Roland Garros as a famous tennis tournament and tennis court in Paris is well known with everybody. But the question who was this person nobody knows. Yes a famous tennis player. Even my fellow pilots did not know. In this book Ed Cobleigh gives you the answer and in his usual style he describes the life of Roland Garros and the development of the aeroplane in the beginning of the 19th century with Roland Garros as the main character.
Roland Garros was the man who put aviation in France in the spotlights. He started as a car salesman but in 1909 he was gripped by aviation when he visited an air show in Reims (France). As a known playboy and provided with a fair amount of financial resources , (which you need when flying planes) and despite many setbacks due to accidents with his fragile and simple constructed aeroplanes he soon achieved head lines in the Paris newspapers.
It was no easy way. The aeroplanes were primitively constructed, the engines unreliable and aerodynamics was a relatively unknown world. A cockpit that could project you from wind and rain and safety belts were unknown at that time so when a plane hit the surface to hard the pilot was launched in the propeller or thrown out of his plane with often death as result of this. In short, aviation in that time was a risky business and fatal accidents were an every days order.
The author describes a good picture of the slow and sometimes dramatic developments of the early aviation history around 1910 with Roland Garros as the main person in this story and we follow him with his failures and sometimes successful attempts in gathering fame while searching for the borders of aviation. The book is peppered with his many personal adventures and his turbulent tour throughout the USA with a flying circus is filling up an important part of the book.
Back in Europe Garros settles different record attempts with the still fragile and dangerous aeroplanes like an altitude record and having crossed the Mediterranean between Frejus and Tunis which took 8 hours as the first aviator doing this.
Besides that several long distance contests were organised by the big news papers like Paris-Milan and Paris-Madrid in which Garros always played a main role. Thanks to his knowledge and experience he was recruited as a pilot by the French Army when World War One started.
Together with his trustful technician he developed a system that enabled fighter planes to fire their machineguns through the turning propeller which gave the French a head start in the air war. Using this system Garros achieved therefore his title as ace and the first fighter pilot by shooting down 3 German planes.
After he made an emergency landing on German territory he was captured and his invention fell into the hands of the Germans who developed it further thereby achieving the dominance in the air battles.
After 3 years being a prisoner of war he managed to escape via The Netherlands and returned as a hero in France.
He was offered a job in the top ranks of the French Air Force but he refused and returned back to his squadron in the front line,
But developments in military aviation happened fast and Garros after his time as war prisoner was no longer the sharp and physical fit front line pilot that was desired and was shot down and killed by a German ace a month before the end of the war which was also the end of a famous and courageous pilot.
A beautiful story about the life of this hero who played a big part in the development of the early aviation especially in France, fascinating described by Ed Cobleigh who illuminates the technical aspects of flying in those years very well and with knowledge.
The author was a fighter pilot himself flying F-4 jets in the USAF so he knows were he is talking about.
I have read this as e-book so no pictures but the good biography filled this lack completely and references to the aircraft types used in those times can be found in Google. A top story!