Lords of the Sky

Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, from the Red Baron to the F-16
Narrated by: John Pruden
Length: 17 hrs and 25 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.5 out of 5 stars (546 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling author of Viper Pilot and retired USAF F-16 legend Dan Hampton offers the first comprehensive popular history of combat aviation - a unique, entertaining, and action-packed look at the aces of the air and their machines, from the Red Baron and his triplane in World War I to today's technologically expert flying warriors in supersonic jets.

One of the most decorated fighter pilots in history, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Dan Hampton goes back 100 years to tell the extraordinary story of the most famous fighter planes and the brave and daring heroes who made them legend.

Drawing on his expertise, Hampton shines a spotlight on the pioneers who have ruled the air from World War I through the Cold War to today. He provides unique insight into gutsy pioneers such as Manfred von Richthofen and his red triplane, and the flyboys in the iconic P51 Mustang who faced the Nazi Lufwaffe. Here, too, is a thoughtful look at modern air warriors, including his own exploits in the high-tech f-16 Falcon.

Interwoven throughout this sweeping narrative history is Hampton's personal account of traveling the world to find these storied aircraft. Strapping himself into the cockpit of such planes, he shares the thrill and experience of flying each. Exhilarating, told in his acclaimed high-octane style, Lords of the Sky is a fresh look at the development of aviation for history and military buffs alike.

©2014 Ascalon, LLC (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great history, but ending goes off-topic

Any additional comments?

I grabbed Lords of the Sky after having read Hampton's other excellent book Viper Pilot. Most of my knowledge of air combat is from WWII and later. Hampton's history of the very beginnings of military aviation and fighter combat was very interesting. It also provides a basis to show the sharp contrasts in just how quickly aviation matured. And how some things (the core of air combat) remained the same. I appreciated the author's telling of stories from more than just an American point of view.

If I had any qualms it would be that the post-Korea part of the story mostly involves Americans, SAMs, and Weasels. Given that Hampton was a USAF Weasel pilot this is not surprising. There's a good account of Weaseling in Viper Pilot and I found it very interesting. However, I think the focus here takes the story off-topic.

I was disappointed that harsh lessons of air combat in Vietnam and America's losing touch with ACM prior to it weren't really touched on. Neither was the creation of Red Flag and Top Gun. John Boyd and the theory of energy-manueverability weren't mentioned. The Air Force's air superiority fighter, the F-15, is mentioned only in passing, and its replacement the F-22 is also mentioned just once (as a multi-billion dollar, single-mission waste).

Those qualms aside it was a great all around book, with me learning something in every chapter. His stories do a good job of immersing you into combat in various eras. The narration was fantastic. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in air combat.

12 people found this helpful

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Don't let the title fool you

I was hoping some in-depth stories about the air aces through the years. Instead I got a story about the history of war, from WWI through Iraq. The author goes into minutia that has NOTHING to do with air combat, like the names of foxholes built by the French in Viet Nam. Great research, nothing to do with air combat.

I found myself screaming at the radio, asking what this chapter had to do with air combat. SO many aces that were never mentioned, or mentioned only in passing.

If you want the history of war, this is for you. If you want the history of the actual 'Lords of the Sky', skip this book.

2 people found this helpful

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Outstanding history of the fighter pilot

This book weaves histories of the pilots, planes, tactics, weapons and personal stories together in an informative and entertaining way. John Pruden's narration was very good.
A very good book combined with a very good narration yields a very pleasurable listen.

5 people found this helpful

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Holds your interest

A good detailed easy to listen to the history of aviation fighters and the development of them from WW1 to Iraq.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

History from a little bit different angle

This a a great piece of history for those interested in aviation. Best if you have a basic background, i.e. know what flaps are. There is a fair amount of the surrounding history though the author sticks pretty much to the subject matter and gives background just for context. I found this book totally enjoyable but I am a history and aviation enthusiast (read plane nut) so it was a natural fit. It helps if you know some of the history but do not think it is totally necessary. The narration is great especially when he goes into "radio com" mode. Best if you are really into the subject matter as the book would be a bit detailed for someone looking for a causal read.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting, but very technical

Any additional comments?

If you are very familiar with all types of airplanes, flying jargon, military anachronisms, flying formations and military terminology, you will like this book. If, like me, you are not so well versed in these things, you will find this book a slow read and a bit hard to follow. I would have preferred to see the author pick out a few key, milestone advances in fighter planes and to have developed those in detail rather than cover so many different types of planes and training evolutions.

3 people found this helpful

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YES! If you love flight and air combat, this is a must read. Sweeping history of fighter pilots.

I loved this book. As an Air Force pilot, I can’t get enough of Dan Hampton’s books. He writes as a pilot for other pilots and interested enthusiasts. Well done!

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Superb

One of the very best and enjoyable histories of flight from a fighter pilot’s perspective.

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Surprisingly good

I tried this book because I enjoyed Fighter Pilot. This was surprisingly good and a very fast listen. It’s a mix of history and stories from history. The reader is great for this genre. A few bad words which is a shame because it was be interesting for older kids if that had left that out.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Not what I had expected, but...

I was expecting a book loaded with accounts of pilots and their exploits... Instead the author spends a lot of time talking about the ground war and the politics of war. The author goes into great detail about ww1 and ww2, citing numerous accounts of the pilots and the war in general. It was really quite fantastic, but then the book felt rushed after that. Going into the Korean war and subsequent wars the stories get quicker and fewer, with less and less general war details. By the time you get to Desert Storm, you get a couple stories about 1 or 2 pilots and sent on your way.

The book started off very strong, and finished a little weak in my opinion.. Still a good read though.

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  • Paul S. Turner
  • 07-11-14

The real top guns

Would you consider the audio edition of Lords of the Sky Unabridged to be better than the print version?

Some books are better listened to than read. And this is one of those

What was one of the most memorable moments of Lords of the Sky Unabridged?

Wild weasels over Vietnam

What about John Pruden’s performance did you like?

A very good narrator

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The very best of the best

Any additional comments?

A wonderful book

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-24-15

How American fighters won pretty much every war.

Would you try another book written by Dan Hampton or narrated by John Pruden?

No. The writer left some glaring errors. No mention at all of German night fighters in WW2 for instance, nothing on the Falklands War, which was unique and very interesting. No mention of one of the best fighters of WW2, the Mosquito. None of these events involved the US and that may be the reason, yet there is reference to the Yom Kippur War. The reader mis-pronounced many names and places.

What was most disappointing about Dan Hampton’s story?

The very American standpoint of the book made me wonder if Britain was ever involved in Korea for example. The writer describes in detail the success of the few US pilots that got airborne at Pearl Harbour when in fact the day was a big defeat for America. The writer is very partizan.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The reader mangled many English words (he pronounced "Blenheim" as "Blen-hime" instead of "Blen-im" for instance) and I cringed as he said French and German names and places in neither the way they are said in their language or how English speakers commonly say them. He also has a strange, halting way of reading which isn't very fluent or comfortable to hear.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Lords of the Sky Unabridged?

There's a lot of blow-by-blow description of Vietnamese and Gulf war air-to-ground bombing missions with transcripts of radio calls. This is irrelevant in a book about fighters and quite boring too.

Any additional comments?

If you know nothing about the history of fighters, this will give you some insights but it's incomplete and written from a very American point of view and therefore suitable for non-US audiences.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Andy
  • 09-12-14

Bandits at 6 o'clock

I really liked this book and would recommend it but in-line with some other reviews the content of the book was slightly different to what i anticipated. I expected a book purely concerned with fighters and the pilots who flew them but large chunks of text are taken up with historical notes on the campaigns behind the fights. While these are done well anyone will a good understand of the conflicts may find these sections frustrating.

The core material focusing on the planes and pilots was done very well with the admiration the author has for all the aviators shining through.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andyjn
  • 05-04-20

Interesting

I found this book to be interesting and informative. I will definitely listen to it again.

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  • Mr C Peterson
  • 01-07-20

All hail the USA

The book is ok some interesting historical aspects but clearly it’s all about the USA and how wonderful they are...if it wasn’t for them we would all be doomed apparently according to this author.... I would advise staying away from this title.

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  • Mr. Duncan James Hardy
  • 09-01-15

Fascinating and a brilliant story

A well written 'book' which is both informative and entertaining. The battle descriptions really put you in the cockpit with the pilots.

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  • Trevor
  • 08-02-15

Great listen great narrator

This is my second book from this writer and just as good as the last the narrator is great well worth buying

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  • paul
  • 05-12-15

Air combat from the start, a brilliant insight.

If you love Combat Aircraft & your history this book abyss of Knowledge you must read!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Geoff
  • 12-02-14

Gripping tales of 100 years of fighter aviation

What did you like most about Lords of the Sky Unabridged?

After reading Viper Pilot I was keen to once more hear Dan Hampton's wonderfully worded proles on the ballet of air combat, to on non-flyer he really brings to life the excitement, terror and also the unbelievable complexity of dogfighting, so much more than point and shoot.

What did you like best about this story?

The historical background provided was at just the right level and in fact is quite excellently written. Hampton is quite opinionated and makes no apologies for it.

What about John Pruden’s performance did you like?

The performers' tone and accent fits perfectly with I'd imagine from a seasoned USAF pilot, not to mention the sound effects!

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  • Royston
  • 08-09-16

A magnificent insight into the minder of a fighter pilot.

An interesting historical analysis of the fighter pilot and how air warfare has changed since its inception during the Great War. A masterful, educational study of how a pilot has adapt I'd to the new threats and differing methodology of dealing with these threats. I found this book informative and entertaining.

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  • Thane
  • 11-15-16

An American view on aviation history.

Well written, interesting and enjoyable but it is obviously an American who wrote the book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dale
  • 05-02-19

Very good.

At first I hated this. later I enjoyed it. Recommended.
marking out more words needed yippee Zumba diggity is this enough?

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  • lindsay
  • 03-12-18

brilliant book and very well read

covers early avaition tactics of the great war through WWII, Korea, Vietnam and modern conflicts.
recommend to any one with an interest in miletery aviation