"As far back as stories go, pioneers have reached for the skies. In the last two hundred years, they have mastered the air and made the modern world possible. Today they are bringing outer space within our reach. They're inventors and toymakers, amateurs and adventurers, visionaries, dreamers and, yes, crackpots. Some have called them irresponsible, even dangerous. But I have met many of them. I have worked with them, and funded them, and flown with them. I admire them, and trust them, and I think they and their kind are our future.
"In this book I look at the history of flight through the stories and people who have inspired me. These are tales of miraculous rescues; of records made and broken; of surprising feats of endurance and survival, including some of my own adventures, as well as developments in the future of air (and space) travel.
"This is a story of pioneers, and of course it includes the world famous Montgolfiers and the Wright brothers. But I also want to describe some of the lesser-known trailblazers - people like Tony Jannus, who in 1914 created the world's first scheduled commercial flight, flying his passengers over the waters of Tampa Bay at an altitude of just 50 feet; the ‘bird man’ Leo Valentin, who in the 1950s jumped from 9,000 feet with wooden wings attached to his shoulders; and my friend, Steve Fossett, who dedicated his life to breaking records and having adventures."
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Fascinating but let down by poor narration
Branson's passion for flight is palpable in every phrase in this remarkable potted history of manned flight. It is well researched, full of interesting little morsels of information, and structured in as logical a manner as one could hope, given the breadth of material covered. There is a sense, in places, of the sales pitch for Virgin's various airlines and, in particular, Virgin Galactic, but this seems more an honest byproduct of the author's infectious enthusiasm for the subject than calculated self-promotion.
Mulraney's pacing is slow (I listened at 1.25x, which I very rarely feel compelled to do) and the tempo of some phrases awkward. I found him rather jarring, and would avoid choosing another work performed by him, which is unfortunate as he seems to have rather the monopoly on the unabridged audio versions of Branson's work.
- Billy Bob
Amazing Overview of Manned Flight