Inspired by the Book Club at Deuce of Clubs, I post about an out-of-the-ordinary book from my own collection once a month.
This one is actually by a New York Times writer considered a pioneer of New Journalism, John McPhee. It's "The incredible true adventure of a flying machine that makes Apollo seem easy and flying saucers look real..." (The Philadelphia Bulletin)
From the cover: "This was the Aereon...the embodiment of the dreams, hopes, work, money, and fanatical true grit of perhaps the most bizarre band of men ever to try to revolutionize the entire concept of manned flight..."
This all sounded terribly exciting and impressive until I found out the "Deltoid Pumpkin Seed" - the Aereon 26 - was basically a tricked-out blimp. McPhee explains that the Aereon was secreted away in a hangar somewhere because the world wasn't ready for it. In reality, blimps just aren't economically viable aircraft. They're low-moving, relatively slow, highly vulnerable to weather, and they require huge amounts of ballast. Oh, and they're goofy-looking. Why d'you think Ron Paul sold his?
As one aviation consultant put it, "the last time a blimp was in regular passenger service, it was called the Hindenburg."
This doesn't discourage the many blimp enthusiasts of the world, though. These guys are hardcore.