StampNews.com would like to recommend our readers an exciting book involving various themes from the field of philately. The title is slightly misleading. Yes, this book covers all air crashes and incidents where mail was involved; but it is much more than that.
The author has been thorough in setting a context; not simply explaining the distinction between an accident and an incident, but detailing both the constituent parts of an aircraft and the reasons for aerial events which lead to a crash. So the reader can skim over the section on aircraft components, controls and terminology, and return to it when a technical explanation of a crash is required.
There follows a chronology of aviation accident investigation in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. One can deduce from this that inquiries and investigations, even in the 1920s, were reasonably detailed and professional. We are told that today, investigations can take years, the sole purpose being to learn from the event and prevent a recurrence, the sole focus being on safety, not allocating blame.
Forty-one pages are devoted to the Western Australia Airways crash on their inaugural mail flight on 5 December 1921. While this may appear excessive, an examination of the facts demonstrates that the appalling state of landing grounds and the reluctance of the government to invest in the provision of facilities they were contracted to provide, contributed to accidents and death.
The inclusion of a census of surviving covers for many of the most important crashes, including that of 5 December 1921, will be one of the most important features for aerophilatelists, dealers and auction houses. Each census also includes the auction history of the cover, and, where appropriate, the name of the collection where it resides.
The tables at the end of each of the three chapters are useful, in that it is a relatively simple task to check early air mail covers to establish if they were involved in an incident. Chapter one covers accidents and incidents within Australia. Chapter two covers accidents and incidents within New Zealand. And chapter three covers accidents and incidents involving mail being carried to or from Australasia. In this chapter, some flights suffered more than a dozen incidents and the author has introduced a novel way of listing these in the table as being subservient to the most significant incident.
There are several serious, even fatal crashes of mail carrying aircraft in Australia which have remained unrecorded in philatelic literature. The possibility of new crash covers emerging is an incentive for aerophilatelists, and dealers, to re-examine their early air mail covers.
The book is the culmination of decades of research and writings. The author first wrote on the subject 53 years ago, and is the acknowledged authority on the subject. It may be that the readership will turn out to be wider than the aerophilatelists and dealers mentioned in the introduction. Some of the stories of the inter-continental flights are gripping, and one may wonder why some of these feats have remained largely unacknowledged.
Some of the cover scans are rather faint and poor quality, which is probably because the author received scans from many collectors and he had to use what he received.