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Books to en­joy, gear to check out and Dan­ish ec­cen­tric­ity to cel­e­brate

My Dream and my Aero­planes by René Fournier, E38, with ship­ping to UK and Europe E14 (rest of the world, E18). Or­der from René Fournier him­self at 2 rue de la Hal­bu­terie, 37270 Athée-sur-cher, France

In our Fe­bru­ary is­sue I re­viewed the re­cent English trans­la­tion of René Fournier’s fas­ci­nat­ing au­to­bi­og­ra­phy My Dream and my Aero­planes. I have since been told that the book I was orig­i­nally sent was not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of those on sale. René re­cently mailed me a copy of the de­fin­i­tive ver­sion, which is a sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter pro­duc­tion, with higher qual­ity text and print­ing, im­proved photo re­pro­duc­tion and su­pe­rior bind­ing.

For those who haven’t read my orig­i­nal re­view or who are un­fa­mil­iar with Fournier’s di­verse fam­ily of de­light­ful aero­planes, this is an ex­cel­lent book by a gifted and artis­tic air­craft de­signer who at first merely wanted to build his own, highly ef­fi­cient, clas­sic-han­dling fly­ing ma­chine — as­pir­ing as nearly as hu­manly as pos­si­ble to soar like the moun­tain ea­gles. But this vi­sion­ary even­tu­ally achieved so much more than that.

René’s sub­stan­tial 439-page mem­oir traces his jour­ney from his child­hood build­ing make-be­lieve aero­planes, through wartime mil­i­tary ser­vice and ed­u­ca­tion in an aero­nau­ti­cal col­lege to a few years as pro­fes­sional ce­ram­i­cist and sup­plier of school craft equip­ment while he made his pro­to­type. As soon as other pi­lots saw this long-winged cre­ation they clam­oured for their own ex­am­ples, so via a brief gov­ern­ment grant and a hand­ful of pro­tot­pes and pre-pro­duc­tion de­vel­op­ment ver­sions he be­came an ini­tially re­luc­tant man­u­fac­turer of the graceful RF3. The need for greater aer­o­batic strength and ca­pa­bil­ity led to his world-fa­mous RF4D, and via that to the two-seat RF5 and its deriva­tives, the RF5B Sper­ber mo­tor-glider and stealthy RF5S spy­plane.

The pro­lific M Fournier’s sub­se­quent side-by-side RF6B be­gat both the Ger­man four-seat RS180 Sports­man and the com­pos­ite Bri­tish Slingsby T-67 Fire­fly, used for pi­lot train­ing by air forces all over the world in­clud­ing here in Bri­tain — ex­am­ples still serve the bet­ter fly­ing clubs as aer­o­batic train­ers. The spe­cialised aer­o­batic RF7, metal RF8, wooden RF9 tour­ing mo­tor glider and its com­pos­ite RF10 de­riv­a­tive led to the Brazil­ian Aero­mot Xi­mango and Super Xi­mango, which cur­rently in­tro­duces USAF cadets to fly­ing. His penul­ti­mate project was the Vw-pow­ered JAR-VLA trainer RF47, of which only a hand­ful were pro­duced, in­clud­ing a fully aer­o­batic pro­to­type. An­other pro­to­type, of a kit-built, fold­ing-wing, Briggs & Strat­ton-pow­ered ultralight RF4UL is still un­der de­vel­op­ment ‘some­where in France’ with the lively nono­genar­ian René act­ing as tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor. His book charts all this in fas­ci­nat­ing de­tail, in­clud­ing his rea­sons for var­i­ous de­sign as­pects, his con­tin­ual bat­tles with in­ert and ob­struc­tive of­fi­cial­dom and the many ex­ploits, records and ad­ven­tures of his mag­nif­i­cent aro­planes and their of­ten frankly ec­cen­tric pi­lots. I com­mend this book, not only to Fournier en­thu­si­asts, but to ev­ery­body who as­pires to rise above dull bu­reacu­racy and soar into the free­dom of our skies above.

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