by Commander Richard E. Byrd. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1928. 8vo. XV +359 pp. Illus. $3.50.
THE subtitle of this well-named volume reads: ’Man’s mastery of the air as shown by the brilliant flights of America’s leading air explorer. His life, his thrilling adventures, his North Pole and transatlantic flights, together with his plans for conquering the Antarctic by air.'
This is a worthy successor to Lindbergh’s We. It is divided into two parts which should appeal to diverse classes of readers. First, Commander Byrd’s story of his life from the time when the desire to fly first got him. As with any worthwhile existence, this is naturally concerned with many discouragement s and obstacles, both physical and political, and is as equally depressing and exhilarating as the flight of a plane over a city. My only criticism is of an excess of minimization and explaining away of accidents. Aviation has progressed too far for any such necessity. The narration of the various types of accidents in Chapter III is valuable and has not appeared before in any popular account of aviation.
The latter half of the book, dealing with the North Pole arid the transatlantic flights, is of consummate interest. I wish this could have been enlarged into an entire volume, for even a popular work would not have felt the burden of many more details of preparation, equipment, and observation. Failing this, it is hoped that in succeeding editions there will be a bibliography of all the published matter, technical and otherwise, bearing on these two historic flights. The present account is as fascinating as its subject is original, and takes its place in the annals of human exploration with the achievement of Columbus.
The most valuable phase of this volume may he summed up in one of Byrd’s sentences: ’Aviation’s great enemy, “fog,” is gradually being conquered by radio, beacons, and direction finders, and amber-colored lights that will to some extent penetrate it. Until fog is thoroughly conquered the flyer must have sufficient goodweather predictions to evade it.’ Commander Byrd’s contributions to instrumental as opposed to, or rather supplementing, observational flying will never be forgotten. Without this, man could never be safe in the air except in full daylight and in sight of land.
His coming Antarctic flight, if correlated, as he plans, with the work of a corps of scientists, should hit the ceiling of aviation exploration.