REVIEW of TEX JOHNSTON

From:         rdd@rascal.ics.utexas.edu (Robert Dorsett)
Date:         08 Dec 92 15:50:54 PST
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Tex Johnston, Jet-Age Test Pilot

By A. M. Johnston, with Charles Barton.
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.
274 pp., illustrated.
ISBN 1-56098-013-3, hardbound.


Contents:
    
    Forward by William Randolph Hearst, Jr.
    
    First Flights
    Barnstorming
    Instructing and Ferrying
    Test Pilot Beginnings
    The First U.S. Jet
    Swept Wings and Rocket Power
    Cobra I and II: The Thompson Trophy
    Remote Control and Swept-wing Tests
    The X-1
    Bell Helicopters
    The Move to Boeing
    The XB-47
    The B-52 Program
    Problems and Prospects
    KC-135 Jet Tanker and the Dash 80 Jet Transport
    Public Relations, Hot Brakes and Flutter, and the 707 Barrel Roll
    707 Certification and Pan Am Route Survey
    The Russian Tu-104 and the 707 European Round-Robin
    Transition Problems and Sales Trips
    Air India
    Accidents and Consequences
    Dyna Soar and Apollo
    
    Index
    
Tex Johnston has gone down in history as "the guy who rolled the 707 
prototype," but his career was much more extensive, fascinating one,
ranging  from flying a home-built glider as a teenager in the 1930's, 
to barnstorming, to serving as  Boeing's most famous test pilot.  This
book provides an outline of that  career, outlining his major
life-events, and offering a collection of  anecdotes on specific,
important, problems and issues, many of which continue to befuddle
net.dwellers.  :-)  These include, among other things, discussions of
his ferry work during World War II; his work on the P-39; work on the
XB-59;  the first American jet aircraft; the X-1, the first American
supersonic  fighter; the XB-47, the first American jet bomber; the
YB-52 (with tandem  seating!); the 367-80, the 707 prototype; and the
707 itself.  
    
Johnston's best compared to Chuck Yeager, in terms of the legend that
has  built up around his accomplishments in the industry.  His
autobiography,  however, is written for pilots, not the masses: just
the facts.  For example:  his discussion of the first instance of
in-flight spoilers on large aircraft:

    "The XB-47 contained many new, state-of-the-art configuration and
    structural design concepts.  One of significance was the flexible-
    stress wing design, which provided a strong, flexible structure,
    allowing the wing to flex during gust and maneuvering loads, thus
    relieving high-stress areas and providing a smoother ride.
    
    "During a low-level flight demonstration at Wichita for observing 
    dignitaries, I increased the air speed to approximately 435 mph and 
    applied right aileron and up elevator for a right climbing turn.  The
    airplane rolled left.  I snapped the throttles closed and the lateral
    control to neutral, simultaneously increasing the climb angle.  As
    the speed decreased to 425, the lateral control became normal. 
    Analysis of the problem determined that at the high air loads at
    speeds above 425 mph, when the ailerons were deflected, the flexible
    wing began to twist, changing the angle of attack of the outboard
    wing sections, resulting in control reversal.  This twist was called
    wing windup.  'It sure gets your attention,' I said.
    
    "That event led to the development of lateral control spoilers to
    eliminate the wing-twist problem on all Boeing airplanes.  A lateral
    control spoiler is a rectangular door, hinged on its forward edge,
    which fits flush with the upper surface of the wing.  During a turn
    in flight the doors are raised on the wing at the inside of the turn,
    decreasing the lieft of that wing so that the airplane rolls in that
    direction.  When the spoilers are raised on both wings
    simultaneously, they serve as air  brakes while retaining their
    lateral control function, and extremely valuable control for
    dissipating excessive airspeed."

His analysis and discussion of early 707 crashes has particular
relevance for  the recent "safety" discussions: a snapshot into the
industry's early learning curve, which we seem destined to repeat.

The book is somewhat stiltish, and certainly doesn't share _Yeager_'s
14-point type and hick dialect.  It doesn't provide  a very good sense 
of historical continuity (certain major events never have  a date attached 
to them, and there's sometimes little "filler" between major  events, some 
of which were separated by years).  It reads like it may have been a more 
lengthy text, edited down, perhaps excessively, by non-technical editors.
There is a tad too much "pilot's ego" about certain events, but this is 
certainly forgivable, and a part of the character.

But it remains highly readable, fascinating fare for those interested
in the advent of jet aircraft in the 1940's and 1950's.  About a third
involves the barnstorming/WWII days, a third on the B-47 and B-52, and
the rest on the 707.



 
--
Robert Dorsett
Internet: rdd@rascal.ics.utexas.edu
UUCP: ...cs.utexas.edu!rascal.ics.utexas.edu!rdd