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How to become a pilot

field kindley

Working on adding some books by Jack Stokes Ballard.  As a former USAFA history professor, now in his late 80's, he has personally seen a lot of the aviation history of the last century. One book is about Field Kindley, an ace who would probably have been one of the major names in USAF history (doesn't hurt to start with a memorable name that could easily be reversed to name an airfield...) if it weren't for his death in an accident shortly after WWI. One of the fascinating things about Kindley is that before the war he was a movie projectionist.

A what? This raises the question, what makes a good pilot? Not that "airplane pilot" would have been exactly on high-school guidance counselors' list of careers a decade after the Wright brothers' flight. Pilots came from all kinds of career backgrounds at that point, and military leaders were still figuring out what they wanted pilots to do; only then could they decide what would predict success.

For instance, Eddie Rickenbacker was a race-car driver, and recommended that the US recruit other pilots from that profession. Race-car drivers understood machines and technology (cars themselves were still pretty new!) and already willing to make a high-risk living (it was accepted that races frequently involved someone getting killed.) However, the US Army thought it took so much courage to go into aerial combat anyway, pilots might be afraid to fight if they also understood the implications of that noise their engine was making. So a large percentage of the early US pilots were college kids, and not just any college kids, but Ivy Leaguers. And that's another story. 

But - a movie projectionist? How did he become America's number four ace pilot? Well, let Jack Stokes Ballard tell you all about it; the book should be available within the next few days.

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