Book Thoughts: Aircraft of the World: The Complete Guide

Aircraft of the World: The Complete Guide was a 1996 reference book by International Masters Publishers. It was actually a binder. Instead of pages, there were cards. Each card featured a different aircraft. There was a front and back plus a pullout with background information, schematics, facts and photos about the aircraft. The cards were organized into group, for example Airliners and Helicopters, and number. The idea was for it to be a collection. If I got all the card numbers in each group, the collection would be complete.

The binder and the first 50 cards were a free offer after signing up for a service to get the remaining cards over time each month. In return for the fee, I could have gotten more cards every month until I had the whole collection. “The Complete Guide” is a misnomer because it wasn’t complete when I got it. I would have had to pay for several months for it to really be complete. Based on the size of the binder, there were around 150 cards total. I don’t think I could pick the cards I got each month, but the company kept track of which cards I already had, so I wouldn’t get duplicates. I would have had to use a credit card. Since I was just a kid, I convinced my mom to sign up for the free offer, then cancel so we didn’t have to pay any money.

I’ve had this binder for a long time but never really looked through it much until now. I thought it was a cool idea, but I was never really into planes that much. I pretty much only wanted it because it was free. Finally, almost twenty years later, I decided to read everything in it before giving it away. They put a lot of time into researching these planes. My favorite part was reading how the plane was developed and what it was used for. My least favorite part was the specifications. These were stats like weapons used and max range. I just didn’t care enough to know exactly how many guns the plane had or what caliber the bullets were. It was too much information that wasn’t that important.

The words had an air of propaganda in them. Maybe this is just how things were written back then, but in almost every case, the United States was shown as perfect, incapable of doing anything bad. Wars like the Vietnam War and Korean War were explained as “successes” while most people would consider those wars that were lost. Yes, Vietnam and North Korea have done very bad things to their people, but the U.S. forces did their own share of killing innocent civilians. Just give me the facts. I can make my own conclusions on who is moral and who is immoral. However, I think it is just that this binder was written for children.

The authors didn’t want things to be too complex. It’s like how parents won’t tell their kids that a relative has a drug addiction. The subject is just kind of avoided because they don’t want the kids to worry about those things. It’s the same in this writing. Kids maybe can’t comprehend that the real world is a gray moral area, not totally good or totally evil. They need to get older to understand that, so a book written for them needs to come down to what they can understand at their age.

Overall, it was an entertaining read. It’s been awhile since I’ve read about the World Wars. The pictures kept things interesting. Since it was written twenty years ago, it got me to do some quick research online to see what the new fighter planes are these days. Reading about war is far from my favorite thing though. I prefer to focus on the good that people have done. It is uplifting. Reading about war is just depressing. Unless I am a politician or in the military, I don’t need to know these things.

These days, I also avoid the kind of business model that International Masters Publishers uses. I would never sign-up for a service like this. I want my purchases to be clear. I want to know how much total I need to pay and what exactly I’m getting in return. This business model doesn’t allow that. Readers had to pay an unknown number of months until they had the full set of cards. That would be guaranteed to be hundreds of dollars to complete the collection. I think it would be cheaper to just buy a comprehensive book on the history of flight. Furthermore, there are many free internet sources these days for the occasional random interest in flight. That’s enough for me.

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