The Wright
Jean Batten
Tom Rolt
No Empty

All Books

Paula Mackersey

Flight deck of Southern Cross preserved at Brisbane Airport.

All Books by Ian Mackersey

Ian Mackersey books can be purchase from all leading outlet stores.



No Empty Chairs: The Short and Heroic Lives of the Young Aviators who Fought and Died in the First World War.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2012.
ISBN: 978 0 2978 5994 9

The empty chairs belonged, all too briefly, to the doomed young WWI airmen who failed to return from the terrifying daily aerial combats above the trenches of the Western Front. The edict of their commander-in chief was that missing aviators were to be replaced the same day. Life for most of the pilots of the Royal Flying Corps was appallingly short. More than half were killed in training before they reached the front line and the life expectancy of those who did was measured only in weeks. They had no parachutes and the fear of incineration and the daily spectacle of close colleagues dying in flaming aircraft took a devastating toll on their nerves. As they waited for death they poured their emotions into their diaries and streams of letters to their loved ones at home. Drawing on these remarkably moving testimonies Ian Mackersey tells the story of the First Great Air War through the eyes of the participants.

The Wright Brothers: The Remarkable Story of the Aviation Pioneers who Changed the World

Little, Brown (Time Warner Books) UK, London: November 2003
ISBN: 0 316 86144 8

Click here to buy

On the centennial of the historic first flights Ian Mackersey has produced a revealing new study of the lives of these eccentric geniuses. Wilbur and Orville were brothers who never smoked, drank or had a vestige of interest in women, but whose exceptionally close relationship bound them into one uniquely inventive power. Their brilliance unlocked the secrets of mechanical flight to realise one of man’s oldest dreams. But it would be five years before they lifted the veil of secrecy with which they untrustingly cloaked their revolutionary machine.

Smithy: The Life of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (1897 – 1935)

Little, Brown (Time Warner Books) UK, London, 1998 (ISBN: 0 316 64308 4)
Paperback: Warner Books, London, 1999 (ISBN: 0 7515 2656 8)

Click here to buy

The definitive biography of Australia’s greatest aviator
When Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s aircraft Lady Southern Cross mysteriously disappeared off the coast of Burma in the dark of a tropical night in November 1935, the pioneer age of aviation lost, at the age of thirty eight, one of its most formidable and charismatic heroes.

Jean Batten: The Garbo of the Skies
Macdonald, London, 1991 (ISBN: 0 356 19573 2)
Warner Books paperback, 1992 (reprinted 1999) ISBN: 0 7088 3019 0

Click here to buy

Jean Batten was one of the great aviation megastars of the 1930s. Her spectacular oceanic flights from England to Australia, New Zealand and South America, ranked with those of Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart. Yet despite her huge success as a record-breaking woman pilot and her brilliance as a navigator, she remained the least known of the famous aviators of that golden age of perilous journeys in flimsy open-cockpit aeroplanes.

Tom Rolt and the Cressy Years

M & M Baldwin, London, 1985 (ISBN: 0 94771201 1)

Click Here to buy

Tom Rolt and the Cressy Years is the story of Tom Rolt’s involvement with canals. It describes his profound influence on the successful preservation in Britain today of more than 3,000 miles of navigable inland waterways. Much of this network of interconnected canals and rivers, now supporting an ever expanding inland leisure boating industry, would have fallen into disuse, lost forever, had it not been for the efforts of a small band of canal lovers who banded together in May 1946 to form the now flourishing and influential Inland Waterways Association.

Rescue Below Zero
Robert Hale, London and W W Norton, New York.

An account of the daring rescue from the middle of the Greenland ice-cap of the crew of a Royal Air Force transport aircraft which crashed in a white-out while dropping supplies to a British expedition.

Pacific Ordeal (with Captain Kenneth Ainslie)
Rupert Hart-Davis, London, and W W Norton, New York.
German language edition as Teufel im Schlepp, Orell Füssli Verlag, Zurich.
Danish language edition as Mænd og Hav, Martins Forlag, Copenhagen.
Panther Books edition, London.

The record of a disaster plagued 10,000-mile marine tow across the Pacific in 1946. New Zealander Kenneth Ainslie was captain of the tug Edward M Grimm which hauled four ex-US Navy minesweepers in an epic voyage from Panama to Manila. During the journey the tows repeatedly broke adrift in gales, the tug’s engines broke down, the inexperienced mixed nationality crew was incapacitated by food poisoning, Ainslie had to amputate a fireman’s gangrenous thumb with a hacksaw without anaesthetic, violence broke out on board and the crew mutined. In relating the dramatic story of the ill-fated voyage to Ian Mackersey, Captain Ainslie chose to change all the names of his thirty-two man crew and of the ship to which he gave the pseudonym Wallace R Gray. The book was a Book Society recommendation.

Into the Silk
True stories of the Caterpillar Club
Robert Hale, London
W W Norton, New York
Revised and updated edition: Mayflower Books, Granada Publishing, London, 1978 (ISBN: 0 583 12793 2)

The full story of the birth and phenomenal growth of the Caterpillar Club all of whose 100,000 plus members’ lives have been saved by parachute descent from an aircraft in an emergency.

The Caterpillar Club was created in 1922 by Leslie Irvin, the American parachute pioneer who invented the ripcord-operated chute. Irvin pledged that he would donate a caterpillar pin to every person, anywhere in the world, who saved his or her life in an emergency with a parachute of his design. The club, he said, would have no social premises, charge no entrance fee, no subscription. The only class of membership would be life, the only privilege, ‘its continued enjoyment.’ The club would have no committee, patron or president – just an honorary secretary. That role over the years has been performed by various members of the staff of the company Irvin formed – the Irving Air Chute Company (the ‘g’ was mistakenly added to his name on registration and he couldn’t at that time afford to change it).

Ian Mackersey set out to read each of the then 30,000 files of the club’s European branch at the Irving Air Chute factory at Letchworth in Hertfordshire. He traced and interviewed many of the survivors for the hundred stories that became the substance of the book. They included successful leaps into the silk from as low as fifty feet; others from great heights with descents taking half an hour and more. Escapes in which men shared their chutes with another who lacked one. Extraordinary events in which aircrew, flung out of their aircraft without parachutes, providentially caught hold of other men in mid-air. Even more remarkable were descents by individuals who could not be admitted to the club because they had survived plunges to earth without a chute.

The 1978 updated edition of the book added accounts of emergency descents made possible by dramatic advances in ejection seat escape technology. New stories included that of the survival of a USAF SR-71 Blackbird pilot who, in January 1966, descended safely into the New Mexico desert after his Mach 3 aircraft broke up at an altitude of 78,000 feet, travelling at 2,000 miles an hour.

The Caterpillar Club is not the only one that awards insignia to those whose lives have been saved by parachute. Other chute manufacturers have also formed clubs. One, created in 1940, by the GQ Parachute Company at Woking in England, was called the GQ Club – later changed to the Gold Club. In 2001 the name-corrected Irvin company and GQ merged to become Irvin-GQ Ltd.

Contact the Caterpillar Club

Secretary for UK and Europe
Judy Adams
Irvin-GQ Ltd
Blackhorse Road
Letchworth Garden City
Hertfordshire SG6 1HB
PH: 01462-480433
e-mail: judycadams@aol.com

Secretary for USA and Canada

Eileen Carlton
Airborne Systems Canada
35 Wilson Avenue
PO Box 1510
Ontario K8P 1R7
phone: (613) 967 8069
e-mail: ecarlton@irvincanada.com