A real action hero died today

A real action hero died today. The following article caught my eye this morning, “Chuck Yeager, pilot who broke the sound barrier, dies at 97” by Pete Muntean, Hollie Silverman and Joe Sutton, CNN. Here are two brief paragraphs, that only provide a glimpse at Yeager’s heroics.

“US Air Force officer and test pilot Chuck Yeager, known as ‘the fastest man alive,’ has died at the age of 97. Yeager broke the sound barrier when he tested the X-1 in October 1947, although the feat was not announced to the public until 1948.

‘This is a sad day for America,’ John Nicoletti, Yeager’s friend and ground crew chief, told CNN Monday night. ‘After he broke the sound barrier, we all now have permission to break barriers.'”

Yeager’s heroics are captured in the book and movie “The Right Stuff” and his biography, which I also read. The Right Stuff is a quiet bravery to do something that you know is dangerous, but in so doing, you test both yourself and the development of the aircraft you are flying. Many who did what Yeager died doing their job. Yet, Yeager revealed a calmness to the radio tower which belied his stress in doing his job.

A couple of stories will give you a greater glimpse of this man over the more known stories. While not college educated, he was an astute student of flying and aerodynamics. His lack of college degree meant he was passed over for the first astronaut team. But, those who made it give him high regards as the best pilot they ever saw.

During World War II, he was an ace pilot, that often trained against other American pilots in captured German planes. The story goes Yeager would beat you flying the German plane, then switch planes and beat you in the American plane.

Yet, the story that I like best, when he was flying as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force base, a plane was causing the death of many a pilot. He investigated it and went to the manufacturer and found out that one mechanic was not following the diagrams and putting the bolts in the wings the wrong way, insisting they must be down, not up. This slight change was causing the plane to wobble at very high speeds leading to the crash.

Let me finish with the story captured in the movie, which I like to think was true as Yeager had a cameo part in the movie. Yeager (played by Sam Shephard) would bum a stick of gum called Beeman’s (made out of cloves) from his ground engineer before he flew. This request of “Hey Ridley, you got any Beemans?” showed he was ready to fly.

Chuck Yeager, pilot who broke the sound barrier, dies at 97 (msn.com)

Trump has screwed the pooch and has yet to realize it

During the movie and book “The Right Stuff” about astronauts and test pilots, when a pilot made a fatal error, it was often said “he screwed the pooch.” Unfortunately, the key word in the sentence is fatal. Although he won’t die from this, our President has just screwed the pooch with respect to his presidency. It will take several to many months for this to play out, but his presidency is toast. He will be impeached or resign.

Why do I say such a thing? Actually, I am borrowing from E.J.Dionne’s column noting the President has painted himself into a corner. After his furious internal  response to Jeff Sessions’ recusing himself from a Russian involvement investigation and after his childish attempts to show Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer meeting with Putin years ago on the record, he took it upon himself to send a series of tweets accusing the former President of something he could not and would not do.

Trump ham-handedly said Obama had his office wiretapped before the election, without citing proof. Not only has Obama denied this, but so has James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence and James Comey, the Director of the FBI. Comey was said to be indignant over Trump’s claiming his people broke the law. These two would know if wiretapping went on and they denied it. Now, why would both of them deny something that could be easily proven in an investigation?

But, here is the corner Trump is now in. Senator Lindsey Graham will investigate this. If there, in fact, was a wiretap, a judge would have ordered it and would have had probable cause. That is not good for Mr. President. If it was not, then the President just showed horrible judgment and has accused the former President of something he did not do, plus he alienated further his intelligence community.

Yet, now Graham can open the can worms as he said he would and also investigate the Russian links. I hope that would include a subpoena of his tax records, because per conservative columnist David Brooks, Trump is likely beholden to someone for loans after his bankruptcies dried up normal channels of funding. And, unlike most other Republicans in Congress, Graham remembers he pledged an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States, not the Republican Party.

I have seen a lot of things in my time, but what I witness about the Russian involvement story, is this White House and people who supported Trump’s candidacy are doing a lot of lying, denial, apology for denial, and media bashing. I have felt for many months the American people deserve to get to the bottom of this dating back to late July when I first heard about Russian hacking. We are owed an explanation.

As a related aside, my wife and I watched Carter Page, one of Trump’s folks interviewed by PBS Newshour two weeks ago. He denied meeting with the Russians and was quite adamant about it. We looked at each other and said “he is lying.” Guess what? He admitted to lying last week. So, did Flynn and Sessions, no matter how much perfume he places on his explanation.

Trump has screwed the pooch because he cannot stay out of his own way. What is ironic is his fascination with pseudo news sites Fox News and Breitbart will be his undoing, as they are the source of his likely erroneous claim. I would be hard pressed to see Comey and Clapper lying over such an issue. I am not hard pressed to envision Trump lying about anything.

More wisdom from an astronaut

I have written before of some great advice from astronaut Mike Massimino in his book “Spaceman.” As I read further, I came upon this gem which summarizes what matters most which applies to more than being an astronaut.

Massimino was influenced by the movie “The Right Stuff,” which defined by example what it took to be a test pilot and astronaut. But, after becoming an astronaut and watching his fellow astronauts help him when his father was being treated for cancer, he made the following important observation.

“If you’ve ever wondered what the right stuff is….It’s not about being crazy enough to strap yourself to the top of the bomb. That’s actually the easy part. It’s more about character, serving a purpose greater than yourself, putting the other guy first, and being able to do that every single day in every aspect of your life. People ask me all the time what it takes to become an astronaut. It’s not about being the smartest or having the most college degrees. The real qualifications are: Is this someone I’d trust with my life? Will this person help look after my family if I don’t make it home?”

Massimino notes there are smarter people than he who did not make the cut to be considered. Yet, he had been a great teammate in every thing he was involved with and honored the process by seeking help and learning from others. His education was guided by the goal of becoming an astronaut. Yes, he was also smart, but he said these other attributes were essential.

Reading this made me realize how translatable these vital attributes are to other disciplines. Being a good teammate, asking for help and offering help will carry you far in many endeavors. He noted that previous astronauts, like Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and Jim Lovell were most gracious and giving with their time and advice. That is a lesson for us all and an example to the newer crop of astronauts.