Straight Up – A History of Vertical Flight


By Steve Markman and Bill Holder


Straight Up surveys the technology of all the many VTOL vehicles, and provides an overview of the programs and manufacturers. To take off and land vertically is not an easy task - this is the story of how it happened.  Read about the Doak 16, Bell X-22, Bell XV-3, Curtiss-Wright X-19, Short S.C.1, Dornier Do31, Yak 38, Lockheed XV-4, Ryan XV-5, North American XFV-12, and many more!


ISBN: 0764312049, 8 1/2"x11" soft cover, 184 pages, with over 320 b/w and color photographs


Schiffer Publishing



After Bill and I finished One of a Kind Research Aircraft, we kicked around some ideas for our next book. We decided on one about aircraft that were built, but never went into production, or at best, very limited production (example, the Douglas DC-5 – there was one, and it was in airline service). We even had a name, Never to Be, and started researching. Bill sent a proposal to Schiffer, but they weren’t interested. However, they countered with a request for us to write about vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) aircraft. We quickly jumped at the opportunity.

There was one slight problem: neither Bill nor I had any experience with, nor knew anyone that had been involved with this fascinating type of aircraft. The Air Force had extensive involvement in the 1950s and 60s, so we headed to one of the greatest aeronautics libraries in the world, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s tech library at Wright-Patterson. This library houses tens of thousands of books on every aspect of aeronautics and space, and any associated technology used in the aerospace field. It also has uncounted back issues of aviation magazines, technical journals, reports, and corporate publications.

We scoured the card catalogue of books on V/STOL aircraft but found little. This probably is why Schiffer was interested in such a book. So, we headed for the magazine section. We started with the 1950 issues of Aviation Week, and worked our way up. We met every Thursday for a slightly extended lunch hour, as our schedules permitted. Then we went on to Flight International, and then other aviation magazines. Every time we found an article, or even a news blurb, we burned a copy and put it in a folder for that aircraft. This went on for about six months until we were satisfied we had enough material. I hate to imagine how many reams of paper we used, or how many toner cartridges we used up. But, Bill and I think it was worth it, as we produced a great volume about some little-known, but fascinating, aircraft.

By the way, for those of you who are model aircraft builders, I found a website that sells resin model kits of many of the V/STOL aircraft we wrote about in Straight Up.  Check out  The 1/72-scale models are a bit pricey, but where else can you find models of the following: Bell X-22, XF-109, XV-3, and XV-15, Curtiss-Wright X-19, Ryan XV-5, Doak 16, Hiller X-18, North American XFV-12A, Yak 36 and 141, LTV XC-142, and Lockheed XV-4A.