Edwards Air Force Base
One of the first requirements to be an astronaut was to have a military background, which meant a lot of flight time in jets and next to wanting to experience the excitement of an Astronaut being launched (blasted ) into space at Cape Canaveral and train and track the flights at The Manned Spacecraft Center, I wanted to learn how to fly jets at Edwards Airforce Base.
This was the home to the United States Air Force Test Pilot School, and now NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. Almost every United States military aircraft since the 1950s has been the site of many aviation breakthroughs.
It was right after an ABC special that science editor Jules Bergman doing on Edwards Air Force Case that I was compelled to start studying the history of airplanes and now how jet planes were dominating the news and my imagination.
The Story of the X-15 Rocket Plane
Click: Lost History Edwards Airforce Base
I was caught up in the excitement of any movie related to anything Jets. By 1960 most of the films made in the fifties about my latest obsession was turning up on television including: Toward the Unknown (1956) filmed at Edwards Air Force base at the height of The Right Stuff years. It highlighted all the early supersonic fighters and bombers plus the then-futuristic X-planes. Chuck Yeager has a cameo, along with a host of other famous faces from the period that only aviation buffs will recognize. The flying and the aerial cinematography had me spellbound.
Click: Jet Movies coming soon
Click: Jet Toys for Boys & Girls coming soon
Test Pilot Autograph Pictures Slide Show includes biographies: William H. "Bill" Dana, Joseph H. Engle, William J. "Pete" Knight, John B. McKay, Robert A. Rushworth, Milton O. Thompson, Joseph A. Walker, Robert M. White** Charles Duke and of course Chuck Yeager the first man to break the sound barrier.
The Untold Story of General Chuck Yeager & Me
It was exciting entering the Ziegfeld theater lobby in New York while the media was scrambling for interviews with Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Barbra Hershey and Veronica Cartwright at the premiere of the Right Stuff in 1983.
What really caught my eye was on the other side of the crowd standing unnoticed by a two sheet movie poster of the space epic was the legendary test pilot, and my childhood hero United States Air Force officer, flying ace, and record-setting test pilot General Chuck Yeager, and no one had any idea who he was.
I was 16 years old when I signed up to join the Civil Air Patrol to see if I had the right stuff to be an astronaut by first learning how to fly prop planes at Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett field in 1966.
At the dawn of supersonic flight in the 1950's all the B-Movies like "Toward the Unknown" starring William Holden, filmed scenes with these state of the art aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, and that's when I learned about the first test pilot to break the sound barrier.
I went to my local Kingshighway Public library to read up on the air base only to find out there were no books on the subject matter because that part of history was still be written.
Being a Revel model builder I already put together the Bell
X1 MiG-15, X-3, X-4 XF-92 .and of course the X-15 along with writing fan letters, and asking for autographs from all the test pilots at Edwards Airforce Base.
That night I left my friends on line and made a mad nervous dash over to shake the the hand of the first man who on October 14th 1947, less than a month after the U.S. Air Force had been created as a separate service broke the sound barrier.
I remember walking right up, almost just taking his hand in mine to shake and thanking him for sending me an autograph picture twenty years earlier, that still hangs in my apartment when I joined the civil air patrol.
He asked me what my flight status was, I thought for a second and said I definitely had the right stuff when it came to model building and roll playing about the exploits of others, but I rather write about those making history like you sir.
The man standing next to him laughed, and Yeager looked at him and said "he wants your job", and I soon left. I do remember hearing the man say to Yeager, "and you thought no one would recognize you."
Its when I joined the group I was with they all wanted to know what did I talk about with Tom Wolfe, who was the man standing next to Yeager, and I had no idea what Wolfe look like at the time, but I only had my eyes on the master of the skies, when we had real hero's to look up to.
and so it goes....