Saturday, May 2, 2020

Review of "Tom Swift and His Ocean Airport," by Victor Appleton

Review of

Tom Swift and His Ocean Airport, by Victor Appleton

Five out of five stars

 The first  books in the original Tom Swift series were published in the decade from 1910 to 1919, 22 books in all. It was a time of significant improvements in the motor car, airplane, and ways to deal out mass death in battle. Once World War I was over, which as far as the series is concerned, 1920 and later, the improvements were incorporated into the books and the subject matter went away from the tools of war. This book was first published in 1934, so it can be considered a member of the 2.0 series of Tom Swift books.

 The premise is a simple one, as the concept of trans-Atlantic air travel is being developed, there is a perceived need for refueling or emergency landing stops. In the northern Atlantic Greenland, Iceland and Ireland are not that far apart, so the planes of that time did not need the capability to fly long distances non-stop.

 However, in the tropical areas of the Atlantic, there is almost nothing between the Atlantic seaboard of the United States and the western islands of Portugal and Spain. Therefore, Tom Swift develops the concept of a floating landing strip in the middle of the Atlantic. It is composed of a series of high-buoyancy logs that are snapped together by magnets, so it is modular in structure. There is a great deal of elasticity built into the system so it can deal with the significant waves of Atlantic storms.

 The first military aircraft carriers were designed and built in the mid 1920’s, so the proof of concept was present when this book was written. Of course, the landing pad for commercial airliners would have to be much larger than the deck of a carrier. That is an implicit premise of this story.

 This is a Tom Swift book where the supporting characters are there, but other than Ned, only just. The focus is on the creation of the airport and the supposed need for an emergency landing strip. The self-assembling modular nature of the landing platform is a fascinating aspect that predates later self-assembling structures. This is a good book that I found to be a page-turner.

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