A Lost World of Air Travel and Africa

Graham Coster

A reissue of a travel writing bestseller on a perennially romantic subject.

Graham Coster’s Corsairville was published by Penguin in 1990, acclaimed by William Boyd, Jeremy Clarkson and Francis Spufford, read on Radio 4, and sold over 20,000 copies. Now it is reissued with a new title, and a substantial new Afterword bringing the story up to date.

It is the story of the Imperial Airways flying boat Corsair – one of its legendary C-Class fleet conveying passengers in great luxury on the pre-war air routes from the UK to Africa and Australia – that made a forced landing in the remote, and landlocked, Belgian Congo, and became the subject of an extraordinary salvage operation to rescue it and fly it out again – even to the extent of giving its name to a new village.

Coster sets out to track down the men who went out to central Africa on this remarkable adventure, to trace the old Empire Air Mail route the flying boats flew down through Africa – and travel to the Bahamas and Alaska to seek out and fly on the last flying boat services left anywhere in the world. It is a magical lost world when air travel could still be a voyage. 

Graham Coster’s other books include Snow Stopped Play, A Thousand Miles from Nowhere and The Picador Book of Aviation. He lives in London.

January 2019
198 x 129 mm
978 0 9932911 6 6
B-format paperback  

Order The Flying Boat That Fell To Earth:


 A fascinating and strangely inspiring story’ William Boyd

‘Beautifully told’ Jeremy Clarkson

‘Part history, part travelogue, part essay, it is a hybrid like the machines it celebrates, and like them, it gets triumphantly airborne. . . Some of the best reflective writing about nostalgia that I have ever read. Graham Coster wishes he’d been born in time to catch the last flying boat. When you finish his witty and earnest book you will feel that he has caught it on all our behalfs’ Francis Spufford, Evening Standard

 ‘The extraordinary story of the Corsair is a good yarn, and yarns are as hard to come by in commercial flying these days as leather upholstery and hulls rubbed with beeswax’ The Times

 ‘The flying boat, the behemoth of the air, worked its spell on all who flew it. . . A diligently researched and gracefully written book’ Sunday Times

‘Make no mistake, this is proper literature, beautifully written and grabbing one’s attention from the first line. . . The description of people and places is the sort of thing you once would have expected from writers like Norman Lewis and Eric Newby - a wonderful read in its own right and journalism of the highest standard’ Pilot magazine