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Publisher's Summary

Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson led the design of such crucial aircraft as the P-38 and Constellation, but he will be more remembered for the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. His extraordinary leadership of the Lockheed "Skunk Works" cemented his reputation as a legendary figure in American aerospace management.

©1985 Smithsonian Institution (P)2019 Tantor

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Profile Image for Jean
  • Jean
  • 26-08-2019

Memoir of a Legend

This is a memoir of an aviation leader. A few years ago, I read “The Skunk Works” by Ben R. Rich about the Lockheed Research Department. Kelly was responsible for the design of the famous Constellation and the P-38. He also was responsible for the U-2 and SR71 Blackbird. This is the story of the Skunk Works at its peak (1950-1990) by one of its founders. I think reading both books gave me a balanced insight into the halcyon days of aviation at Lockheed. Both books are well balanced, but Johnson’s book is a bit more technical. Johnson tells the story of his life as a child in Michigan to working at Lockheed. The book was originally published in 1988. This is a great book about a brilliant aeronautical engineer and the early days of aviation. The book is six hours and six minutes. Johnny Heller does an excellent job narrating the book. Heller is an actor and a well-known audiobook narrator. He has won many awards such as the Audiophile’s Golden Voice Award and Best voice of 2008, 2011, 2014, 2018. He was also selected as one of the fifty voices of the 20th Century. His list of awards is too numerous to list.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
  • 27-02-2020

Read this after "Skunk Works", didn't disappoint

The only low points are where the author starts covering details of his personal life that are entirely unrelated to aviation history. I don't really care to hear his justifications for remarrying a month after his wife's death.

2 people found this helpful

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  • James Litsios
  • 23-07-2020

A bit impersonal, but some nice content

While much has been told elsewhere, there is some unique content here that make this book a valuable read.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Pohokano
  • 01-04-2020

Still a good listen

Even after 35 years the life of this engineer is amazing. It’s entertaining to hear predictions for the year 2000. Although I wished for greater technical detail, Johnson’s inside view of early aviation and developments into the 1980s is fascinating. Narration was poor, too fast, and at times confusing. In print, publishers put breaks and pauses on the page for a reason that was apparently lost on this narrator. I won’t bother with another title narrated by this individual.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Chromic Acid
  • 02-12-2019

Brilliant men and brilliant machines

Though the content frequently left me wondering if the author has switched subjects and the narrator rarely shifted tone or pace, I find this story to be a fascinating one about the early days of Lockheed and about what it takes to build things better. It isn't too long of a listen; granted my frequent rewinds to try to catch what was just said lengthened the time, but I still considered it worth it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lockon
  • 25-10-2019

a fascinating insight into the life of Kelly Johns

This was really a fascinating book especially the technical parts. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was I had an expectation, perhaps unrealistic, that this would be more of a technical book and talk more about the programs in detail.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-08-2020

very interesting book

If you love aviation and are interested in the lives of the engineers who worked on the famous SR-71 and the U2 youll love this book

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  • Chris Scharfenberger
  • 05-03-2020

Good Book! Kelly Johnson was a genius.

This was a good book. I just wish it would have been longer. The guy was a genius and I know he had more stories to tell. A true American hero.

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  • Astrobuf
  • 11-12-2019

An amazing engineer tells his story.

Loved it, just wished there was more. Kelly Johnson is an Engineering hero. as important to the world as was Edison, though Kelly was so much more humble. someone for all to aspire to be like.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 27-10-2019

Great Story! shorter than expected

I enjoyed the book alot and I listened to it twice. it was a little shorter than expected but was good. I listened to skunk works by Ben Rich and wanted to know more about Kelly so I checked out this book. some of the comments said it was more technical and it was more towards the middle but the end and beginning was a genuine journey of the man from youth to old age.

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  • MR J R Stagg
  • 13-01-2020

For the engineering out there

Great listen, Great insight. The elusive skunk works somewhat unraveled, the engineering pitfalls and problem solving was impressive to hear.

1 person found this helpful

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