by Leon Rosenshein

Is 2020 Over Yet?

As I've noted before, I'm a mechanical and aerospace engineer by training. I think a big part of why is what I grew up reading. Books about competent technical folks who just got things done. Books like Thunderbolt, Flying Fortress, The Dam Busters, and The Right Stuff. Later it was Hackers, The Cuckoo's Egg, and Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

One of the common themes in those books was someone who saw something that needed to be done to meet a need, and then did it. People who were just that good at what they did. Whether it was the aircraft pilots, designers like Barnes Wallis, or self-taught cyber sleuth and brownie maker, Cliff Stoll.

One of the people that really stood out was Chuck Yeager. Aircraft Mechanic, Fighter Ace, Test Pilot. According to the stories he was also a pretty good leader. When they asked him to fly the X1 in 1947 he just did it. He didn't ask for extra money or make excuses. It was his job, so he strapped on the rocket and did it. Over the next 30+ years he made a name for himself around Edwards AFB by quietly doing his job and helping others do theirs. And outside the aviation industry no one knew who he was until the movie, The Right Stuff came out, and even then, John Glenn and the rest of the Mercury 7 got top billing. I actually got to meet him when I was working for a small aerospace company in the early 90s. There were a few retired test pilots there and he came around occasionally. He certainly had some good stories to tell.

General Yeager passed away yesterday. The world is a poorer place without him. He inspired me as a child and early in my career. Even today, as I deal with all of the churn of 2020, I sometimes thing about Gen. Yeager and the other "heros" of those books and how, even when things got weird, they kept the long term vision in mind while focusing on the task at hand and got stuff done.

G-dspeed Gen. Yeager.