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A History of Flight through its Martyrs, Oddballs and Daredevils

Published by Oneworld Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

In a world without aircraft, to believe flight might be possible required a certain kind of character. You had to be starry-eyed, a possessor of practical ingenuity, nerves of steel and a level of sanity that would be best described as deficient.

In Mayday!, David Darling tells the stories of the unconventional aviators across history who have been willing to risk all to further their craft. Meet Sophie Blanchard, a balloonist of nervous disposition whom Napoleon charged with organizing balloon displays at all major ceremonies in France. Then there’s the daredevil stuntman Lincoln Beachey, the dogfighter aces of WWI, the man who performed the dance of death – switching planes in mid-air, the real “X-Men” who flew at the edge of space, and the BASE jumpers who want to fly without wings. The cast are eccentric, reckless and extraordinary, and Mayday! is made up of their riveting tales, bizarre contraptions, magnificent achievements and, sometimes, startling folly.

About The Author

David Darling is a science writer, astronomer and tutor. He is the author of nearly fifty books, including the bestselling Equations of Eternity. He lives in Dundee, Scotland.

Together with Agnijo Banerjee, he is the co-author of the Weird Maths trilogy, and The Biggest Number in the World.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (October 1, 2015)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781780745657

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Raves and Reviews

“A consummate collection of tales of the fearless and the feckless. Darling treats his subject with an authority tempered by the gentle humour that is the mark of a great story-teller.”

– Justin Pollard, author of The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed

‘David Darling has cleverly avoided wheeling out all the old familiar names… a rollicking, rip-roaring tale. 4 stars.’

– Popular Science

“Gripping… dazzling tales of madness and derring do.”

– Brian Clegg, author of Inflight Science

“A hugely enjoyable roller-coaster aerial ride in the company of oddballs and heroes, complete with vertiginous frights, dances of death, lonely impulses of delight and acts of mindless masochism in the name of science.”

– Jonathan Glancey, author of Spitfire: The Biography

'Intriguing and entertaining'.

– Daily Mail

"Gripping... dazzling tales of madness and derring-do."

– Brian Clegg, author of Inflight Science

"A hugely enjoyable roller-coaster aerial ride in the company of oddballs and heroes, complete with acts of mindless msochism in the name of science."

– Jonathan Clancy, author of Spitfire: The Biography


– Wall Street Journal

“A mix of good old-fashioned silliness and some fine science writing.”

– BBC Focus

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More books from this author: David Darling