Imagining Flight: Aviation and Popular Culture

Named a Choice magazine “Outstanding Academic Title” of 2005

Imagining Flight
The history of the air age has mostly been written from the perspective of aircraft designers, builders, and pilots. Imagining Flight is a history of the air age as the rest of us have experienced it: on the pages of books, the screens of movie theaters, and the front pages of newspaper—and in airline cabins during peacetime and bomb shelters during wartime. It is a book about the ways in which people outside the aviation business have looked at, dreamed about, and worried over powered flight in the century since the Wright brothers first showed a startled world that it was possible.

The book focuses on the United States, but also contrasts American ideas and attitudes with those of other air-minded nations, including Britain, France, Germany, and Japan. Among the topics covered are: dreams of aviation’s future, from the Wright brothers to the space shuttle; pilots as heroes, including Lindbergh, Earhart, Yeager, and the “Red Baron”; the promise (and threat) of aerial bombing; five decades of airline advertising and the changing expectations it created; aviation disasters, and the stories we tell about them; and flight in film and television, stories and songs. Imagining Flight is thus the first book to explore the first century of flight through the eyes of those who watched it from the ground.


“Altogether a marvelous read, and full of insights. Bravo! Summing Up: Highly recommended.”
-- Choice

“This social history of aviation and the popular culture is concise and to-the-point. It is a well-written book geared for the general reader and absents itself from long discourses of esoteric, intellectual issues that would interest only a philosopher . . . [It] is very well documented; I was impressed with Van Riper’s notes and his bibliographic essay. Well worth the read.”
-- William A. Nardo, aviation historian, writing in Air Power History

“It is an ambitious project . . . provides a useful overview of the literature in the field of aviation studies.”
-- Anne Collins Goodyear, Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings, National Air & Space Museum