No Highway in the Sky

‘No Highway’ is a book dramatising fatigue in metals, the story was made into the movie ‘No Highway in the Sky’ staring Jimmy Stewart. This is the only movie I know which is about metal fatigue. The book was published in 1948, and the movie appeared in 1951.

The author Nevil Shute Norway, was a pioneer aircraft designer. The story centres around Theodore Honey, a middle-aged widower and boffin at the Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough (site of much fundamental work on aircraft and fatigue).

Theodore is sent to investigate a previous air crash, but he realises that his theory applies to the plane he is travelling on, which he forces to land. After inspection of the aircraft on land, the much annoyed pilot is ready to take-off again, leaving Theodore Honey behind. However, Theodore’s conviction in his theory leads him to ground the plane by retracting the landing-gear. Everyone is left perplexed by his actions, except the air-stewardess and an actress aboard the plane who Theodore had convinced.

Therefore, go forth, companion: when you find
No Highway more, no track, all being blind,
The way to go shall glimmer in the mind.

Interestingly the book, in which a new airliner design being subject to mechanical failure due to metal fatigue, came before the failures of the de Havilland Comet airliner just six years later (1954).

James Stewart in No Highway in the Sky

James Stewart in No Highway in the Sky

As well as the book “No Highway” and the movie, there is also the radio play made by CBS. The radio play also stars Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

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