Watching the 2004 Flight of the Phoenix (a remake of the 1965 film) night prompted me to re-read Elleston Trevor's 1964 novel The Flight of the Phoenix.
The book and two films make an interesting comparison. Robert Aldrich's classic 1965
The wind had flung the sand thirty thousand feet into the sky above the desert in a blinding cloud from the Niger to the Nile, and somewhere in it was the aeroplane.
and ends simply with the Phoenix landing at the El Araneb garrison
Out of the desert there came seven men, and a monkey.
Elleston Trevor (born Trevor Dudley-Smith, and working under a variety of pseudonyms) is little known now, but was astonishingly prolific. His other best-known works are the "Quiller" espionage series, but I think The Flight of the Phoenix is still the most iconic. It's a good example of a book that makes what's basically an engineering story - complete with diagram, above - gripping through powerfully emotional character interaction. The historical/political context of the story (US/British post-WWII oil exploration teams in the Sahara in the days of the Kingdom of Libya, when Britain had a 20-year concession to maintain military bases) is of course long gone, though perhaps there are equivalents elsewhere of the "Goolie Chit" mentioned in the book.
I'd often wondered, as it was before the days of CGI, whether the Phoenix in the first film was actually an aeroplane that could fly. It was (though actually two). The first, called the Tallmantz Phoenix P-1, crashed, leading to the death of the pilot Paul Mantz; flying sequences were completed using a North American O-47A painted to resemble the first. See The Final Flight of the "Phoenix" at the generally interesting aviation history site Check-Six. Talking of aviation history, the book and first film mention - when Stringer/Dorfmann argues why his design should work - the history of self-powered heavier-than-air model aircraft prior to manned flights, particularly the work of Henson and Stringfellow. More background at Flying Machines.
P.S. The Flight of the Phoenix is dedicated to "the great Wally Thomas". This was a bit of a bibliographic puzzle until I found an auction lot description
TREVOR Elleston, The Flight of the Phoenix 1964, dw., an uncorrected Proof Copy of The Flight of the Phoenix mole's Castle 1950 with presentation inscription to Marilyn Thomas (daughter of Wally Thomas), signed by author and THOMAS Wally, Life In My Hands, 1961 reprint, dw with a Thank you letter for Princess Grace o Monaco dated 1961 (Elleston Trevor, Wally Thomas and Princess Grace were acquaintances)
which identifies it as referring to Wally Thomas, author of the 1960 autobiographical Life in my hands, which tells of his rehabiliation at St Dunstan's after losing his sight and hearing during his work in bomb disposal.
1. I stand corrected (thanks, Scot). I've seen it any number of times, and can'timagine how I thought it was black and white. See the intro on YouTube.
Addendum: I've no evidence, but it seems a strong possibility that the novel was inspired by the Lady Be Good incident, when a American B-24D Liberator bomber crashed in the Libyan desert through a navigation error in 1943 - the survivors died of thirst - and the virtually intact aircraft wasn't rediscovered until 1958. The 1964 review of the novel in Air Pictorial: Journal of the Air League, Volume 26, noted the similarity of scenario. See the post Sole survivor (9th March 2011) for more on this.