Synopses & Reviews
In late May 1927 an inexperienced and unassuming 25-year-old Air Mail pilot from rural Minnesota stunned the world by making the first non-stop transatlantic flight. A spectacular feat of individual daring and collective technological accomplishment, Charles Lindbergh's flight from New York to Paris ushered in America's age of commercial aviation.
In The Flight of the Century, Thomas Kessner takes a fresh look at one of America's greatest moments, explaining how what was essentially a publicity stunt became a turning point in history. He vividly recreates the flight itself and the euphoric reaction to it on both sides of the Atlantic, and argues that Lindbergh's amazing feat occurred just when the world--still struggling with the disillusionment of WWI--desperately needed a hero to restore a sense of optimism and innocence. Kessner also shows how new forms of mass media made Lindbergh into the most famous international celebrity of his time, casting him in the role of a humble yet dashing American hero of rural origins and traditional values. Much has been made of Lindbergh's personal integrity and his refusal to cash in on his fame. But Kessner reveals that Lindbergh was closely allied with, and managed by, a group of powerful businessmen--Harry Guggenheim, Dwight Morrow, and Henry Breckenridge chief among them--who sought to exploit aviation for mass transport and massive profits. Their efforts paid off as commercial air traffic soared from 6,000 passengers in 1926 to 173,000 passengers in 1929. Kessner's book is the first to fully explore Lindbergh's central role in promoting the airline industry--the rise of which has influenced everything from where we live to how we wage war and do business.
The Flight of the Century sheds new light on one of America's fascinatingly enigmatic heroes and most transformative moments.
"It's difficult to imagine how anything new could be written about Charles Lindbergh. But Thomas Kessner has examined his subject more deeply than any other biographer...Kessner weaves a fascinating tale, chronicling Lindy's many accomplishments but also revealing someone who clearly never appreciated the full extent of his notoriety." --Aviation History
"Proving again that true tales are every bit as strange and sometimes even more compelling than fictional ones, Thomas Kessner's The Flight of the Century not only evokes a critical moment in our history, but re-introduces an iconic American whom we thought we knew, but really didn't. This is great history--a fascinating story told by a masterful storyteller."--David Nasaw, author of Andrew Carnegie and The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst
"In his brilliant and sensitively drawn portrait of Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Kessner not only brings this deeply flawed American hero to life; he vividly reconstructs the historical context in which the aviator's life played out. Kessner deftly reveals how and why Lindbergh and his flight became a juggernaut through the years of prosperity and depression, the battle over fascism and the fear of communism, and the moral and social dilemmas prompted by science and technological advances. This book is a must for anyone hoping to understand modern America."--Carol Berkin, author of Revolutionary Mothers and Civil War Wives
"The splendid, far-reaching analysis of one of American history's most enigmatic figures will satisfy the scholar, and the deft use of colorful anecdotes will appeal to general readers. Highly recommended." --Library Journal
"Mr. Kessner has the skills of a professional historian and a nice turn of phrase."
--Daniel Ford, The Wall Street Journal
"Kessner's fresh perspective breathes new life into Lindbergh's tale." --David Cohen, Philadelphia Inquirer
"Kessner provides an excellent addition to the literature on Charles Lindbergh and his remarkable flight from New York to Paris. The book will provide researchers with a deeper understanding of Lindbergh's complex character, including how this engineering school dropout could plan such a difficult flight while others, better educated and financed, had failed...This fascinating account will be valuable to readers interested in aviation history. Highly recommended." --Choice
"Engle and Armstrong devotees wonand#8217;t be disappointed with the stories about their heroes in this tome."and#8212;American Space
"The X-15 Rocket Plane is an engaging account of America's push into space before pilots became astronauts, and America began a new era of exploration beyond the Earth to the Moon."and#8212;Anthony Young, Space Review
"[The X-15 Rocket Plane is] aand#160;cogently written and well-deserved tribute to the individuals who helped take a winged rocket beyond Earth's confining atmosphere."and#8212;John Carver Edwards, Book Verdict
"The importance of the X-15 on the early exploration of space and the subsequent development of the Shuttle program cannot be overstated."and#8212;Book Bit, WTBF-AM/FM
and#8220;Long before the space shuttle, the United States was flying astronauts with the courage of lions into space aboard wings of steel. This is the story of the astonishing X-15, Americaand#8217;s first space plane, which broke records nearly every time it flew. It is a magnificent tale, well told in this meticulously researched book. Everyone with an interest in aviation, space, or high-flying adventure should read it.and#8221;and#8212;Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys
and#8220;This book gives a fascinating and superbly detailed look into X-15 technology and the dedicated people who first took a winged craft beyond the atmosphere. Along the way it teaches valuable and pertinent lessons for those of us in the private space sector now working to build on that phenomenal legacy.and#8221;and#8212;Rick Searfoss, colonel, USAF retired, space shuttle commander and pilot, XCOR Aerospace chief test pilot
andquot;This is a remarkably fine work, one that, despite all the writings on the X-15 to date, has found its own authentic voice.andquot;andmdash;Richard P. Hallion,and#160;Quest
"The social element in this splendid book adds much to the overall history of this remarkably successful research aircraft."and#8212;Mick Jeffries, Aerospace
Kessner takes a fresh look at one of America's greatest moments, explaining how what was essentially a publicity stunt became a turning point in history.
With the Soviet Unionandrsquo;s launch of the first Sputnik satellite in 1957, the Cold War soared to new heights as Americans feared losing the race into space. The X-15 Rocket Plane
tells the enthralling yet little-known story of the hypersonic X-15, the winged rocket ship that met this challenge and opened the way into human-controlled spaceflight.
Drawing on interviews with those who were there, Michelle Evans captures the drama and excitement of, yes, rocket science: how to handle the heat generated at speeds up to Mach 7, how to make a rocket propulsion system that could throttle, and how to safely reenter the atmosphere from space and make a precision landing.
This book puts a human face on the feats of science and engineering that went into the X-15 program, many of them critical to the development of the Space Shuttle. And, finally, it introduces us to the largely unsung pilots of the X-15. By the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing, thirty-one American astronauts had flown into spaceandmdash;eight of them astronaut-pilots of the X-15. The X-15 Rocket Plane restores these pioneers, and the others who made it happen, to their rightful place in the history of spaceflight.Browse more spaceflight books at upinspace.org.
About the Author
Michelle Evans is the founder of Mach 25 Media and is an aerospace writer, photographer, and education specialist. She served in the U.S. Air Force working on nuclear missiles, is the producer of several documentaries about space exploration, and is a contributor to Space Daily, Space.com, and Ad Astra. Joe H. Engle was the eighth pilot of the X-15 research aircraft and flew sixteen rocket plane missions. He later orbited the earth as the commander of the space shuttle Columbia and again with Discovery.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Early Life
Chapter Two: The Flight
Chapter Three: A Hero's Reception
Chapter Four: America Flies
Chapter Five: Lindbergh and Celebrity Culture