Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
The Golden Age of Aviation is brought to life in this story of the giant Zeppelin airships that once roamed the sky - a story that ended with the fiery destruction of the Hindenburg.
“[An] exhilarating history of the dawn of modern air travel.” (Publishers Weekly)
At the dawn of the 20th century, when human flight was still considered an impossibility, Germany’s Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin vied with the Wright Brothers to build the world’s first successful flying machine. As the Wrights labored to invent the airplane, Zeppelin fathered the remarkable airship, sparking a bitter rivalry between the two types of aircraft and their innovators that would last for decades, in the quest to control one of humanity’s most inspiring achievements.
And it was the airship - not the airplane - that led the way. In the glittery 1920s, the count’s brilliant protégé, Hugo Eckener, achieved undreamed-of feats of daring and skill, including the extraordinary round-the-world voyage of the Graf Zeppelin. At a time when America’s airplanes - rickety deathtraps held together by glue, screws, and luck - could barely make it from New York to Washington, D.C., Eckener’s airships serenely traversed oceans without a single crash, fatality, or injury. What Charles Lindbergh almost died doing - crossing the Atlantic in 1927 - Eckener had effortlessly accomplished three years before the Spirit of St. Louis even took off.
Even as the Nazis sought to exploit Zeppelins for their own nefarious purposes, Eckener built his masterwork, the behemoth Hindenburg - a marvel of design and engineering. Determined to forge an airline empire under the new flagship, Eckener met his match in Juan Trippe, the ruthlessly ambitious king of Pan American Airways, who believed his fleet of next-generation planes would vanquish Eckener’s coming airship armada.
It was a fight only one man - and one technology - could win. Countering each other’s moves on the global chessboard, each seeking to wrest the advantage from his rival, the struggle for mastery of the air was a clash not only of technologies but of business, diplomacy, politics, personalities, and the two men’s vastly different dreams of the future.
Empires of the Sky is the sweeping, untold tale of the duel that transfixed the world and helped create our modern age.
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|Listening Length||22 hours and 43 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||April 28, 2020|
|Publisher||Random House Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank||
#50,058 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals)
#31 in Aeronautics & Astronautics (Audible Books & Originals)
#61 in Aviation & Nautical Biographies
#249 in Aeronautics & Astronautics (Books)
Top reviews from the United States
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Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan-Am Airlines, emerges as the true visionary, plotting a global empire based on the potential of airplane travel even before technology had caught up to his imagination. Charles Lindbergh appears in a supporting role here as a consulting statesman of aviation, shaping the future in ways beyond his famous solo flight. The author places these Yankee pragmatists in counterpoint to the hapless German dreamers who cling to a vision of transoceanic zeppelin travel. Through them, you will learn why floating under a potential bomb of hydrogen didn’t seem like such a crazy idea to its supporters at the time, and how it was ironically helium, not the Hindenburg, that turned the zeppelin to lead. All these factors are put in the context of the geopolitical turbulence between the world wars. It all starts with Count Zeppelin experiencing his first balloon flight on a trip to America, during the Civil War!
As other reviewers have pointed out, there is some oddness in the writing. The obvious is often stated, cliches are overused, and motivations cartoonishly imagined rather than documented. This weakness is more than made up for by the richness and pacing of the unfolding events, however. The obviously extensive research is supported by copious references and notes at the end.
There is a quaint charm in the descriptions of either type of aircraft of that era, reminding us of a time when passenger flight was a true luxury, restricted to a privileged few willing to pay dearly for the experience. In the post-covid twenty-first century, maybe those days are returning!
There is a reason for this, of course. Mr. Rose does his research homework, without a doubt. But Mr. Rose also writes history in an interesting style which never gets tiring. Never, from cover to cover. (Well, from cover to extensive footnotes and bibliography.)
Here's a contrast: I just got done trashing (literally and figuratively by review) A.M. Sperber's "Murrow: His Life and Times." I cannot tell you how long this book was on my shelf — hardcover edition; I think it was published in 1987 — but I finally got around to reading it now that I am retired. That is, I tried to read it.
Ms. Sperber obviously did a similar job of researching her topic as Mr. Rose has done his. The problem is, or was — Ms. Sperber has been gone for 27 years now — is that she never learned how to present all of this information in such a way as to keep the reader's interest. Plus, she probably overdid it in total: way too many minor characters, details, and events.
Mr. Rose, on the other hand, also offers the results of his prodigious scholarship but it is NOT too much (in my opinion) AND he relays it as intertwining stories about two powerful men who achieved great things in an industry that could follow only one of their paths. One had to win, the other had to lose.
Mr. Rose tells us why, and we care enough to find out why so that, as we arrive at the denouement, we feel like we've read a darned good story.
And this is why Mr. Rose is maintaining his 4.6 average approval rating with "Empires of the Sky."
Top reviews from other countries
In short, the book recounts the history of the Zeppelin and, eventually, the competition between it and the airplane mainly in long distance passenger travel, particularly across the Atlantic. The key individuals as well as all the ups and downs in both camps, developmental and otherwise, are closely followed throughout.
This book could be enjoyed by anyone, particularly those interested in the history of air transportation, as well as that of the twentieth century.
the novice and the expert.