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EL AL: Israel's Flying Star
by Marvin G Goldman
This beautifully illustrated book portrays the rise of EL AL Israel Airlines from a mere vision to one of the world’s most efficient and respected carriers.
Featuring over 500 photographs and other images, and with a vivid and informative text by EL AL authority Marvin Goldman, EL AL: Israel’s Flying Star relates how the fledgling airline emerged from the same struggle that established Israel as a renewed homeland and sanctuary for the Jewish people and, overcoming myriad challenges, became the lifeline of the country and achieved worldwide acclaim.
The book reflects years of meticulous research and interviews by the author, input from aviation experts and present and past EL AL employees, and the full cooperation of the airline itself. Ten chapters take the reader from the birth of aviation in the Holy Land, through EL AL’s early lean years with second-hand propeller-driven aircraft, until it achieved industry praise with its record-setting turboprop trailblazing on the North Atlantic, then into the jet age and up to today’s privatization of the airline and success.
Reproductions of dozens of admired posters and other publicity artwork commissioned by EL AL over the years, selected from noted collections of the author and others, further enrich the reading and visual experience.
Detailed appendices cover key dates, references, and a fully-illustrated comprehensive fleet list of every aircraft operated by EL AL. Handsomely designed, EL AL: Israel’s Flying Star will be treasured by anyone interested in commercial air transport.192pp; 500 color and b&w photos; hardbound ($24.95)
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For a company operating only 35 aircraft in 2008, El Al has had an extensive and active history, one nearly as old as the country in which it is based. To relate that tale, retired attorney Goldman has updated his work that first appeared in 1989 with a slightly different subtitle. But the entire volume has been updated and now includes more color photography as well as an improved layout.
Goldman recounts El Al’s struggles in those early days, beginning with pre-Israel air services provided by Britain and others in the Thirties and Forties. Founded in 1948 or 1949—depending on which event you use as the starting point—El Al was flying from the new state of Israel to European cities by July 1949—Paris was the destination of its first scheduled flight—and across the North Atlantic by charter flight less than a year later. When it began scheduled service to New York in April 1951, El Al was the first airline not based in Europe or North America to fly that important route.
Early operations used four-engine Douglas DC-4 and Lockheed 49 Constellation equipment for most services, plus twin-engine Curtiss C-46 Commandos. Acquisition of the Bristol Britannia turboprop in 1957 put the fledgling airline into the big league and gave it true long-range capability. The first jets, Boeing 707s, followed in 1961. Even by 1970 the company was flying just ten aircraft. Only in the Eighties did the fleet double to more than 20.
El Al’s story is very closely tied to that of Israel itself, and thus the various Middle East wars, flights of immigrants, and rescues of various Jewish populations in Africa and elsewhere help to define the airline’s story as much as improved equipment. By mid-2004, the company’s ownership was more private than government, the result of a phased-in privatization effort.
Goldman provides several useful appendices including a chronology, aircraft listing, a detailed and illustrated fleet list, and the company’s logos and insignia over the years. Throughout the book are color reproductions of period posters and a glimpse at changing uniform design as well as aircraft paint schemes.
This is a handsome tribute to El Al’s first six decades of service, providing a readable behind-the-scenes look at how a scrappy start-up became a world-class airline. CHS
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