In 1988, I attended the Yakima, Washington airshow, where former Boeing test pilot Tex Johnston and his daughter hosted a booth. I asked him if he ever took the 707 supersonic (“Boeing Will Never Try It,” Aug. 2011).
He said (I’m paraphrasing), “We once took the 707 to 40,000 feet and pointed the nose down with full throttle. It was shaking. The aircraft hit .97 Mach before we pulled out at 24,000 feet.”
So according to Tex, Boeing did try it.
Fire Down Below
Like Patty Wagstaff, I flew from the Grass Valley Air Attack Base in California (“Patty Wagstaff’s Second Act,” Aug. 2011). I operated a turbo-charged Cessna C-337 for the U.S. Forest Service in the early 1980s.
Fire tankers had to be airborne within 15 minutes of an alarm, but usually made it in five. We air-attacks had to be airborne within five minutes, but normally made it in a minute and a half.
A fire alert mandated a max-continuous-power cruise-climb to altitude, then 75 percent cruise to the fire. Upon reaching station, we reduced to 45 percent power and circled the subject area. Since my main passenger, the fire boss, sat in the front right seat, I got really good at right-hand turns about a point.