Sir Alan Cobham, The Flying Legend Who Brought Aviation To The Masses

The story of Sir Alan Cobham goes far beyond 1920s & 1930s aviation record breaking. This biography captures the breadth of his unique contribution to aviation development and safety. – Most Highly Recommended

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NAME: Sir Alan Cobham, The Flying Legend Who Brought Aviation To The Masses
FILE: R2816
AUTHOR: Colin Cruddas
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, Frontline, Air World
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES: 206
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: aviation pioneers, long range flight records, Cobham's Flying Circus, 
air displays, barnstorming, aerial refuelling, National Aviation Days, Empire aviation

ISBN: 978-1-52673-840-0

IMAGE: B2816.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y4qrpndb
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION:   The story of Sir Alan Cobham goes far beyond 1920s & 1930s 
aviation record breaking. This biography captures the breadth of his unique 
contribution to aviation development and safety. -  Most Highly Recommended

The end of WWI saw thousands of pilots with nowhere to go and a pile of war surplus aircraft. During 
the course of the WWI the aeroplane had gone from a fragile device, that struggled to keep one or two 
airman in flight, to a family of specialist machines that were robust and significantly in advance of the 
standard machines of 1914. Inevitably combat pilots sought new challenges, danger and excitement.
Many bought surplus warplanes and started barnstorming round their home countries to the delight of 
the masses. To cover their costs they sold experience flights during air displays and enthused new
generations of aviators. From surplus planes to new designs, some of these pilots engaged in record 
breaking flights in terms of speed and distance. They captured the public imagination and became 
celebrities.

Most of these pilots had little individual impact on the development of aviation, beyond making it more 
visible and available to the public. A few saw very real economic benefits of developing air routes for 
the British Empire, with the ability to carry urgent freight and passengers safely over very long distances. 
The lack of airfields meant that much early work in this area involved float planes and flying boats that 
could land on lakes and rivers. Sir Alan Cobham was one of the leading record breakers looking to
 expand aviation capabilities.

One thing that became obvious to him was the need to refuel aircraft in the air for virtually unlimited 
long range flights. Unlike a military aircraft that is flown close to its limits all of the time, civil aircraft 
are usually flown close to their limits only for take off and landing. Reducing unnecessary landings to 
refuel not only speeded up long range flights, but it could increase safety. This increase was in part the 
removal of a number of landings and take offs and also permited an aircraft to take off at much lower 
weights with part filled fuel tanks and then top the tanks up once airborne. Today we take this for 
granted for military jets, although civil aircraft just have greater choice of airports.

As a result, Sir Alan became an advocate for in-flight refuelling and established Flight Refuelling 
Limited in 1934. This company pioneered aerial refuelling and was succeeded by Cobham plc which 
is a major aerospace and defence organization today.

The author has provided a balanced view of an outstanding airman from his move to combat aviation 
from military veterinary work during WWI, his memorable touring Flying Circus and on into record 
breaking flights. This is the part of the Cobham story that achieved most coverage in print and was 
credited with inspiring many youngsters to become pilots. When war broke out in 1939, some 75% of 
new combat pilots for the RAF claimed that their first experience of flying had been to see the 
Cobham's Flying Circus as it toured British towns and cities.

The story of Sir Alan's contribution to aviation technology developments and in-flight refuelling is also 
told well. The two very interesting photo-plate sections include a very rare image of a Meteor jet 
fighter refuelling in flight from a converted Lancaster bomber in what was to become a common 
practice as air forces decided to provide flight refuelling capability and modified bombers to operate 
as tankers.

This is an engaging biography that is very well supported by the high standard of illustration.