Donald Mallick's THE SMELL OF KEROSENE; A TEST PILOT'S ODYSSEY (with Peter Merlin)
A book review by Dennis D. McDonald
Mallick’s book is a tour of post-WWII 20th-century US aviation like none other I’ve ever read. Here’s a pilot who has flown Cessnas, early jets, helicopters, the doomed XB-70, lifting bodies, lunar landing training platforms, the B-52, and the YF12 Blackbird, all on behalf of NASA or its predecessor NACA.
We get career highlights, harrowing escapes, occasional tragedies, and what it’s like to plan out and perform a test flight as a data collection exercise.
The story is one of dedication and parallels my own interest in post World War II aviation. This is an insider’s view, though, told from the perspective of one who loves flying while maintaining a disciplined and professional attitude.
I enjoyed and understood his description of “unstarts” on the SR71, unlike the primarily technical description of unstarts in Flying the SR-71 Blackbird. I found it amazing that the screamingly fast B-58 was used as a chase plane for the XB-70. And I thought the dedication to friends, team members, and copilots is something any professional can emulate.
Most of all this is a book about aircraft. Each one is different and offers its own challenges. A few are fortunate to fly them for a living and to enjoy the wonders of seeing things like the Aurora and the curvature of the earth from high altitude. That they also risk their lives in doing so is a constant. How Mallick deals with that fact both calmly and professionally is a thread that runs throughout this fascinating book.
Book review copyright (c) 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald.