Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

For Those About to Crash…

September 13th, 2012 · 4 Comments


I have recently become interested in the trials and tribulations of Truman-era test pilots, the same ballsy crew whose death-defying exploits were chronicled in a book you may have read. Brave men, for sure, but their pursuit was relatively safe compared to that of aviation’s earliest pioneers. As this amazingly exhaustive necrology (PDF) makes clear, the fatality rate for pre-1914 pilots was nothing short of astronomical. If the sheer length of the documents makes your eyes glaze over, you can instead check out the handy-dandy visual chart above, which unfortunately has an equally large part two. These are the men and women whose sacrifice you should keep in mind the next time you feel your flight’s wheels safely slam into a runway’s pavement.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    I ride out by the Portland International Airport pretty frequently (there’s a lovely trail that runs along the Columbia River) and I will never ceased to be amazed that planes actually work. I have a reasonable grasp of the physics involved, but it’s still incredible to watch a plane taking off.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: I love how planes wobble slightly as their wheels pull free of the Earth. There’s always that brief moment when you think, “This isn’t going to work, is it?”

  • Dane

    Slightly later time period (1926-1940s maybe), but Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote a lot about the early days of flight and air mail in several of his books. They are well worth reading if you haven’t read them already.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Dane: Many thanks for the rec. Just added Wind, Sand, and Stars to my to-read queue.

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