Review of “The Lives of Ken Wallis, Engineer and Aviator Exrtraordinaire”

Review By: Ken Fietz for

Nearly 90,000 words bound within 258 pages documents the achievements of Wing Commander Ken H. Wallis up to the date of April of 2007. The Fourth Edition of “The Lives of Ken Wallis, Engineer and Aviator Extraordinaire” by Ian Hancock (ISBN 978-0-9541239-4-9) takes you along for the ride as Wallis races powerboats, flies bombers in heavy flak and then embarks on a lifetime pursuit to challenge his engineering and flying skills by building and testing gyroplanes.

A fascinating great read for any aviation enthusiast or engineer. Wallis has been called a modern day Leonardo de Vinci but after reading this book I would think he is more.

It is rather funny when we talk of engineers who take similar but different approaches to overcome an obstacle. So it was when I compared my approach to put a tribute together in honor of Ken Wallis and his contributions to the autogyro and gyroplane community at large. While I was more concerned on Wing Commander Wallis’ contributions to the autogiro world, it would have been a disservice not to mention some of Ken’s other engineering achievements.

I simply approached each decade of Ken Wallis’ fascinating life as an individual topic, which I believe worked well for the tribute. In fact, Ken has kept most of his interests in pursuit of the speed demon throughout his lifespan. So, it is a challenge for any author to stay on topic or within a time period when the subject is so dynamic and continually challenging himself in so many avenues at one time.

Ian Hancock was faced with the same challenge as the author of this informal biography. Hancock expertly explores the aviation icons vast interest in land, sea and air transportation and the influence of his family and education with the gyroplane prodigy.

Extensive photographs from Wallis’ father, the family business and early pictures of Ken to his most current achievements.

If you like the fictional stories of British pulp hero Harry Potter then you will be equally amazed with the real-life exploits of Wing Commander Ken Wallis. Ken finds himself in and out of more hair- raising situations in the first half of Ian Hancock’s book than the first five books in the Potter series combined. Keeping in mind that Ken Wallis’ adventures actually held the real balance of life and death and the true nature of loosing ones friends and comrades in battle. That love can be found in times of war, a love to last a lifetime. As one reads on one can quickly see that Wallis was always willing to confront a challenge, develop a means to overcome the obstacles and last but not least challenge himself to see if his theory and design had achieved his anticipated goals.

The book gives great insight into Ken’s remarkable achievements that is brought to the reader in a very up front and yet personal manner. The reader will learn some very personal and inside thoughts and information on Commander Wallis’ engineering projects, family and definitely his role in the modern gyroplane and its design.

The book reads almost as a gentle afternoon walk in the sun with an old longtime friend discussing things of days of yore and of things yet to come. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in aviation and my congratulations to Ian Hancock for expertly documenting such an important figure in aviation development.

Like so many things in Ken’s life, the proceeds from the sales of the book go to the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum(a registered charity) located adjacent to the historic “The Buck Inn”.