The Balloon Factory: The Story of the Men Who Built Britain’s First Flying Machine by Alexander Frater - review by Gerald Butt

Gerald Butt

Come Fly with Me

The Balloon Factory: The Story of the Men Who Built Britain’s First Flying Machine

By

Picador 243pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

In its publicity campaign prior to the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, British Airways promised to put ‘the enjoyment back into travel’. But even ignoring the embarrassing fiasco at that launch and the frustrations of lengthy security checks every time you fly, BA was fooling itself in thinking that it could, all of a sudden, put the joy back into air travel. Airlines over the years have gone out of their way to quash any lingering sense that flying might be a source of wonder. From the earliest days, operators realised the need to woo customers by stressing that the activity was safe. The word fun was too easily associated with adventure, which in turn suggested danger. 

Amelia Earhart knew this as well as anyone. While, in the 1930s, she wrote lyrically and enthusiastically about flying, she also knew that sentiments of this kind would not attract fare-paying passengers. Conscious of this, she quoted one first-time traveller as saying that the most remarkable thing about flying was

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