Monday, June 13, 2011

Booklist: Jackie Cochran: Pilot in the Fastest Lane

Jackie Cochran: Pilot in the Fastest Lane , by Doris L. Rich
When asked by Amelia Earhart's husband what her ambitions were, Jackie Cochran sneered, "To put your wife in the shade." Cochran succeeded. History has proven Earhart to be the favorite, but Cochran undoubtedly was the superior pilot: determined to be not just the best woman pilot but to be the best pilot, period, she broke countless aviation records for speed, altitude and distance. In this biography, Rich (Amelia Earhart) documents the life of the first woman to break the sound barrier and who was instrumental in creating a fleet of female pilots (which she helmed) in World War II. Along the way, she also created a cosmetics company for which the motto was "Wings to Beauty." That's not to say that Cochran was always likable. She was scheming, manipulative and known to bend the truth so it would work to her advantage. Rich thoroughly researched Cochran's life, a challenge given that Cochran frequently created facts to best suit her needs (she said, for instance, that she was an orphan, a claim that has been disputed by her family). Aeronautics buffs will appreciate the details of the aircraft Cochran flew, and while the drama of Cochran's many harrowing flights and near-miss accidents is never fully realized, Rich gives Cochran her rightful place in aviation history.

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