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In Contrails over the Mojave George Marrett takes off where Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff ended in 1963. Marrett started the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB only two weeks after the school’s commander, Col. Chuck Yeager, ejected from a Lockheed NF-104 trying to set a world altitude record. He describes life as a space cadet experiencing 15 Gs in a human centrifuge, zero-G maneuvers in a KC-135 “Vomit Comet,” and a flight to 80,000 feet in the F-104A Starfighter. After graduating from Yeager’s “Charm School,” he was assigned to the Fighter Branch of Flight Test Operations, where he flew the latest fighter aircraft and chased other test aircraft as they set world speed and altitude records.
Marrett takes readers into the cockpit as he “goes vertical” in a T-38 Talon, completes high-G maneuvers in an F-4C Phantom, and conducts wet-runway landing tests in the accident-prone F-111A Aardvark. He writes about Col. “Silver Fox” Stephens setting a world speed record in the YF-12 Blackbird and Bob Gilliland testing speed stalls in the SR-71 spy plane, but he also relives stories of crashes that killed test pilot friends. He recounts dead-sticking a T-38 to a landing on Rogers Dry Lake after a twin-engine failure and conducting dangerous tail hook barrier testing in a fighter jet without a canopy. A mysterious UFO sighting in the night sky above the Mojave Desert, known as “The Edwards Encounter,” also receives Marrett’s attention. Whether the author is assessing a new aircraft’s performance or describing the experiences of test pilots as they routinely faced the possibility of death, this look at the golden age of flight testing both thrills and informs.
“George Marrett is that rare individual who is not only an expert on his subject—from flying experimental jets to training to be an astronaut—but he's also a wonderfully talented and intuitive writer who will keep you up late at night with the power of his words.” —Wayman Dunlap, editor, Pacific Flyer Newspapers, Inc.
“Contrails over the Mojave is a major contribution to the literature of flight testing and flight research. Rich with anecdotes and insight, it illuminates some of the most significant aerospace programs of the 1960s, a time when America was locked in a no-holds-barred struggle for supremacy with the Soviet Union, and Edwards Air Force Base—the nation's premier flight test center—was grappling with Space Age challenges and training test pilots to meet them.” —Richard P. Hallion, Verville Fellow, National Air and Space Museum, and former historian of the Air Force Flight Test Center
“George Marrett has done it again! Contrails over the Mojave is a must-have book for every lover of aviation. Marrett writes as well as he flew, which is to say with authority, accuracy, punch, and color! The wonderful thing about Marrett is the amazing way he puts you in the cockpit of a complex Mach 2 aircraft and makes you understand just how far he is pushing the envelope.” —Col. Walter J. Boyne, USAF (Ret.), bestselling aviation historian, former director of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, and a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame