Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen, and Blasting into Space

Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen, and Blasting into Space

by Richard Branson
     
 

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One of the world's most famous business leaders (and a well-known avian fanatic) explores the pioneers of flight.

Bestselling author and billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has always been obsessed with the skies. To promote a new Virgin Airlines route, he became the first man to water ski behind a blimp. His Virgin Galactic venture will soon

Overview

One of the world's most famous business leaders (and a well-known avian fanatic) explores the pioneers of flight.

Bestselling author and billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has always been obsessed with the skies. To promote a new Virgin Airlines route, he became the first man to water ski behind a blimp. His Virgin Galactic venture will soon offer ordinary people the opportunity to experience spaceflight aboard the first commercial spaceliner, SpaceShipTwo.

In Reach for the Skies, Branson examines the history of aviation over the last two hundred years, putting the spotlight on trailblazers such as:

*Tony Jannus, who made the first ever commercial flight over Tampa Bay, Florida, in 1914.
*Leo Valentin, the "bird man" who jumped from 9,000 feet wearing a pair of wooden wings in the 1950s.
*Steve Fossett, who broke 130 world records in planes, balloons, and airships.

The pioneers of flight-not just the world-famous Wright Brothers, but also lesser known visionaries and dreamers-made it possible for any of us with the desire and the commitment to reach for the skies ourselves.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Virgin Atlantic Airlines founder and billionaire adventurer celebrates the exploits of airborne daredevils—his own prominently among them—in this lively history of aviation pioneers. Branson ranges from the Montgolfier brothers' 1783 invention of the hot-air balloon to today's nascent space tourism industry—tickets on his Virgin Galactic space liner will run ,000—highlighting men and women who risked their money and lives to advance aerial technology or just put on a good show. It's a colorful assemblage of engineers, test pilots, barnstormers, and fighter aces; there are asphyxiated high-altitude balloonists, ultra-light enthusiasts who fly lawn chairs, and the "birdman" who jumped from an airplane wearing only wooden wings and glided safely to the ground. Into the soaring, crashing, and burning, Branson inserts his own extreme-ballooning adventures—"I opened the hatch, climbed out on top of the capsule, and hacked away at the cable with my knife"—and much interesting lore of aero-space design. Like everything the author does, the book is, in part, an advertisement ("Over the years, pioneered comfortable reclining seats"). Still, Branson's enthusiasm for avant-garde flight and his firsthand understanding of its rigors make this a rousing—sometimes even elevating—read. Photos. (Apr. 28)
Kirkus Reviews

A quirky, eclectic history of great flights, from balloons to space shuttles—with some generous plugs for the author's own Virgin company.

Billionaire Branson (Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur, 2010, etc.), founder of Virgin Group, is a pilot and visionary in his own right, as he reminds us liberally throughout this lively, selective history of man's attempts to take to the skies. The author likes nothing better than a story of someone willing to try what others say can't be done, and he sprinkles his work with these inspiring tales, more or less chronologically: Master inventor Daedalus flew successfully out of King Minos' labyrinth and reached Sicily, while his unfortunate son, Icarus, didn't make it; the Montgolfier paper-manufacturing family engineered the first unmanned balloons in the late 18th century, followed by a host of subsequent lighter-than-air record-breakers, mostly French; gliders modeled on the wings of birds were perfected by Otto Lilienthal and others, until the Wright Brothers and mechanic Charles Taylor added the engine to activate propellers. Branson admires such daredevils asManfred von Richthofen (aka the Red Baron) and entrepreneurial pilot Howard Hughes, as well as bold ladies like Florence "Pancho" Barnes, but he's also interested in the physics of flight, offering brief disquisitions on the working of wings, the function of the jet stream and what the "sound barrier" means. But the author is especially fascinated by the evolution of the airline industry, its character largely shaped by the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation, the growth of Pan Am Airways and how the Internet has vastly altered the airline landscape. He also shares some of Virgin's cutting-edge designs and prospects for spaceship flight.

In contrast to Martin van Creveld's polished, staidAge of Airpower (2011), Branson is above all enthusiastic about his subject and forward-seeing.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101514214
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/28/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
File size:
5 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Sir Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group. With around 200 companies in more than 30 countries, the Virgin Group has now expanded into leisure, travel, tourism, mobile, broadband, TV, radio, music festivals, finance, health, and renewable energy. Branson’s autobiography, Losing My Virginity, and his books on business, Screw It, Let's Do It and Business Stripped Bare, are all international bestsellers.

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