This is more than just a book of aircraft cutaways – author Bill Gunston provides a look back at the aviation press of the day that is quite interesting. Cutaways were not meant merely to fill out pages – in a country that was depending on its air force in large part to survive and carry the fight to the enemy, rapidly bringing a degree of familiarity with the basics of aviation technology to the layman was important. The preponderance of newly-inducted servicemen had never seen an aircraft prior to putting on a uniform, and were now expected to distinguish between friendly and enemy types, and many had to maintain flying machines all over the world – there was the need to de-mystify powered flight.
Gunston provides a capsule history of each type covered, and an assessment of the drawings provided – vintage illustrations from 1930s-40s issues of The Aeroplane and Flight. Artists had more than mere deadlines to meet – they often had to work in less than ideal conditions, with oftentimes minimal exposure to the real thing, and with security restrictions on what could be shown. Gunston was simultaneously a longtime aviation journalist and author and an RAF veteran who took many of the depicted aircraft aloft, and his perspective from both angles is a valuable one.