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From the Kansas City Star, "A wonderful story, wonderfully told, a history that delivers all the suspense and heartache of a novel, and is as difficult to put down" From the Kansas City Star, "A wonderful story, wonderfully told, a history that delivers all the suspense and heartache of a novel, and is as difficult to put down"


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From the Kansas City Star, "A wonderful story, wonderfully told, a history that delivers all the suspense and heartache of a novel, and is as difficult to put down" From the Kansas City Star, "A wonderful story, wonderfully told, a history that delivers all the suspense and heartache of a novel, and is as difficult to put down"

30 review for To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    The story of the Wright Brothers’ development of the airplane contains so much of what America is like today that it could have happened yesterday. (view spoiler)[ First, an east coast intellectual and star gazer insinuates himself through personal contacts into the Smithsonian, a privately funded institution for the public dissemination of scientific knowledge. In neglect of his duties there, after a long stretch of hit and miss, he develops an engine (a steam powered engine!) that will pull a The story of the Wright Brothers’ development of the airplane contains so much of what America is like today that it could have happened yesterday. (view spoiler)[ First, an east coast intellectual and star gazer insinuates himself through personal contacts into the Smithsonian, a privately funded institution for the public dissemination of scientific knowledge. In neglect of his duties there, after a long stretch of hit and miss, he develops an engine (a steam powered engine!) that will pull a model plane, essentially a larger version of a rubber band airplane, through the air. He follows this rather stunning achievement by lobbying the government for a massive donation of development funds. The US army gives it to him. But his plan revolves around simply a bigger engine, on an enlarged version of his model. How to control it? “We’ll figure it out somehow.” But they can’t build the engine. Meanwhile, Wilber Wright, essentially on his own, decides he wants to figure out how to fly. And, step by step, he analyzes the problem, breaks it down, prioritizes, and works out each piece through small scale trial and error. The Smithsonian guy with the huge government grant is making trips to Europe, pressuring his “team” to “just get it done!”, sending strongly worded telegrams, making logical sense, but not working the problem with tests. Because he is beyond that now. He is the figure head of the effort, with the relationships and the money. (hide spoiler)] His underlings need to work out the details. Meanwhile Wilber gets his brother Orville to help him and they start with kites, gliders, develop control pieces, figure balance, conduct exhaustive tests of wing shapes. (view spoiler)[ An older engineer and aerodrome enthusiast they contact in Chicago keeps sending them unwanted and fairly useless “helpers” and suggestions, roping Wilber into presentations he would rather not make, and even after their successful flight, poo-poos them to his French counterparts (“oh, don’t worry about them, after all, their flight was less than a minute”). The brothers rent a field near Yellow-Springs road (between Dayton and Springfield; sorry, very local boy here), figure out the last balance problem and begin flying miles of loops and figure eights. Only the people that actually see them believe them. The world is skeptical. Then, while their patent applications are pending, they put the whole thing away. (hide spoiler)] Journalists and reporters don’t believe their claims of mastered flight, and so, except for those who have seen them, Americans don’t either. All during these years, Bishop Milton Wright, their father, is fighting against expulsion from his church for pointing out a discrepancy in the accounting books (one of the church council, a real estate developer, had pocketed quite a bit of money). Instead of getting satisfaction, the powerful council member gets Bishop Wright expelled. But Bishop Wright does not give in to the way of the world and instead fights for what he believes is right; just like his son. The brothers don’t want the trouble that running a business would bring. They want to be free to do more research, so they figure on selling the whole thing to a government, preferably the U.S. government. (view spoiler)[But no government believes them. After the Smithsonian guy’s fiasco (the two tests both plunged into the Potomac, sinking $50,000 of government money in Foggy Bottom) the US government is not interested (they don’t realize it is already developed, and only at the cost of $1,000). (hide spoiler)] And the French and British, the next obvious buyers, do not believe (and do not want to believe) “those Americans.” Several times, whenever a crowd of doubters where on hand to witness the flights, I got chills reading about the shock of the crowd. (view spoiler)[The best example of this was Wilber’s first formal demonstration flight in France. The French were poo-pooing the Wrights, disbelieving, but they grudgingly came out to see. Perhaps it would be another flop, of the sort they were so used to seeing. Wilber, quiet and non-boastful by character and upbringing, carefully checks his machine, then calmly and without fanfare, fires it up into the air and circles (I said, circles!) the field, several times, then brings it down smoothly. Until that moment, No one in France had ever really gotten off the ground and safely back on again, let alone actually TURNED IN THE AIR. The crowd, full of skeptics and doubters, is transformed and in tears, either cheering or utterly speechless. (hide spoiler)] The Wright’s loyal and indispensable mechanic, Charley Taylor, deserved a bit more coverage. Langley (the Smithsonian guy) had sourced his engine with a New York engine builder who failed to deliver to spec after 14 months (!) of struggle. Charley, a machinist from Dayton, Ohio, built an engine of the proper horsepower at the proper weight in a matter of weeks when the Wrights could not find one on the market. (More detail on Charley in my other Wright Brothers “original published works” review.) And Charley stayed with them for all of their work after that. Langley’s friends, including Alexander Graham Bell, ensure that Langley gets more than his share of credit for the development of the airplane. Curtiss, the young motorcycle magnate, lifts the designs from people who have worked with the Wrights, and gives Alexander Graham Bell the cold shoulder to go build his own ultralight. Curtiss goes into business and when the war comes, makes cash hand over fist selling bootleg Wright technology to the American/British via Canada. But he could never fly like Wilber.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    My husband and I listened to this on a recent road trip. I'm pretty sure he would give it more stars, as he is a glider pilot and found the technical aspects fascinating. I didn't object to the book in a serious way, but it got a bit dry and hard to follow and occasionally the hard to follow when I couldn't flip back a page or two to double check what year or event was being covered. However, there were moments - as Wilbur's 1909 flight around the Statue of Liberty, or,earlier, a 12-year-old boy My husband and I listened to this on a recent road trip. I'm pretty sure he would give it more stars, as he is a glider pilot and found the technical aspects fascinating. I didn't object to the book in a serious way, but it got a bit dry and hard to follow and occasionally the hard to follow when I couldn't flip back a page or two to double check what year or event was being covered. However, there were moments - as Wilbur's 1909 flight around the Statue of Liberty, or,earlier, a 12-year-old boy eagerly riding on a Wright Brothers glider - when one can feel the excitement of what it must have been like to be witness to a new era . there are also, of course, the requisite quotes from doubters who say that aeronautics is a fad that will never catch on.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Noah

    Tobin's an able biographer, but the source material just isn't that good. I assumed that, since he bothered to write the book, that there was an interesting untold story behind the Wright Brothers. I was wrong. (Note: I don't know why Goodreads only has the Spanish version of this book in its database) Tobin's an able biographer, but the source material just isn't that good. I assumed that, since he bothered to write the book, that there was an interesting untold story behind the Wright Brothers. I was wrong. (Note: I don't know why Goodreads only has the Spanish version of this book in its database)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jen Andrews

    Matt told me to read this book...And I really didn't like it. It's one of the few books that I quit reading after only a few chapters. It was really slow and had too many subplots. Matt told me to read this book...And I really didn't like it. It's one of the few books that I quit reading after only a few chapters. It was really slow and had too many subplots.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rich

    I think this is my favorite book of all. The story has obvious inspirational value but also heartwarming and heartbreaking.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    To be honest, I found this book a bit boring. James Tobin certainly deserves credit for his utter thoroughness in documenting the race to flight. While certainly concentrating the most attention on Wilbur and Orville Wright, he examines the earliest attempts at flight in Europe (which, to a man, ended with the death of the would-be pilot/inventor in his craft), the attempts of lesser known Americans to achieve flight (Samuel Langley, anyone? Octave Chanute?), as well as one of the country's best To be honest, I found this book a bit boring. James Tobin certainly deserves credit for his utter thoroughness in documenting the race to flight. While certainly concentrating the most attention on Wilbur and Orville Wright, he examines the earliest attempts at flight in Europe (which, to a man, ended with the death of the would-be pilot/inventor in his craft), the attempts of lesser known Americans to achieve flight (Samuel Langley, anyone? Octave Chanute?), as well as one of the country's best known and most beloved inventor's efforts: Alexander Graham Bell. And yet, by and large the book simply didn't hold a candle to Jim Rasenberger's America, 1908. (Even Thomas Selfridge's death as Orville's passenger is better told in the latter book, with Rasenberger foreshadowing the man's demise - and Orville's later feelings of guilt - by quoting from correspondence between the brothers in which they lament how it would be better if Selfridge were out of the way.) I did come away with a deep admiration and greater understand of what the Wright Brothers accomplished (beyond the end result of flying, that is). Tobin devotes great chunks of text to the many, many iterations of the "aeroplane," as the brothers called it, as well as the rather horrendous conditions at Kitty Hawk, where they frequently battled either sweltering or freezing temperatures and swarms of biting and stinging insects in addition to the obvious hardships of life in rural America 100+ years ago: the need to find, shoot, and skin your dinner before eating it, the necessity of building every structure by hand, and the lack of showers, toilets, and other conveniences. Clearly no one smelled fresh as a daisy or sweet as a rose. I was also struck by the clear-sighted view they had of their invention and it's capabilities. Tobin quotes relatively early correspondence from Wilbur in which he writes, "We stand ready to furnish a practical machine for use in war at once." Similarly, when witnesses of early flights asked what the machine would be good for, they received a single word response: war. Indeed. Several times I considered abandoning the book as too dry, too slow or, as when Tobin were veer off to explore the efforts of some other unknown would-be inventor, too choppy. Yet, had I done so, I would have missed the descriptions of the flights over New York, the first time the masses saw an airplane fly. The following paragraph especially struck me, capturing the awe of a people and an age: "On the Jersey shore, people saw the machine bank and sweep into a tight half-circle, then head away, back over the harbor. Now every skipper in the harbor opened his steam whistle. ... Just ahead lay a far greater hulk in the harbor. It was the Cunard liner Lusitania, outbound for Liverpool. ... The flying machine came on and flew just overhead, and the liner let loose with a volcanic blast of steam. A hundred feet up, the roar and the heat enveloped Will." It seems fitting that it was the Lusitania in the harbor, saluting one new weapon of war and soon to be sunk by another.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aiman Adlawan

    I really wanted to know the story about how the renowned Wright Brothers pioneered the aviation. This book contains a lot of interesting stories about how they developed a prototype object that can fly up in the air with passengers. From designing, to building, to testing, to evaluating what works or what not, to redesigning, to rebuilding, figuring out what are the best materials that are light weight enough to increase the lift, to hiring people, to asking for financial help and many more. Ver I really wanted to know the story about how the renowned Wright Brothers pioneered the aviation. This book contains a lot of interesting stories about how they developed a prototype object that can fly up in the air with passengers. From designing, to building, to testing, to evaluating what works or what not, to redesigning, to rebuilding, figuring out what are the best materials that are light weight enough to increase the lift, to hiring people, to asking for financial help and many more. Very interesting. The only thing that makes me feel bored reading the book is that it has so many subplots that looses your interest in reading the book. and more than that the subplots are lengthy enough, like couple of pages, which only tells small relevance when it goes back to the main story.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Those magnificent men in their flying machines, indeed. Tobin not only tells the story of how the Wright brothers did this but gets in their heads and gives us a sense of their thought process. With the Wright brothers, there was no "trial and error" only incremental steps of improvement until they had it perfected. Those magnificent men in their flying machines, indeed. Tobin not only tells the story of how the Wright brothers did this but gets in their heads and gives us a sense of their thought process. With the Wright brothers, there was no "trial and error" only incremental steps of improvement until they had it perfected.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Wilbur and Orville were extraordinary men, and at times, a rather odd pair. You could say, "Nevertheless, they persisted" applies to them. And that is why we hear airplanes flying overhead several times each day. Ann Arbor author Jim Tobin writes in a clean style that will get you through the technical parts if you're not an engineer. Wilbur and Orville were extraordinary men, and at times, a rather odd pair. You could say, "Nevertheless, they persisted" applies to them. And that is why we hear airplanes flying overhead several times each day. Ann Arbor author Jim Tobin writes in a clean style that will get you through the technical parts if you're not an engineer.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Troy Tegeder

    An interesting and thorough account of the lives, accomplishments, trials, and triumphs of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Especially Wilbur, who lead the charge.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Faul

    Incredible book about following a vision and succeeding against all odds. A nee favorite

  12. 5 out of 5

    Frank Camp

    This is an intriguing drama not a dry technical dissertation. Counting the Wright Brothers as one guy the best allegory I can come up with is this: Four high school boys Wright, Langley, Bell and Curtiss all set out with one goal, get a Date With Scarlett (insert YOUR Dream Girl here). The boys keep their methods secret. They each claim varying degrees of success which none of the others believe. Samuel P Langley is the head of the Smithsonian Institute. You already know who Alexander Graham Bel This is an intriguing drama not a dry technical dissertation. Counting the Wright Brothers as one guy the best allegory I can come up with is this: Four high school boys Wright, Langley, Bell and Curtiss all set out with one goal, get a Date With Scarlett (insert YOUR Dream Girl here). The boys keep their methods secret. They each claim varying degrees of success which none of the others believe. Samuel P Langley is the head of the Smithsonian Institute. You already know who Alexander Graham Bell is. Glenn Curtiss is an expert on motorcycle engines. Picture these three guys as the rich, handsome Prince Charming types and the Wright's as our singular Hero with a Heart of Gold. They each pursue Scarlett (Flight) with passionate determination. Here's the thing. The Wright's try to keep their progress quiet, but word leaks out they have rounded third base and maybe even Scored! Absent any facts, the newspapers publish "expert " opinions ridiculing the Wright's as "Fakers" and "Charlatans" even though they made no public claim of success. The skepticism, driven by the brothers three jealous rivals and the scorn of European Big-Shots for unlearned provincial Americans, lingers overlong and gets unnecessarily insulting. Pertaining to the technical aspects of the story, everything is kept simple and easy to understand. The characters are what really drive the narrative forward making it a lively, readable history. I was impressed but not surprised to find that Wilbur very likely possessed a photographic memory. If you want the definitive story of Orville and Wilbur along with an illuminating overview of the globe-spanning efforts to defy gravity, this is IT.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I liked this book very much. I wasn't in love with it nor involved with the characters, as I would have been with a novel, but I found the story compelling. Of course it was mostly about the Wright brothers, who are an interesting story allby themselves. Prior to the Wrights, however, there were others of somewhat less note who contributed to the science of flying. In particular Samuel Pierpont Langley was involved with aerodromes and perhaps most remembered for spectacular failures. To my surpr I liked this book very much. I wasn't in love with it nor involved with the characters, as I would have been with a novel, but I found the story compelling. Of course it was mostly about the Wright brothers, who are an interesting story allby themselves. Prior to the Wrights, however, there were others of somewhat less note who contributed to the science of flying. In particular Samuel Pierpont Langley was involved with aerodromes and perhaps most remembered for spectacular failures. To my surprise, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, was quite involved and very much a proponent of tetrahedral kites. The actual physical process of flying had to be explored, understood, and fitted to the technology and scientific understandings of the time. Once the physical aspects of flying were fully understood, it was then a matter of identifying the best technological approach. It became a national and international sensation, much in the way of the automobile. For many, the initial vision was that development might go the way of the automobile with families owning planes and flying about on trips and visits, as they were beginning to do with cars. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the story was the single mindedness of the Wright brothers in their pursuit of their vision. The family values, the intense personal discipline of both brothers, the support of their family, and their individual genius all contributed. The lack of formal training in engineering coupled with considerable mechanical skills allowed them to bring their vision to a physicl reality in the Wright Flyer. There was a lot of history in the book and many historical personalities played a role in the story. I found it a very satisfying read, having recently been to Kitty Hawk at the Wright Brothers Museum as well as visiting their shop in Dayton, Ohio some years ago.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dave Thompson

    James Tobin is a student of the Wright Brothers, a well-respected North Carolina historian, and was instrumental in the planning for the 100th anniversary of flight at Kitty Hawk in 2003. Although I'm a private pilot and a passionate student of aviation, I visited Kitty Hawk for the first time over Thanksgiving week 2015. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, and I in addition to visiting the museum and the Kill Devil Hill monument, I also had a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually fly the world's James Tobin is a student of the Wright Brothers, a well-respected North Carolina historian, and was instrumental in the planning for the 100th anniversary of flight at Kitty Hawk in 2003. Although I'm a private pilot and a passionate student of aviation, I visited Kitty Hawk for the first time over Thanksgiving week 2015. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, and I in addition to visiting the museum and the Kill Devil Hill monument, I also had a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually fly the world's only flying replica of the Wright Brothers' 1902 glider - the one that was used for their patent on the flight controls that we all take for granted today. I made over 20 flights off the top of the Kitty Hawk dunes, the longest of which was more than 45 seconds and covered more than 500 feet - typical for what Wilbur and Orville experienced in essentially the same machine. What a thrill! But I digress. With David Mccullough's "The Wright Brothers" justifiably sucking up all the oxygen in the room, "To Conquer The Air" is a terrific recommendation for any aficionado of flight, the Wright Brothers, or even simply early 20th century American history. I simply loved this book. I read Mccullough's book the week it was released, and I can also recommend "The Bishop's Boys," by Dr. Tom Crouch, who is senior curator, Aeronautics Department at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Crouch focuses on the lengthy correspondences between the brothers and their father, Bishop Milton Wright, and their kid sister Katharine. I think it easily equals Mccullough's book. Tobin tells a more rounded story than Crouch, but he does not shy away from the frustrating legal problems the Wrights dealt with as they defended their discoveries from Glenn Curtiss and other would-be flyers.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Winston

    This is a great summary of the beginnings of powered manned flight. We were pretty much taught in school that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, and although they were certainly at the center of the "race to flight", they were by no means the only ones to innovate. The reason the brothers ultimately "won" the race was because of their measured, patient, scientific approach. While others such as Samuel Langley threw money at the problem, attacking only one aspect such as power/speed, the B This is a great summary of the beginnings of powered manned flight. We were pretty much taught in school that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, and although they were certainly at the center of the "race to flight", they were by no means the only ones to innovate. The reason the brothers ultimately "won" the race was because of their measured, patient, scientific approach. While others such as Samuel Langley threw money at the problem, attacking only one aspect such as power/speed, the Brothers broke it down into three parts: lift, stability, and control, and then methodically solved each one, always testing their ideas first theoretically, in wind tunnels and with gliders, then personally, flying their own planes to get a visceral understanding of the forces involved in maintaining powered flight. They were not taken seriously at first (especially in France), but their success became undeniable with a series of demonstrations in which they not only flew, but were able to navigate around towers, along rivers, and take off and land at will. They didn't work in a vacuum, however. They collaborated with others, published in scientific journals, and leaned from the mistakes and successes of others.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sivaram Velauthapillai

    Flight was one of those things that humans dreamed of for millennia; something that seemed within reach but was never mastered until the 20th century. I'm sure you, like most adults out there, have heard of the Wright brothers. Yet, very few know how they actually conquered flight. I certainly didn't know about their hard work, their own money spent on their hobby, and the unknown problems they solved. This book has illuminated the story behind the Wright brothers and their discovery of flight. I Flight was one of those things that humans dreamed of for millennia; something that seemed within reach but was never mastered until the 20th century. I'm sure you, like most adults out there, have heard of the Wright brothers. Yet, very few know how they actually conquered flight. I certainly didn't know about their hard work, their own money spent on their hobby, and the unknown problems they solved. This book has illuminated the story behind the Wright brothers and their discovery of flight. I sure did learn a few things along the way. One thing I liked about this book is that, in addition to being entertaining, it clearly detailed the competition to solve mechanized flight and what decisions the Wright brothers approach. For instance, subtle points such as the Wrights focusing on building a glider and mastering balance before using any engines, provided great insight. The book also touches on some business activities of the Wrights and their competitors. Overall, I would recommend this to all. At some point in their life, everyone should learn about the discovery of the aeroplane. If you are interested in flight or the process for inventing, this is a must read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brett Fernau

    I was a bit put off at first with Tobin's rather gratuitous disparagement of religion in the first chapter, but then I realized that this is a contemporary view of the Wright brothers achievements, written by someone immersed in the modern American education system. Once I got past this, I rather enjoyed the book. This story of the race toward manned flight is told from the words of the players themselves and that makes the tale all the more interesting. It is a tale of egos, adventure, and entr I was a bit put off at first with Tobin's rather gratuitous disparagement of religion in the first chapter, but then I realized that this is a contemporary view of the Wright brothers achievements, written by someone immersed in the modern American education system. Once I got past this, I rather enjoyed the book. This story of the race toward manned flight is told from the words of the players themselves and that makes the tale all the more interesting. It is a tale of egos, adventure, and entrepreneurship. While their contemporaries were all scrambling to make the first manned airplane flight, the Wright brothers were carefully and methodically inventing the first commercially viable aircraft. They succeeded through hard work, good, solid scientific methods and unshakable confidence in their own abilities. They didn't look to the government for money. They looked at the governments of the world as customers and they proceeded to build a valuable product to sell them. Their story is a triumphant tale of American exceptionalism which I found quite inspiring.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amerynth

    James Tobin's "To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight" tells the story of three efforts (mainly) to prove that man could take to the skies. Its major focus is on the success of the Wilbur and Orville Wright, who were the first to successfully fly an airplane on the fields at Kitty Hawk, N.C. It also features the stories of Samuel Langley and Alexander Graham Bell, who approached the problem of flight with different (and less successful) ideas. Overall, I found the b James Tobin's "To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight" tells the story of three efforts (mainly) to prove that man could take to the skies. Its major focus is on the success of the Wilbur and Orville Wright, who were the first to successfully fly an airplane on the fields at Kitty Hawk, N.C. It also features the stories of Samuel Langley and Alexander Graham Bell, who approached the problem of flight with different (and less successful) ideas. Overall, I found the book to be very comprehensive and well written. It contains lots of little insights into the personalities and differing attitudes of the major players in the "Great Race for Flight." My only real complaint is that sometimes there was a little too much information so the story started to drag a little bit. Definitely a great book for someone interested in the history of flight.... not as interesting for the casual reader though.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Decent biographic work documenting the first manned flights with a machine heavier than the air .... focused on exactly that, the history of the early flights (i.e. the Wrights' flights mostly), the book hurries towards the end, once the Wrights' flying records stopped to provide the initial technical/scientific leadership in the field they originally did. With Willbur's premature death in 1912 and the less ambitious/motivated Orville focusing less on the flying and more on legal battles (to pro Decent biographic work documenting the first manned flights with a machine heavier than the air .... focused on exactly that, the history of the early flights (i.e. the Wrights' flights mostly), the book hurries towards the end, once the Wrights' flying records stopped to provide the initial technical/scientific leadership in the field they originally did. With Willbur's premature death in 1912 and the less ambitious/motivated Orville focusing less on the flying and more on legal battles (to protect their patents and to put the history right), there was less to chronicle on the subject of air conquest from the Wright perspective :)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Scott Downing

    This is a good book for those interested in the specific minutia of the discovery of the technical aspects of flight. Now, if you thought the above sentence was dull and overdone then you might give "To Conquer the Air" only a star or two at best. While the book does contain a few great stories: the flights above the amazed populous of New York City were a prime example. The majority of the book, however, is dampened by the tightly controlled Wright brothers. Good detailed avionics history. Not s This is a good book for those interested in the specific minutia of the discovery of the technical aspects of flight. Now, if you thought the above sentence was dull and overdone then you might give "To Conquer the Air" only a star or two at best. While the book does contain a few great stories: the flights above the amazed populous of New York City were a prime example. The majority of the book, however, is dampened by the tightly controlled Wright brothers. Good detailed avionics history. Not so good general interest read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve Sarrica

    I was very interested in reading about the early days of heavier-than-air powered human flight. Considering I am an "aerophile", I don't know a whole bunch about the early days of flight. I also wanted to learn how two bicycle shop owners from Dayton, Ohio achieved one of humanity's oldest desires. Tobin's book is surprisingly dry, but I don't really blame him. It turns out that the Wrights were awfully dry themselves. Worthwhile for plane geeks, but probably not of much interest to general publ I was very interested in reading about the early days of heavier-than-air powered human flight. Considering I am an "aerophile", I don't know a whole bunch about the early days of flight. I also wanted to learn how two bicycle shop owners from Dayton, Ohio achieved one of humanity's oldest desires. Tobin's book is surprisingly dry, but I don't really blame him. It turns out that the Wrights were awfully dry themselves. Worthwhile for plane geeks, but probably not of much interest to general public.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Peter Boody

    Great job bringing the era and the personalities to life. I am a pilot who loves all things aeronautical so non-flying readers might want to take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt. For those looking for Hollywood style high personal drama (other than Langley's weirdness) and amazing adventures, this may not work (perhaps why there has never been a great biopic about the Wrights). But for me, I have a new, richer appreciation for the first flights of a powered aircraft carrying a human being and Great job bringing the era and the personalities to life. I am a pilot who loves all things aeronautical so non-flying readers might want to take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt. For those looking for Hollywood style high personal drama (other than Langley's weirdness) and amazing adventures, this may not work (perhaps why there has never been a great biopic about the Wrights). But for me, I have a new, richer appreciation for the first flights of a powered aircraft carrying a human being and the men who made them happen, with the strong support of the dad and sister.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    An excellent account of the various people trying to "conquer the air". Centering mostly on the Americans involved in the pursuit of flight, it gave an inside look at the personalities involved and more of their back story than I had previously encountered. For many years I had wondered at the extreme secrecy that the Wright brothers used when they were going to exhibit their flyer in France. I found my answer. This was a very well done abridged audio book, one I will probably listen to again. An excellent account of the various people trying to "conquer the air". Centering mostly on the Americans involved in the pursuit of flight, it gave an inside look at the personalities involved and more of their back story than I had previously encountered. For many years I had wondered at the extreme secrecy that the Wright brothers used when they were going to exhibit their flyer in France. I found my answer. This was a very well done abridged audio book, one I will probably listen to again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    James Tobin did a great job filling in the many gaps in my knowledge about the Wright brothers and their historic first flight. Especially interesting was the description of the multiple iterations they went through to create their first planes, other key contributors the the development of practical aircraft, and how their historic first flight quickly led to the development of widespread and practical motorized airplanes. An enjoyable and informative book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megargee

    This book describes how Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel Langley (then director of the Smithsonian), and the Wright brothers competed to develop the first heavier-than-air flying machine, each trying different approaches. The personalities of the rivals are well delineated and even though you know the outcome, the author creates a considerable suspense, in the process imparting a great deal of information about the principles of aeronautics, which the brothers discovered.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ben Wilson

    A fascinating story of the creation of the first powered aircraft, told largely through personal correspondence between the Wrights and their family. Gives amazing depth and detail to a story that has been told many times before. Brings the Wrights to life in delicious detail. 03/2008 - Upgraded this to 5 stars. One of the best.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    This book came highly recommended by someone (Uncle Marvin?) but I didn't care that much for it. Maybe you would though. It was pretty complete on the history of the Wright Brothers. Read it long ago. This book came highly recommended by someone (Uncle Marvin?) but I didn't care that much for it. Maybe you would though. It was pretty complete on the history of the Wright Brothers. Read it long ago.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Converse

    Interesting accounts of the Wright's competitors, especially Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian Institute and Alexander Graham Bell (yes, the telephone guy), as well as the Wright's own doings. Narrative basically ends with Wilbur's accomplishments in New York in 1909 Interesting accounts of the Wright's competitors, especially Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian Institute and Alexander Graham Bell (yes, the telephone guy), as well as the Wright's own doings. Narrative basically ends with Wilbur's accomplishments in New York in 1909

  29. 5 out of 5

    Doubledotter

    What a vibrant time in history and revealing stories of the risk, vision and entrepreneurship of the Wright brothers are encouraging. Anyone wanting to read a marvelous true story will enjoy the articulate and informative story telling of Tobin. I'm a new fan of his... What a vibrant time in history and revealing stories of the risk, vision and entrepreneurship of the Wright brothers are encouraging. Anyone wanting to read a marvelous true story will enjoy the articulate and informative story telling of Tobin. I'm a new fan of his...

  30. 5 out of 5

    M.T. Bass

    Of course, being an airplane nut, I enjoyed reading about Wilbur and Orville, but by weaving in the stories of Samuel Langley, Curtis Wright and Alexander G. Bell, Tobin gave a sense of the "great race" as it unfolded at the time. Looking forward now to McCullough's book on thw Wrights. Of course, being an airplane nut, I enjoyed reading about Wilbur and Orville, but by weaving in the stories of Samuel Langley, Curtis Wright and Alexander G. Bell, Tobin gave a sense of the "great race" as it unfolded at the time. Looking forward now to McCullough's book on thw Wrights.

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