To those of us of a certain age [60+…] “The Jet Age” is or rather, was a wonder. For it ushered in a new world of speed, comfort, safety and elegance. I wrote a short review of our copy of “The jet age” several years ago. It was about the battle for dominance between The Boeing 707 and the De Havilland Comet. I neglected to mention that the 707 also destroyed Britain’s aircraft industry, crippled Lockheed and ruined McDonnell Douglas. Was this plane that good? Yes. It was.
Indeed the 707 was the symbol of American industrial dominance. That manifested itself in the universally recognised Air Force One, the 707 and then the 747. They were or rather are none too subtle reminders, albeit a blatant ones, but justified ones. In 1960 no-one had a 707, But, JFK did. WOW! But in 2015, times are different. Taylor Swift has an Airbus. As do many others.
Was there competition? The Soviet / Russian Tupolevs and Ilyushins were pale copies of American designs, when they flew, or more likely crashed. These were wisely avoided by any airline that could avoid them. Read the non-Soviet bloc airlines. The French Aviation Sud Caravelle, although a sturdy aircraft was too small for intercontinental use, yet it was popular and had the advantage of being not American as well as earning lots of money for Aviation Sud.
And so fifty years later when I heard of the introduction of a new world beater by Boeing, the 787 Dreamliner, I was quite excited by the prospects of this design. And make no mistake this is an important aircraft. So I expected a resounding fanfare. Instead, there was silence. For the world of 2014 was not the world of 1954.
We now have the “duopoly” of Boeing and Airbus. And I was surprised that seemingly only I was surprised at the indifference at the introduction of this passenger plane. Advantages? Long distance, extreme quite, improved fuel economy and much higher cabin pressure for ease of breathing and even larger windows. All this resulted in a collective yawn from the press and public. And even worse within a year Airbus had a copy of the 787, or at least, a modern version of an Airbus long range two engine wide-body, or the same thing, the A350 XWB. This brought forth yet another great yawn.
So what has happened? Is this a good book to read? Yes, it is interesting, well-illustrated and topical. I enjoyed it. Just bear in mind that the world is a much more modern place in 2015 than some of us thought it would be in 1960. Perhaps that is a good thing. Perhaps this is a quiet thing. Perhaps the 787 will become ubiquitous as was the 707. That would be a victory indeed. Maybe that is as much as can be expected.