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From the day when he deserted his school cricket field in the Wye Valley to inspect a Sopwith Pup which he had seen land half a mile away, young "Geoff" Wells was determined to find a career as an engineer in aviation. The caning he received from a sport-minded headmaster only strengthened his ambition. He was to need all his determination, plus a fair share of luck for, at that time, in the early 1920s, there were few jobs offering for air-minded boys. His quest took him to Australia and, in 1929, to a post with the infant Australian National Airways, which had made an adventurous beginning under Charles Kingsford Smith.

Wells writes with zest and humour of airline life not only in Australia but later with Imperial Airways (now BOAC) and, from 1939, with TEAL and Air New Zealand. His story, informative and entertaining, will delight those who, travelling in today's sleek airliners, want to know what came before them. Among others it will arouse memories of solo flights and races across the world, of barnstorming and of air pageants where thousands of people stared and marvelled at the strange phenomenon of flight.

Many fliers crossed his path: Smithy, Ulm, Jim Mollison, Amy Johnson, Jean Batten among them - people who played their part in blazing the airline trail across the world. And, when he joined TEAL, there were the more recent pioneers of the Pacific who took the flying boats to Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Fiji. Geoff Wells was one of them but every- thing happens so quickly in aviation that he was also concerned with the establishment of a new international airport at Auckland and the preparations for bigger and faster airliners.

"It is a rare privilege," he writes, "to have seen and worked with the changes from rag, wood and wire flying machines of 60 to 90 mph and doubtful reliability, right through to the all-metal, high-performance 600 mph civil airliners of today." He has enjoyed it all and he passes on that pleasure to his readers.

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  • Seller location: Waitakere, Auckland, NZ

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