Archive for March, 2014

Review: Buffalo Airways

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Darrell Knight’s memoir about flying for an airline full of DC-3’s in northern Canada sounds a little more exciting than it is to read.  There are some interesting and exciting parts about it, but mostly Knight says that he put himself in the right place; got noticed by honest, honorable people running Buffalo Airways; worked hard; and had a memorable experience.  This is a story that is easy to love in outline.

In execution, it’s a little bland.  There isn’t a lot of dramatic tension.  All of the characters are mostly likeable and decent.  It sounds like a great life and the experience of a lifetime, but told by a very modest guy.

Review: From RAINBOW to GUSTO: Stealth and the Design of the Lockheed Blackbird

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

Just to get my bias on the table, the author, Paul Suhler, is a friend of mine.  He’s a technical fellow and a fellow pilot, so he’s got the background to understand how the stealth technology of the Blackbird was created.  He’s also a meticulous researcher and a clear writer, which results in this engaging and informative book.

Suhler’s tracing the development of stealth technology and its application to what became the Blackbird through several hidden CIA projects. He’s amassed a remarkable collection of interviews and documents from an extremely secretive set of people.  The result is an enlightening view into how stealth became a priority due to competition and some government arm-twisting.  Evidently Lockheed was only minimally interested in the stealth side of things, and the CIA brought Convair in at least partially because they were ahead in that area.  Convair also had a fascinating 2-vehicle approach that contrasted with the final designs.

Through the entire narrative, Suhler focuses on the technologies and ideas in competition, rather than on the personalities of the people driving them.  The people’s personalities are mentioned when relevant, but overall the focus is on how they marshal the ideas and how the CIA evaluates and influences the designs.  It’s a look into a design process that few people get to see.  Despite putting people somewhat out of the spotlight, it makes for diverting and informative reading.