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Painting Aviation's Legends: The Art of Mike Machat: Stories of the World's Greatest Pilots and Aircraft.

Painting Aviation's Legends: The Art of Mike Machat: Stories of the World's Greatest Pilots and Aircraft. By Mike Machat. Forest Lake MN: Specialty Press, 2016. Illustrations. Photographs. Pp. 192. $39.95 ISBN: 978-1-5800723-6-6

When one looks at the main title, most people will think this is another of the big coffee-table books filled with great (or not so great) paintings, each with a short description of what is depicted. This is anything but. The subtitle tells the real story. This is a book of stories about some of the most famous people who have flown and some of the very famous aircraft that they flew. It is also the story of how one of the prolific aviation artists of the day researches his subjects and how he arrives at the final product.

I don't profess to be an art critic, so I won't comment on the quality of the works. Art appreciation is a matter of one's own tastes. Personally, I like most of what Machat has included in his book. But what I really like is that he uses his paintings as part of the story of the famous aviators and aircraft. But he also uses photographs, maps, illustrations, and even other artists' works to round out the particular story.

Machat divides the book into eight chapters covering rather broad topics: World War II, the beginning of the Jet Age, test pilots, airliner classics, end of the Cold War, mixing generations, wall-size aviation, and art today. Each has from four to eleven subjects (painting titles)--there are 50 in all. Some details on several of the subjects should serve to better illustrate what Machat has accomplished.

Gold Cup Roll is the painting of test pilot Tex Johnston's famous roll over Seattle's Lake Washington to demonstrate the new Dash 80 jetliner prototype. The plane is displayed at the Udvar-Hazy Center, and the painting hangs in its administration area. Machat describes not only the event in some detail but also how he researched and laid out the painting. This is a particular favorite of mine, since I show the aircraft on every tour.

Knighthood at Mach 6.7 recreates then-Maj Pete Knight's 1967 X-15A-2 flight to that great experimental aircraft's highest achieved speed. Having worked with Pete in the early F--15 program and built a model of this craft for him, this is another personal favorite. The plane is in the National Museum of the USAF.

Tiger With a Tale depicts then-Col Robert F. Scott of God Is My Copilot fame in his P-40 over China. Accompanying photos show Scott during the war and long after.

40th Anniversary of the Fifteenth Air Force shows a KC 10 and B-24 flying in formation over March AFB celebrating the 1983 event. As a KC-10 guy, I found another favorite here.

Even semi-fictional events are depicted. Toward the Unknown shows Lincoln Bond (William Holden) taking off in the Gilbert XF-120 (the disguised Martin XB-51) in the 1956 movie of the same title. This was one of my favorite movies as a kid.

The point of the personal notes is that most readers of Air Power History will find one, a few, or many of Machat's paintings that will bring back events or memories of personal importance. I thoroughly enjoyed the paintings and their stories, the stories of how Machat developed his style over the years, and the story behind the making of each painting. This book is a keeper.

Col Scott A. Willey, USAF (Ret), Book Review Editor, and Docent, NASM's Udvar-Hazy Center
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Author:Willey, Scott A.
Publication:Air Power History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2016
Words:589
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