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Britain's Glorious Aircraft Industry (Hardback)

100 Years of Success, Setback and Change

Aviation P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 20th Century Photographic Books

By J Paul Hodgson
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 496
Illustrations: 143 images
ISBN: 9781526774668
Published: 22nd January 2021



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Great Britain’s aircraft industry started in 1908, with the first formally registered organisation in the world to offer to design and build an aeroplane ‘for commercial gain’. This was when the Short brothers, Oswald, Eustace and Horace, decided that aeroplanes would overtake balloons as a business opportunity in the aeronautical world and formed the partnership ‘Short Brothers’.

From this start, the UK aircraft industry expanded and grew rapidly, going on throughout the rest of the twentieth century to achieve many ‘firsts’ in the aeronautical world, with some remarkable technical successes and gaining a reputation to match. There were also setbacks along the way.

This book tells the complete story of the 110 years since the start, all the companies formed and the aircraft they produced, highlighting the advances in aeronautical ambition and technology. It is the story of the creation, survival and decline of all one hundred and twenty-three of the aircraft design and construction companies formed between 1908 and 2020. The exhilaration of success and the magic of aviation technology are vividly illustrated by the technical and political birth stories of iconic projects, such as the Cirrus/Gypsy Moths, the Tiger Moth, the flying boats of Imperial Airways, Spitfire, Lancaster, Viscount, Vulcan, Harrier, Buccaneer and many more.

The rotary wing industry is not forgotten. The birth of the jet turbine engine and the quest for supersonic speed is included. The stories of the disappointments of failure and disaster, such as the Brabazon, Comet, Princess, Rotodyne and TSR-2, and the growth of international collaboration in Concorde, Tornado, Airbus, Eurofighter Typhoon and other projects are included, in the context of the international scene and domestic politics. The conclusion highlights the prominent reminiscences and speculates on the future of the aircraft industry in Britain.

The core quality of this work is the extensive set of appendices that take up 140 pages, or nearly a third of the book. The information contained in them is clear, concise, and extensive.

Air & Space Power History

An absolutely superb book very much worth your time. It is a product of what must be thousands of hours of research. If you have any kind of interest in the British aircraft industry, this book is a must.

Read the full review here

Flight Line Book Review

The book makes a very creditable contribution to the important and challenging task of recording the development of one of Britain’s most important and technically advanced industries. It also provides much of the essential material which a student of the subject would require to embark on a more comprehensive analysis of the key elements of the story. In that regard, it certainly merits a place in any aerospace library.

Royal Aeronautical Society- AEROSPACE, May 2022

Outstanding! Both a comprehensive reference book and a highly readable story of the last 100 years..

It is difficult to imagine the amount of research that the author must have been obliged to undertake, and the time he must have spent in compiling and preparing for publication the enormous amount of data contained in this book. So, for those seeking facts about the last 100 years in British aviation - look no further - it's all here! But this book goes far further than that. Filling an ominous gap in the literature relating to this subject, it is a highly readable, and often entertaining account, addressing all the key political and industrial events and decisions that were shaping the burgeoning British Aircraft Industry - both at home and abroad - and, in the early days, the extent to which the enthusiasm and commitment of those who threw themselves - and often their family fortunes - into the challenge of succeeding in the exciting new field of aviation, were too often thwarted by those in positions of responsibility in government, and in the Armed Forces, whose vision was too often far too limited to permit the advances that could and probably should have taken place. Successes, near-successes, and abject failures are all covered, and there is some speculation as to what is to come and what may have been. The author, who spent all his working life as an aeronautical engineer, designer and finally Chief Designer in the British Aircraft Industry, is undoubtedly uniquely well-placed to deliver this account, in which, often, he pulls no punches. An outstanding work!


Amazon Customer

Of course, a lot of information can be found on the internet, but definitely not in this beautiful and clear way that Hodgson has constructed his book. For the aviation enthusiasts of the UK a must have for on the bookshelf! Well done J. Paul Hodgson!

Read the full review here

Aviation Book Reviews

"Each company is dealt with in turn, with tables and appendices making this a book you will want to keep with you for reference."

HeliData News and Helicopter International

Featured in

RAF News - June 18th, 2021

With the founding in 1908 of the world's first properly registered company for the design and production of aircraft, Britain's aviation industry rapidly expanded and went on to achieve many more firsts, pioneering new technologies and designs to create some of the finest aircraft in the world. The author has very considerable experience within the industry and so is excellently placed to tell the story of how it evolved, the breakthroughs it made, how it was shaped by international and domestic competition, technological advances, and political interest or lack thereof. It also examines the reasons behind the decline of the industry from its 1950's peak, as the companies amalgamated and Britain became increasingly reliant on international collaboration, as remains the case to this day. The book closes with a very large set of appendices which list every production and experimental aircraft produced by the industry with a brief outline of their basic characteristics.

Read the full review here

Pegasus Archive

This remarkably detailed, and hugely informative, compendium is recommended strongly for anyone with an interest in the history, politics, relationships and divisions involving British industry, national carriers and the armed services. At £30 it is an outstanding reference book and a thoroughly enjoyable canter through the decades, from the days of wood and fabric to the modern composite structure of the wings of theA400 Atlas.

RAF Historical Society

This is a very good study of a complicated history, and is a valuable contribution to the story of UK aerospace.


"Buy this book and be proud of the designers and workers who made our aircraft industry Glorious for over half its lifespan. Highly recommended."

The Moth - Magazine of The de Havilland Moth Club, No 194

Featured in Aeroplane Monthly

Aeroplane Monthly

The rich and diverse history of the British aircraft industry is captured in superb detail by the author in this weighty tome. Each chapter is richly illustrated with several black and white photographs and hundreds of tables or in some cases diagrams. The sheer volume of appendices is testament to the level of research and diligence used by the author. The easy to use summaries of each company are graphically laid out and will be of immense use to researchers and enthusiasts alike. The structure of the book is logical and while they say don’t judge a book by its cover I must commend the publisher on the choice of photos and the dust jacket. It looked at first glance to be a thorough account of one of the most widely recognised industries in the world and the contents didn’t disappoint. Yes some aircraft only get a brief mention and some of the photos are quite small but I feel that the author had so much to say that to change this format it would have only been at the expense of the thoroughness of including as much as information as possible. I highly recommend acquiring this thorough compendium on the British aviation industry. It should be on the shelves of historical institutions, aviation companies, and aviation enthusiasts from around the world.

Todd Shugart, Aviation News

There is so much in this tome that a separate volume would be necessary.This is an excellent reference book.

The de Havilland Aeronautical Technical School Assc Newsletter - Spring 2021

I admire Hodgson dedication to detail in his research of this topic, and his passion for the subject defiantly shows through in this book.

NetGalley, Danielle Price

About J Paul Hodgson

During his first term at university, J. PAUL HODGSON wrote to A.V. Roe & Co. (Avro) to request work experience. He was duly offered a ‘vacation apprenticeship’, for six weeks in the summer of 1963. By the end of that, Paul had become a signed-up undergraduate apprentice with the Avro-Whitworth Division of Hawker Siddeley Aviation, as Avro had just become. A thirty-seven-year career in the same organisation (much changing, as the industry struggled with rationalisation and re-organisation) and an eight-year spell of part-time lecturing in aircraft design at Manchester University followed. Seventeen years after retiring as an aircraft Chief Designer with BAE Systems, he found himself starting to write the story of the British aircraft industry. Paul is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He has served on the society’s council and is a past-chairman of his local (Manchester) branch.

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