Flying The Edge




Flying the Edge is Washington Post correspondent George C. Wilson's dramatic firsthand account of a year spent "inching into the unknown" with the 100th test-pilot class at the Naval Air Test Center in Patuxent River, Maryland. Based on hours of test flights in a variety of aircraft and interviews with scores of naval and civilian test pilots and engineers at Pax River, it provides a very personal inside look at the challenges and dangers facing naval test pilots in the 1990s. In the same anecdotal, no-holds-barred style used in Supercarrier, Wilson's best-selling account of his seven-month tour in the USS John F. Kennedy, the author presents an action-packed story of naval test piloting from "Spuds" Ellyson's first flight in a Curtiss biplane in 1911 right up to the 1991 acceptance tests of the new T-45 training aircraft. In their own gripping words, the participants - famous, infamous, and unknown - describe the exhilarating breakthroughs, the nerve-racking tedium, and the tragic, often controversial, mishaps. Included is a full account of the S-3 Viking accident that occurred on 29 April 1992, with suggestions for improving Pax River's emergency-response system. Wilson takes readers along with him as he somersaults over the Chesapeake Bay with "Spin-master Gallagher" in a Navy T-2 jet trainer; dogfights with an F/A-18 Hornet; and learns how to land a helicopter with dead engines. In addition, he airs the test pilots' complaints about risking their lives to discover flaws in aircraft only to have their warnings ignored, and he suggests ways to reform the system. An up-to-date analysis of the Tailhook incident in the final chapter includes material from Wilson's interview with Lt.Paula Coughlin, aide to the Commander of the Naval Air Test Center. Combining the gut-wrenching immediacy of cockpit commentary with the wise analysis of a seasoned defense writer, Flying the Edge will appeal to anyone interested in aviation, especially those who have always wondered what it's like to "push the envelope" in frontline and experimental aircraft.

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