I had dinner with Stefan Cavallo, a test pilot for NASA (“NACA” in those days) during World War II (interview). Cavallo intentionally flew a P-51 fighter into a thunderstorm to figure out why they were breaking up on the way back from bombing runs into Germany whereas the supposedly weaker B-17s were fine. It turned out that the stresses from turbulence caused the engine internals to come apart. Gaining this knowledge meant the loss of the airplane and Cavallo was forced to bail out of the test airplane.Giants strode the Earth in those days. Or Pygmies stride it today.
At age 89, in 2010, Cavallo was off the Long Island coast when the engine on his Cessna 210 failed. He dead-sticked the plane onto the beach (the media account is interesting because the journalist adds an ejection seat to the P-51 (“I crawled out” said Cavallo when I showed him the piece) and conventional landing gear (with a tailwheel) to the Cessna 210).
What does this quiet widower hero, still flying light airplanes, think of the society that younger folks have created? “Somewhere along the way younger Americans squandered what we had built,” said Cavallo, though not with any bitterness. When he looks at us he sees timid paper shufflers, aggressive divorce lawsuit plaintiffs, and a general “can’t do” attitude: “By our mid-20s nearly all of us were in what would turn out to be lifelong marriages and we already had kids. The Empire State Building was built in a year.”
Monday, November 9, 2015
The Right Stuff doesn't think much of today's generation
"The Right Stuff" is an under statement: