The Best of the Past


Brian M. Silcox


Mach 1 Inc
29.95 ($24.95 to Modeling Madness Readers)


Scott Van Aken




If you have recently bought a warbird calendar, there is a good chance that the photos in it were taken by Brian Silcox. Brian is a pilot for United Airlines who has had a fascination with aircraft since he was a child. When you combine that with his abilities with a camera, you get air to air photos that are absolutely superb. 

The Best of the Past  is Brian's first book and while it deals with warbirds, there are several differences from the norm. First of all, it is more than just a book of photos. Brian decided that he wanted to know what it was like back during the early 1940's to fly all the aircraft that a new pilot in the USAAF would have had to master. To meet that goal, he contacted a number of owners of these aircraft and arranged to fly the types in question. Since Brian is already an accomplished pilot, he is able to give his views of these types from a perspective that is new and refreshing.

Inside the large format book you can find out what it is like to fly a Stearman, or T-6 or P-51 or B-17, as you vicariously join Brian through his fascinating journey of discovery. Each type is illustrated with the author's excellent air to air photography, and includes interior shots of each of the aircraft flown.

The second major section is on what is necessary to keep these aircraft flying. Warbirds have developed a very specialized industry that caters to the unique needs of maintaining and rebuilding aircraft that are older than most people on this planet. You are taken to several different shops where aircraft are being maintained and restored to see just what is involved in the process. I found this to be particularly interesting as I had a preconceived notion of what was done. It is much more than I had thought. In this section are monographs from the pilots of a variety of aircraft, from the Spitfire to the Bf-109 to the A6M Zero, giving impressions of what it is like to fly these aircraft.

The third section is on the preservation of old and rare treasures that now reside in museums. Brian concentrates on the best of the lot, the National Air and Space Museum. From here we get a good feel for the incredible dedication of those whose job and passion it is to restore an aircraft to as near new as they can possibly get it. In this section we get to see and experience the reconstruction of  an OS2U Kingfisher, the M6A1 Serian, and the B-29 'Enola Gay'. 

Finally, you can find out just exactly what is required to be able to get the excellent images that are throughout the book. It is much more than just hopping in a plane with a camera and several rolls of film!

The Best of the Past is a superb book on warbirds and keeping alive the legacy of WWII, both in flight and in our museums. What I particularly liked about the book is that it isn't filled with California Warbirds. Most of Brian's photo work was done with owners in the Midwest and the South, so you get to see images of planes that don't normally make it into the magazines and other books.

If you like warbirds or want to know what it is like to fly these aircraft, you cannot go wrong with this book. In addition, you get treated to Brian's superb aerial photography. As a bonus to Modeling Madness readers, Brian offers the book at $5 off the price listed on his website. Just mention that you read this review when ordering.

The book is only available direct from Brian, You can get more information at Brian's website: . Should you wish to contact Brian, you can e-mail him at

Review copy courtesy of Brian Silcox. Thank you for your support .

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