", 180 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0951681503
Alan Sutton Publishing; 1st edition (1990)

Available from Abe Books, and Other Used Book Dealers

20 Pages Black and White Images

Reviewed by Tom Fey - 21 Jan 2015

Rotol was established in 1937 by the drive of Sir Roy Fedden of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Fedden managed to convince Lord Hives of Rolls-Royce that it was imperative to establish a propeller company to compete with de Havilland as well as the American manufacturers Hamilton-Standard and Curtiss. Bristol and Rolls-Royce each contributed money and personnel to the endeavor, which was born at a time when standardization of the propeller/engine interface was being discussed. The great debate of hardwood versus magnesium versus aluminum (aluminium to the Brits) versus steel versus compressed wood composite propeller blades was raging. Engine horsepower along with aircraft performance was accelerating, and war clouds were gathering.

Stait develops wonderful personalities in his story, especially the imperial, but right-man-at-the-right-time for the job, Rotol Comptroller R. H. Coverly. The process of weaning Rotol off subsidies of money and the cherry picking of skilled manpower from the parent companies is discussed, and fascinating details of wages, mistakes, communists, the war, expansion, competition, and dealing with the British Ministries is all told in a wonderfully British manner. As time and technology progressed, additional product lines are discussed and launched with variable success. The pain of the immediate post-war adjustment to production and employment, the advent of the turboprop engine, the "limited" future of the propeller in the coming jet age, and corporate mergers are presented in a well-organized and pleasantly detailed manner.

The history of Rotol as penned by Dowty retiree Bruce Stait is an outstanding work full of personal insight, excellent research, refreshing technical detail, and a multitude of stories and anecdotes captured by the author from Rotol employees themselves. The book has 20 pages of black and white photographs and eight welcome appendices which include rates of pay, cost of propellers, the Rotol propeller numbering system, wood blade markings and construction details, and propeller design.

Readers with an interest in propellers will undoubtedly enjoy this history, but the richness in detail of both the times and the Rotol employees will delight readers with an interest in the 1937-1960 period of British history.

Tank Aero Engines
by Richard C. Hill

Digitally printed, 8.5 x 11"
Softbound, 76 pages
Richard C. Hill
Box 328
Harvard, IL 60033-0328

Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon

The Tank aero engine, built by Milwaukee Parts Corporation, was perhaps the last in a long line of modifications to the Curtiss OX-5. In the case of the Tank, the modifications were so extensive that little of the original OX-5 remained. Two versions of the Tank were certified. The Model 63 (V470), ATC No. 63 (October 3, 1930), displaced 470 cubic inches and produced 115 hp at 1,675 rpm. The Model 73 (V502), ATC No. 73 (June 23, 1931) displaced 502 in³ and produced 115 hp at 1,650 rpm.

Both models replaced the Curtiss water-cooled cylinders and their quaint "mouse-trap" push-pull valve mechanism with air-cooled cylinders with standard overhead valve gear with one push rod per valve.

The Model 73 retained the Curtiss crankcase, crankshaft, and connecting rods, with the crankcase being machined to accept the new camshaft and cam followers. With the Model 63, only the crankshaft and connecting rods from the OX-5 were used.

The Tank engine was the creation of brothers Frank C, and Al J. Tank, who both worked for the Milwaukee Parts Corporation, owned by Edwin J. Michalski. Mr. Hill's book is full of biographical information on Michalski, Frank Tank and Al Tank, in the form of newspaper clippings, old photographs, advertisements, testimonials, copies of Approved Type Certificates, etc.

At least two other engines were developed in association with the Milwaukee Parts Corporation. An experimental two-cylinder air-cooled engine based on Tank cylinders was apparently intended as a replacement for the Aeronce E-113. The four-cylinder air-cooled inverted "Skymotor", conceived by Al Tank, produced 60 hp at 2,050 rpm. Although the Skymotor was awarded ATC No. 200 (May 2, 1939), it, like the other Tank engines, never sold well and very few were built.

I found this to be an engaging little book. Although one could quibble over the quality of a few of the illustrations or over the level of technical detail, the fact remains that it documents a series of rare engines with perhaps as much fidelity as any author can achieve. I believe that, for those interested in engines of this era, it is an indispensable addition to the library. At US $10.00 (plus postage and handling) it is a bargain.

After the publication of Tank Aero Engines in 2003, Mr. Hill apparently came into possession of some additional documentation, which he published as a supplement. This includes a general description, specifications, instructions for top overhaul, Type Certificate Data Sheets for the Tank Models 63 and 73. Also included is a TCDS for the Curtiss-Wright Travel Air Model 2000-T, one of the aircraft which used the Tank engine. Digitally printed, 8.5 x 11, the 36-page supplement sells for US $3.50 (plus postage and handling).

The Romance of Engines
by Takashi Suzuki, PhD

Society of Automotive Engineers, 1997
ISBN 1-56091-911-6

Reviewed by by Ron Chernich, BAppSc, BComp (Hons)

Downtown in Portland, Oregon is a cornucopia called Powell's Technical Books. The premises spreads over half an inner city block and in their well lighted, well spaced stacks are mixed new and second-hand books on all matters technical. Two streets away is another Powells store with non-technical books that does occupy a full city block, but that's not germane to this tale. Some years ago, I was living in the US, separated from my home machinists shop and other toys, so to satisfy my yearnings, I'd regularly haunt Powell's on a Saturday afternoon looking for new and obscure texts relating to my hobbies of engines, aeroplanes and machining, plus my profession: software engineering. It was on one of these visits I picked up the book that is the subject of this review.

The Romance of Engines is an apt title. The author shows not merely technical competence and broad knowledge of his topic, but a deep philosophical attachment to internal combustion engines, their inventors, history, impact on society, and the lessons inherent in them for future generations. This shines through the work making the text highly readable as well as technically informative. That the perspective is Japanese, with insight into German engines derived from the close association of the two countries during World War II, makes the book a welcome change from the mass of material (good as it is) on the likes of Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, etcetera.

Dr Suzuki's book was originally published in Japanese. According to the foreword, this edition is not a simple translation; the author has expanded, revised and updated the 1983 first publication, adding technical appendices from an earlier work called The Heart of the Engine. These sections can easily be skipped by the less mathematically gifted—a wise approach as it's well accepted that the readership of any book decreases by half for every formula it contains! The appendices appear on a per-chapter basis and are extensively cross referenced by the different chapter texts. As should be expected from the author's qualifications, the book includes comprehensive references as end-notes.

At close on 500 pages, The Romance of Engines contains a wealth of photographs, line drawings, charts, graphs and cartoons, the latter innocently penned by the author. Several of the photos were taken by the author himself at various museums and companies world-wide, so by ancient Japanese tradition, he must therefore appear in them. I'd estimate there's even coverage given between aero engines and other types. Several interesting cross-overs are noted such as the Franklin engine made for Bell helicopters that was adapted for the Tucker automobile. Or the Hispano Suiza V12 aero engine used in the Christie tank, exported from the US to the USSR in1930 with the gun removed as an "Agricultural Tractor".

The content roughly traces engine development beginning with the Palace at Versailles in 1667 where King Louis XIV needed (indirectly) an engine to pump the water for his gardens and fountains. It concludes with chapters exploring modern-day alternate energy sources and engine designs. Along the way we are treated to visits with all the usual suspects such as Nicolaus Otto, Sadi Carnot, the Reverend Robert Stirling, Laurence Hargrave (Australian inventor of the rotary engine), Rudolf Diesel, Paul Daimler, WO Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferdinand Porsche … the list goes on and on. The text covers not only their contributions to the theory and design of engines, but also colourfully describes their time and the socio-economic influences that shaped their approaches.

A straight linear, chronological approach is not entirely possible given scope of the author's chosen subject matter. Frequently a chapter will begin in the past with a problem, then trace the solutions through to the modern day. At all times the text is highly readable and entertaining. Suzuki's background enables him to supply a refreshingly different slant on many of his topics. Hence when discussing the challenges imposed by long distance flight, we hear not only about Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis and the Rutans' Voyager, but also the more obscure Japanese KOKENI that set a long distance record of 11,651 km in 1938 using an engine with unique (and never repeated) air-cooled exhaust valves.

A feel for the content is given by the chapter titles, such as An Engine Compartment That Ruined the Third Rich, The Glory and Tragedy of Packard, Talk About Knocking, and one I especially like: Six-Monkey-Village or Salmson Still Carrying Its Point. This chapter deals with several topics including the connecting rod arrangement devised by Swiss engineers Canton and Unne for use in Salmson engines. The phonetic equivalent of which in Japanese (sal-mu-son) gives us the six-monkey-village of the title. This was briefly noted by Jack Hereford in his excellent article on radial engine design in Vol. 1 Num. 3 of Torque Meter.

In summary, Dr Suzuki has given us a book that is both entertaining and informative, with a level of detail that goes beyond the arm-chair level, if the reader wishes. I found the non-western world slant refreshing and thought provoking. In fact, leafing through the book to write this review, I'm immediately prompted to read it again. Surly that's the mark of a good book?


Peter Short provides a differing view to The Romance of Engines

I was surprised to see this book reviewed in glowing terms, as I had given up trying to read it several years ago. So I took it off the shelf again and had a quick look. What put me off reading it then (and now) are the mistakes/suspect facts that become evident in the first few pages. Why should I trust anything else the author has to say?

Possibly the translation is responsible for some of the strange "facts," but I think not....The weird thing is that Mr. Suzuki does include a bibliography that should have helped him, but he seems to have made up his own theories (or at least "filled the gaps") to fit his own stories.

For example, on page 1, the account of Huygens ideas for a gunpowder-fired engine in 1673 may be OK, but what is the connection with the water wheels that suddenly appear on page 4? I guess he refers to the famous "Machine de Marly", the waterwheel-powered pumps set to work in 1684 to supply water for the gardens at Versailles? (page 4). This is a garbled account; presumably, the author is trying to say that Huygens came up with his internal combustion engine design while thinking of ways to pump water?

On page 5, Suzuki mentions Joseph Cugnots. Actually, the name of this famous man was Nicolas (Joseph) Cugnot. Why not take the trouble to give him his correct name and spell it correctly?

Well, OK, the above might be a minor annoyance, but by page 7, Mr. Suzuki is getting it wrong again. Thomas Newcomen did not use "steam from the boiler...and pushes the piston to the top of the cylinder." The boiler on these engines supplied steam at atmospheric pressure. The piston was pulled to the top of its open-topped cylinder by the weight of the pump rods attached to the other end of the beam. The upward stroke of the piston would actually draw steam from the boiler into the cylinder on the early engines.

After a few lines, Mr. Suzuki leaves Thomas Newcomen (that great man) and devotes a few pages to 'Humphrey Potta" [sic] and pretty much attributes this possibly mythical figure with triggering "the industrial change in England and subsequently the world." This is ridiculous, and considering the pivotal role of Newcomen's engines, and their influence, even to this day, I find such nonsense offensive. The parts about "Potta" causing " ...water flowing into the cylinder on the top of the piston" is just outright garbage. Humphrey Potter probably existed, he probably even devised a piece of string to operate the injection cock, which speeded-up the cycle (when boilers eventually were built that could generate enough steam). However, right from the beginning, Thomas Newcomen's engines were self-acting.

An account of how James Watt got the idea of adding a condenser appears on page 15. I can't be bothered going into the errors here, except to try and rescue the name of Mathew Boulton. Boulton was NOT James Watt's "assistant", he was Watt's partner, and was a very successful businessman before that famous partnership was made. Not only did Boulton's finances make Watt's engine possible, he was a very sensible, practical partner who can be thanked for influencing Watt in positive ways.

I gave up at this stage, and just flicked through the book...

Page 93: "The 1935 Duesenberg V8, 504 HP coupe" Yeah, right...Is it 1935? Maybe, V8? No. A coupe? No. 504 HP? No. (Even Duesenberg's claim of 320 HP for supercharged models stretches belief, but we won't get into that!)

It just so happens that this would normally be my favourite type of book as I am always looking for books written by engineers, etc., who give insights into engines, machinery, etc. While straight historical books are fine, I enjoy even more those which give reasons behind designs, their strengths and weaknesses, etc.

Hence my disappointment with Mr Suzuki's book. Not being able to trust the author's facts sours the whole story for me...

Peter Short, 2002

The Magic of a Name
The Rolls-Royce Story
The First 40 Years

by Peter Pugh

Hardbound, 9.7" x 6.1" x 1.3", 352 pages
ISBN: 978-1840462845
Icon Books Ltd
The Old Dairy
Brook Road
Cambridge SG8 7RG
Tel: 01763 208008

Reviewed by Graham White

As the author acknowledges in his introduction of "The First 40 Years", numerous books have been written on Rolls-Royce and its products. Most tend to concentrate on the cars, the aircraft engines, or; in a few cases both. The two "Magic of a Name" books study the automotive and aerospace products of Rolls-Royce, however their focus is on the business aspect of this great company. And this isn't surprising considering that the author, Peter Pugh has a background in history and business. He is has also vast experience in the goings on of the London business scene.

Part One covers the history of Rolls-Royce from its inception up to the end of World War II. The author's style is to discuss a subject and then insert communications, such as internal Rolls-Royce memos and letters to back up that assertion. I've seen this style used many times - sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. Peter Pugh has pulled of this style magnificently. Not surprisingly considering his background, Pugh tends to dwell on the business side rather than the technical side. nevertheless, there is plenty of grist for the mill to keep the "techies" happy. Starting out with the incomparable Silver Ghost, the story takes us through the traumatic time of Rolls' death in 1910 due to an aircraft accident in a Wright bi-plane to World War I. Understandably, Royce was not enamored with things aviation. However, when the British Government "persuaded" him to produce aircraft engines for the War effort, Rolls-Royce performed their usual miraculous job of producing some of the finest aircraft engines to come out of this monumental conflict. Pugh picks up the story after World War I with resumed car production, the less than successful sojourn in the States, Schneider Trophy efforts, acquisition of Bentley (although the abysmal treatment heaped upon W.O. is somewhat overlooked), Merlin development and then into World War II. Pugh offers additional insight into the Rolls-Royce entrance into the potentially treacherous world of gas turbine development. The book closes out with the end of hostilities and the surprising rejection of Sir Winston Churchill by the British voters. The end of the book contains a wonderful bio on each of the movers and shakers within the Rolls-Royce empire.

The Magic of a Name
The Rolls-Royce Story
Part Two: The Power Behind the Jets

by Peter Pugh

Hardbound, 9.7" x 7" x 1.3", 200 pages
ISBN: 978-1840461510
Icon Books Ltd
The Old Dairy
Brook Road
Cambridge SG8 7RG
Tel: 01763 208008

Reviewed by Graham White

Part Two concentrates on gas turbine development. This was not unexpected considering that Hives made the brave corporate decision at the end of World War II to put piston engine development on the back burner. A brief discourse is offered on the problematic 600 series Merlins used to power the Canadair DC-4M and its outcome. Like many other aspects of the aircraft engine business, Rolls-Royce were ahead of the game. Due to the initially dismal maintenance record of the 600 series Merlins, Ernest Hives gave Trans Canada Airlines a fixed price for maintenance costs. This is a practice that continues on to this day and is emulated by other aircraft engine manufacturers. Development of all the early gas turbines is covered in detail. This would include; the Welland, Derwent, Trent (world's first turbo prop), Nene, Dart, Tyne....etc. Author Pugh also delves into the controversial sale of Nenes to the Russians in the late 1940s. The Russians then turned around and mass produced their version of the Nene to power the Mig 15 of Korean War fame. From the late 1950s into the late 1960s represented a period of turmoil for the British aerospace industry - too many companies chasing after too little business. This resulted in acquisitions, mergers and business failures. Pugh delves into these upheavals and sheds new light on the business maneuvering that took place. The 1960s saw the development of Concorde and its Olympus engines and joint development efforts with other aerospace companies. Interestingly, Pugh sheds new light, at least for this reviewer, on the screwed-up relationship with G.E. and how Rolls-Royce backed out of a contractual commitment to G.E. However, a good portion of Part 2 delves into RB 211 development and the disaster of February 1971 when Rolls-Royce declared bankruptcy. One can almost sense that this is the time period when the engineers were shuffled off to the side and the bean counters took over the day to day running of the company. In other words, welcome to the modern world of business. The book gives an excellent perspective into post 1971 events and how the company recovered, thanks in part to British tax payers and was run a on a much leaner and meaner basis. One thing that comes through very clearly is the fact that the early days of "easy" business awards were long gone; every business award was fought for tooth and nail, typically with its archrivals Pratt & Whitney and General Electric. Of course, another result of the 1971 disaster was the sale of the car division. This is all explained in great detail as is the venture into Diesel engine production and nuclear power. The book ends on an up beat mood in the mid 1980s. Part 3 will cover the time period from the mid 1980s to the present. It will be interesting to get the inside scoop on the rather underhanded way in which the car division was sold off. Even though the car division was not owned by Rolls-Royce plc, this company still owned all rights and licenses to the various Rolls-Royce logos, apparently something that VW and its Intellectual Property attorneys seemed to have overlooked - but we'll see.

Overall, these two books represent by far the finest study of the business dealings of Rolls-Royce. Adding to their appeal is the fact author Pugh has managed to weave a wonderful story that covers the in depth business side with enough technical material to make it interesting to the Gear Heads. If any criticism can be levied against the books is perhaps the use of British terminology that may not be understood by folks on the left side of the Atlantic. For instance, when referring to "The City" we are not talking about the city per se, but rather The City is terminology used to describe the business center of England.

I for one am looking forward to part three of this fascinating story of one of the giants of the aerospace industry.


Advanced Engine Development at Pratt & Whitney
by Dick Mulready

Hardbound, 226 pages
ISBN 0-7680-0644-3
Society of Automotive Engineers

Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon

I keep a stack of books on my nightstand, and read from it each evening. A good book causes me to abandon the rest of the stack until until it is finished. A really good book makes me reluctant to return to the stack when it is finished. Such a book is Dick Mulready's semi-autobiographical account of his career, Advanced Engine Development at Pratt & Whitney. One of a growing number of books that explores the world behind how complex, nearly impossible things get done, Mulready's book gives a first hand account of the excitement associated with the development of new and advanced concepts. "It was a time when going to work was fun, with a new challenge arising almost daily. The feeling of loyalty, both upward and downward within our company was palpable. The work was pioneering."

There was a time when gifted engineers graduated from prestigious universities, went to work for great aerospace companies, and spent the rest of their careers there. Such was the case of Dick Mulready. After graduating from MIT, Mulready interviewed with one company — United Aircraft Corporation, went to work there in 1946, and remained for 37 years. Initially, Mulready worked for the United Aircraft Research Laboratories where a team of bright young new-hires investigated new technologies in support of United Aircraft divisions. There, he worked on multi-unit ramjets that were intended to power the Rigel, a submarine-launched Mach 2 vehicle proposed by Grumman.

An axiom of contract work for government agencies is "here today, gone tomorrow." Funding comes and goes, government or military leaders come and go, threats come and go. The result to contractors is that, more often than not, a program is cancelled because of political decisions rather than technical issues. This was a recurring theme in Mulready's career — one that he made the most of by using what he had learned on one program to the advantage of the next.

When the Navy lost interest in the Rigel concept, Mulready moved on to work on the T-57, a 15,000 shaft horsepower engine intended to power propeller-driven military transports nearly as large as the Lockheed C-5. Work on this project proceeded nicely, but ultimately lost out to high-bypass turbofans.

Mulready then worked on the 304 engine, a liquid hydrogen engine for Kelly Johnson's Lockheed CL-400, a reconnaissance concept that predated the Lockheed SR-71. Using what he learned about liquid hydrogen from the 304 project, Mulready was well positioned for work on a rocket engine fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the RL-10. This engine first flew in 1963 and is still in production, having launched over 20 different types of satellites, including more than 76 communication satellites.

Continued work with high-pressure hydrogen/oxygen rocket engines put Mulready in a position to bid on what he considered the crown jewel of rocket engine development at Pratt & Whitney — the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME). According to Mulready, P&W originated the concept of reusable rocket engines and had the technology in place build the SSME. However, it was not to be. P&W was not awarded the development contract. Later, when the winning contractor got into serious development trouble with the SSME, P&W reviewed the design and made suggestions for improvement.

Among the biggest problems with the SSME were with the hydrogen and oxygen turbopumps, machinery that extract nearly 90,000 horsepower from a package not much larger than a garbage can. Ultimately, P&W redesigned both turbopumps. The new turbopumps have now flown, and are slated for use on all future Space Shuttle launches.

Mulready's account of his illustrious career is full of intriguing technical detail, and is sprinkled with numerous anecdotes about the people and events surrounding the technology he helped develop.