In 1941 at the age of 23, Glen Edwards learned to fly in a wood, metal, and fabric biplane; in 1948, he died in the fiery crash of a Northrop Flying Wing, one of the Air Force's most advanced jet-propelled bombers. As a combat pilot in North Africa and Italy during World War II and as a test pilot during a postwar era of unprecedented aeronautical innovation, Edwards was counted among the best of a new generation of military aviators. In 1950, as it was on the verge of becoming the Air Force's premier flight-testing center, the isolated desert base in Muroc, California, where Edwards crashed was renamed in his honor.
Situating Glen Edwards's diary in the context of World War II, the development of flight testing, and the advent of an independent U.S. Air Force, Daniel Ford shows how military pilots during the 1940s were expected to augment seat-of-the-pants bravado and precision flying skills with rigorous academic training. Conveying both the exhaustion of combat and the exhileration of flying some of the world's fastest, most sophisticated planes, Edwards's diary entries trace the full trajectory of his career: the near-daily bombing missions over Africa and Italy for which he won the Distinguished Flying Cross, a record-breaking cross-country flight in 1945 as the lead pilot of the Douglas XB-42 "Mixmaster," his assignment to Wright Field, "the Mecca of all Army pilots," a stint at Princeton to study aircraft stability and control, and participation in developing the Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing.