Fly Navy! — the book review
Fly Navy! — the book review
Fly Navy! celebrating the first century of naval aviation
— Erik Hildebrandt, April 2011, ISBN-13 978-0-9674040-8-0, 372 pp.
As is the custom in publishing, I was offered a copy of this title for review with no inducements or caveats.
Giving away the ending, I must say that this book should be not only read but in the personally library for any person interested in U.S. naval aviation, in aviation photography, or how to produce a book that stands above the rest.
Why do I have this opinion?
- The photography — much of it by the author: These are not simple photographs. They are done with elán. Professionally, of course as Hildebrandt is a professional photographer, but these go beyond having opportunity and equipment. These are images taken by a person who loves aviation as well as understands aspects beyond piloting and formation flying. Hildebrandt does what few mention — but what is fundamental — and that is to concisely address the organization and teamwork required to have a naval aircraft not only fly but to accomplish its mission whether it be projecting power, providing protection or rendering humanitarian aid to regions suffering from natural disaster.
- The writing: The author writes well but more importantly he lets persons who are the experts — who live the life whether they be pilots, aircrew, mechanics, artists or in other methods of service — give us insight, with essays, beyond what we see from the Hollywood fare or rara avis magazine articles. We learn of strike fighters — naturally — but we also learn of the eyes (Hawkeyes), the logistics (CODs), vertical flight, the Coasties, the Leathernecks, space, patrol and more.
- The physical book: The book is produced in library quality with its page quality, image resolution and binding — especially the binding — and makes for an excellent presentation piece, as well. I do not know how to explain it in the technical terms of the publishing industry but the binding is thick, textured and embossed. Most may not see the embossing since the dust jacket is also artful and on both the front and back sides. More options are available at the web site and, I imagine, at bookstores as well as Amazon. Photographs are fully credited and notated in the captions — a practice I applaud as opposed to the usual practice of having to leaf to the rear of the book. The book also has a pleasing format in that is 12″ wide and 9½” tall — a ratio (1.3:1) that approaches the eye pleasing 35mm format.
Although the book refers to a century of naval aviation it is specifically with regard to U.S. naval aviation, emphasizing current aircraft, though the initial history is discussed in a concise manner.
I learned from experts in this text and not because they simply recite facts but because they relate facts in their context — knowledge is passed on in this way. I was surprised to learn that naval aviators were the first Americans to enter space (Alan Shepard, USN) and to orbit the Earth (John Glenn, USMC)— as well as the first human to walk on the Moon (Neil Armstrong, USN).
There is a sincere dedication to the maintenance personnel, a remarkable statement and one that many may find surprising. Suffice it to say that pilots borrow their aircraft from the maintenance crews.
Wes Bush’s essay forms the the introduction. He is CEO and President of Northrop Grumman Corporation. Barrett Tillman’s essay (Looking Back: a historical perspective) is moving, at times bittersweet, and has an unobstructed viewpoint of the future. Where else can one read a summary of movies, both good and bad, with honest critiques?
There is much more to write and mention in the book’s 372 pages but I think that the point has been made that this is a book to purchase and one only hesitatingly loaned. One cannot be disappointed owning this title. The thrill of the photography and the insight of the essays will give the reader a deeper understanding, as well as appreciation, for today’s U.S. naval aviation.