Geezers take to the skies

Ian Bott Aviation Illustrator

The Geezers took flight with artist Ian Bott as he swooped through more than a hundred years of innovation in aircraft design, explained through his own artworks and diagrams. Ian is a widely published technical illustrator, with over 20 years’ experience contributing regularly to newspapers and magazines, including The Financial Times, The Aviation Historian and Aeroplane Monthly.

Opening illustration from Ian Bott's talk to the Geezers
Opening illustration from Ian Bott’s talk to the Geezers, showing his transport related background.

Recounting how family links in engineering and military flying seeded his own interest in aviation, Ian shared the experience of getting his pilot’s licence in California in the 1990s, the days of cheap fuel.

A Sopwith biplane illustrated by Ian Bott
A Sopwith biplane illustrated by Ian Bott

Taking us through the design evolution of aircraft, and noting how wartime often causes accelerated development, Ian explained the rival claims of the triplane, biplane and monoplane in World War I, and machine gun timings in the Sopwith Camel. He evoked the interwar glamour of the DC3 airliner, the excitement and occasional folly of the Schneider Trophy, and how in World War II, Rolls Royce’s Merlin engine was deployed in the Spitfire fighter, Lancaster bomber and Mosquito. I’m sure few of us could imagine the ingenious variations in aircraft propeller design that Ian illustrated in successive models of the Spitfire.

The evolution of Spitfire propellers illustrated by Ian Bott
The evolution of Spitfire propellers illustrated by Ian Bott
A sample of Ian Bott's slides
A sample of Ian Bott’s slides

We saw the beginnings of electronic warfare with the Oboe positioning system’s cat and mouse transmitters, the role of radar in the Battle of Britain, and technological subterfuge in the feints and dummies used to divert German attention away from the true location of the D-Day beaches. On the high seas, Great Britain could take credit for key parts of the aircraft carrier that are used worldwide to this day, including the steam catapult for launching planes and the angled deck to facilitate landing and stabling.

The evolution of jet propulsion illustrated by Ian Bott
The evolution of jet propulsion illustrated by Ian Bott

On through the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam the Gulf and up to the present day, Ian told the story of the Blackbird spy plane, explained how the various jet engine technologies (including turbojet, turbofan and ramjet) have been used, and stressed that drones have changed aerial combat. Telling anecdote and insider details of engineering and military history illuminated Ian’s talk throughout. Looping the end back to the beginnings of flight, Ian told us the helicopter NASA landed on Mars carried with it a tiny fragment from the cloth fuselage of the Wright brothers plane.

John Alexander


See Ian Bott’s art, illustration and reportage on his website at

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