Nearly everyone is curious about what makes airplanes fly with confidence-giving predictability. Joe Dobronski has risen to the challenge with this master work that will satisfy many aspects of your curiosity. His prose is in a fun-to-read storyteller style, while introducing you to an impressive array of technical considerations that determine the difference between controllable flying and the uncontrollable that are the consequence of design flaws. Working at the leading edge of knowledge, some design flaws elude the designers, and must be deduced by exceptional pilots who have skill, experience, and superlative alertness to detail. Overcoming obstacles to jet flight, supersonic flight, high altude flight, and fly-by-wire are beautifully described as a progression that includes nearly all successful jet designs by Joe in first-person style that makes for riveting reading. A Sky Full of Challenges reveals what this master test pilot was thinking in several critical phases of helping to develop the famous and dominant F4, F101, AV8 F15, and F18 fighters.
Reading this book is really a feast for everyone curious about what it is like to perform as a test pilot in the development of the world's most sophisticated airplanes. Some of the chapters are especially notable in providing the feeling of being one of those elite pilots. In the two chapters, "Getting a Foot in the Door", and "The Making of a Test Pilot", Joe presents the exemplary narrative of what was involved in developing jets to surpass the "speed of sound barrier", defining the limits of flight (safety margins), and to improvise pilot skill development concurrently, as these complex, interacting tasks had to be done. Necessity was the mother of invention during many development flights for an experimental test pilot. Recounting more-surprising-than-fiction fables of what went wrong and how it was solved (or not) makes these chapters fascinating inside stories for everyone, test pilot or not. After reading these chapters and experiencing the thought stream, who can fail to regard these test pilots as extraordinary men and true aeronautical heroes?
This book is thus not only a fascinating insight into how to test jet aircraft for success and reliability, but also an inspiring inside account of human achievement at the highest ethical levels. Read a few paragraphs of this book, and you can enter a world that is important, but unknown, to most of the population. Joe's life has indeed been, and continues to be an exciting adventure.