Thursday, 3 December 2015

German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1

[Full title: German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 - Bf 109 F-4, Bf 110 E, Fi 156, Fw 190 A-3, Hs 123 A, Ju 88 A-4] Dariusz Karnas, Inside Series, Mushroom Model Publications/Stratus s.c., Sandomierz, Poland, 2014, ISBN 978-83-63678-55-5. Illustrated, hardcover, published in English.

Cover image © by Mushroom Model Publications/Stratus s.c., 2014.

This first volume of a potentially substantial series of reference works by Dariusz Karnas is a superb and very welcome publication. The instrument panel of each aircraft featured in German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 is described in a section of four to six pages, and each such section contains a minimum of text plus black & white photos, lavish colour renderings of the instrument panel and the individual instruments and gunsights, and, at times, additional drawings taken from the aircraft's handbook.

Needless to say, the colour renderings are the main focus of the book. They are quite accurate and realistic, and some of the individual instruments are depicted at near their original size. The instrument panels themselves are shown both completed and bare, the bare versions being captioned with numbers and corresponding lists of applicable instruments. The individual instruments feature their original German designations and parts numbers as well as the appropriate English designations.

In spite of the orientation of the cover, German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 is actually a landscape format book (sized 30 x 22 cm), which permits a larger reproduction of the instrument panels than would have been possible had a portrait format been chosen. Having said that, the nature of large colour renderings, in combination with the somewhat odd choice of a light brown background, at first glance make this publication appear almost like a children's book. But the realism and amount of detail featured are absolutely stunning.

Frustratingly, however, there are also shortcomings. At a meagre 38 pages, and featuring the instrument panels of a mere six aircraft types, the actual content of German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 is disappointingly moderate. This is a bit of shame. While the subject matter will, by necessity, require multiple volumes at any rate, it would have been nice if individual volumes would have been produced as slightly more substantial works of reference.

Moreover, while I do understand that both publisher and author will have to adhere to self-imposed limits to keep a publication within a realistic scope and price range, Karnas has elected to omit any other cockpit details, such as instrumented side panels, controls, ancillary equipment, or seats. Or the rear of the instrument panels, for that matter. The small amounts of text contained provide a brief overview of the aircraft types, but no information whatsoever with regard to the instrument panels themselves or their development. While all of these omissions undoubtedly reflect conscious decisions by the author, the inclusion of such content easily would have made German Aircraft Instrument Panels Vol. 1 an indispensable standard work on the topic.

As it is, however, this indisputably lovely book is best used in conjunction with existing publications in order to obtain a more complete picture of the subject matter. There are some that are quite essential, such as Peter W. Cohausz's substantial hardcover study Cockpits Deutscher Flugzeuge [German Aircraft Cockpits] (Aviatic Verlag GmbH, 2000), or the same author's Cockpit Profile softcover series (Flugzeug Publikations GmbH, 1998-2000). And then there is, of course, Kenneth H. Merrick's extensive but equally frustratingly incomplete German Aircraft Interiors 1935 - 1945 - Vol. 1 (Monogram Aviation Publications, 1996); another book that could/should have become a standard work for decades to come.

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