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The development of powered flight is a twentieth-century story. The latest in the best-selling 'Classic' series, Classic Aircraft reviews a cross-section of the pace-setters that have pointed the way forward in the history of aviation: the ‘classic aircraft' which represented for good or ill the cutting edge of applied technology.
From 1915 to the present day, bombers created a new and terrible 'total war' — in the 1940s the German Blitzkrieg employed screaming Stuka dive-bombers as they invaded the rest of Europe, and the RAF's Avro Lancasters carried out night bombing of Germany in the winter of 1944-45. In 1945 bombing reached its apogee with the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima by a Boeing B-29.
The counter to the bomber, the fighter developed with the Fokker E-1, the S.E.5a, the Hurricane, the Spitfire, and the US Navy's Hellcat — all rising out of the early discovery that a small, agile aeroplane can become an efficient killing machine.
Civil aviation had its classics too. Originally the exclusive preserve of the rich, who could fly with slow dignity in Handley Page airliners on a twelve-day progress from Croydon to Australia via Imperial Airways, civil flight progressed to the dawn of the package tours in Vickers Viscounts and to the luxury of Concorde in the 1980s.
All the machines in this book, whether helicopters or the efficient light aircraft of today or the humble workhorses of the air, have serious claim to be considered as 'classic aircraft' and all, in one form or another, represent the incredible advance in technology unique to the now-departed twentieth century.