Jane's All the World's Aircraft has chronicled a century of ever-accelerating aviation progress and recorded the particulars of an unprecedented number of flying machines, using the widest possible interpretation of that phrase, in the most minute detail. Six editors have had the privilege of commenting upon the significant aircraft and events of manned flight since the first edition appeared in November 1909 as All the World's Airships (which was then a generic term for any machine that flew). This first publication was seen as being ahead of its time but even the skeletal book showed the strength of Fred T Jane's standardised approach to data collection. The first edition even carried a pre-addressed return proforma for aviation pioneers to supply the details of new machines.
Besides listing the different types of aircraft by nationality, the first issues covered aerial societies, journals and flying grounds and cost just 21 shillings (£1.05). Jane himself had a desire to fly and he was nearly killed doing so in 1909 whilst attempting a flight on Dartmoor. His aircraft caught fire, but he merely commented that it would be one less machine to include in his forthcoming work. As with Jane's Fighting Ships, Jane received extensive help from enthusiasts worldwide, including Louis Bleriot, A V Roe and Prince Harry of Prussia.
Jane censored the 1914 issue, which was published just after the outbreak of the First World War, blacking out whole sections describing British equipment and organisation. He noted in it that, for all practical purposes, aircraft have no more to do with peace than submarines. The work's accuracy helped morale by dispelling alarmist rumours about imminent German air raids, showing that the Germans did not possess anything but the smallest fleet of airships. Respect for the accuracy of Jane's All the World's Aircraft transcended political enmities. Cold War notwithstanding, Soviet authorities supplied Jane's with information. Such was the technical reference book's reputation that Argentina even provided details of its aircraft during the Falkland's Conflict in 1982. Altogether, there have been only 97 editions, mainly due to disruptions during the two World Wars.
Few lives on the entire surface of this planet are not now touched by aviation in some way, yet as IHS Jane's celebrates this milestone there are still a small number alive who were born before the Wright Brothers lifted themselves aloft in 1903.