Cover image for Fighter pilot's heaven : flight testing the early jets
Fighter pilot's heaven : flight testing the early jets
Lopez, Donald S., 1923-2008.
Publication Information:
Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, [1995]

Physical Description:
xii, 223 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL685.3 .L67 1995 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Fighter Pilot's Heaven presents the dramatic inside story of the American military's transition into the jet age, as told by a flyer whose life depended on its success. With colorful anecdotes about fellow pilots as well as precise technical information, Donald S. Lopez describes how it was to be "behind the stick" as a test pilot from 1945 to 1950, when the U.S. military was shifting from war to peacetime operations and from propeller to jet aircraft. An ace pilot who had served with Gen. Claire Chennault's Flying Tiger Fighter Group, Lopez was assigned at the close of World War II to the elite Proof Test Group of the Air Proving Ground Command. Located at Eglin Field (later Eglin Air Force Base) in Florida, the group determined the operational suitability of Air Force weapons systems and aircraft and tested the first operational jet, the P-80 Shooting Star. Jet fighters required new techniques, tactics, and weaponry. Lopez recounts historic test flights in the P-59, P-80, and P-84, among other planes, describing complex combat maneuvers, hair-raising landings in unusual positions, and disastrous crashes and near crashes. This memoir is peppered with lively accounts of many pilots and their colleagues, revealing how airmen coped with both exhilarating successes and sometimes tragic failures.

Author Notes

Donald S. Lopez is the deputy director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and a former pilot with the 23rd Flying Tiger Fighter Group in China.

Table of Contents

Frank Borman
Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Prologuep. 1
1 Fighter Pilot's Heavenp. 3
2 Bombs Bursting in Airp. 10
3 Tigercat Performancep. 19
4 Top Guns in Texasp. 28
5 Fighter on First Basep. 37
6 Unstuck in a Shooting Starp. 49
7 Travels by Yo-yop. 60
8 Snow-Boundp. 72
9 Cold-Weather Testamentp. 81
10 Characters in Flightp. 92
11 Gunsights and Highballp. 104
12 Head-on Passesp. 118
13 An Education in Flight Testingp. 127
14 The Joy of Flying Lowp. 144
15 Firepower Demonstration, May 11, 1948p. 152
16 Big Airplanes, Big Yearp. 159
17 The Test of the F-84Bp. 168
18 Sonic Booms and Radarp. 177
19 Target Practice in 1949p. 191
20 The Last Year of Heavenp. 206
Epiloguep. 217
Indexp. 219