The Right Stuff Summary

Decent Essays

I learned from reading the 1950's Sunday comics, a surprisingly accurate source of information, that the Air Force was doing the same thing with their experimental aircraft far from prying eyes at remote Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of California. For no rational left-brain reason, many military pilots considered an assignment to Edwards to be the tip of the career accomplishment pyramid. They lined up to compete for a posting to that hothouse of uncertainty to work as underpaid Test Pilots who, irrationally, flew new and untried airplane designs that killed pilots with shocking regularity. Pure right brain at work. These were expensive, one of a kind experimental airplanes of unusual and unexpected design funded in secret by …show more content…

Our neighbors unwittingly financed my education by participating in a thinly disguised recycling program. My personal sacrifice was somewhat less lethal than that faced by my heroes. Because of a life of fiscal restraint and my own irrational addiction to the magic of flight, I chose to focus my time and energy almost exclusively on airplanes and settled for cheap black licorice instead of more elaborate sweets. It would be decades before the writer, Tom Wolfe, would write the book The Right Stuff, the true story of the early test pilots at Edwards Air Force Base and the seven Mercury astronauts. In his book, he describes the moments before Capt. Chuck Yeager took off in the Bell X-1 rocket plane to attempt to fly through an airplane-shredding man killer they called the sound barrier. Before the flight, Capt. Yeager borrowed a piece of gum that he optimistically promised to pay back to his crew chief, Capt. Jack Ridley, when he got back. Black licorice-flavored Bemis. …show more content…

Sixty years later, my addiction to aviation has brought me in touch with some of those early heroes. I've told flying stories around a dinner table with Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, and been on a guided tour through the old mission control room in Houston with Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon. We've built many seat products for aircraft owned by a Gemini astronaut I admired when I was in the ninth grade, Frank Borman. Chuck Yeager is not close with many, but there's a picture of him smiling with my wife and myself hanging in our den. There's a framed spacesuit mission patch that flew around the moon with the ill-fated Apollo 13 on our bookshelf. Bob Hoover, arguably the best pilot in the world, is a friend. Actually, he really likes my wife Jude, and I get to bask in the glow of that friendship. The pilot and actor Cliff Robertson was a dear friend who regularly made me look good by calling my mother and chatting her up. We took Jude's mother Betty to his home in Watermill, Long Island for lunch and her feet didn't touch the ground for a week. Cliff knew how to make the ladies feel special. We really miss

Get Access