June 25, 2009
…or so thought Gemini/Apollo astronaut (and former test pilot) Michael Collins, as quoted in the 1970 book, First on the Moon:
I like fighter pilots. I really do. They’re good guys. As a group, I like them better than I like any other group. They’re very independent people. They’re not just talkers; they’re doers. They have their lives on the line in a lot of ways, and they’re good people. They say what they mean. There is no sham or pretense about them.The good ones you know not by what they say but what they do, and when you fly with a guy you can tell what he is. You can be irresponsible and you may get away with it being a fighter pilot; but you most certainly cannot as a test pilot. Fighter pilots can be impetuous; test pilots can’t. They have to be more mature, a little bit smarter. They have to give more thought to what they’re doing, or they’re going to—well, maybe not kill themselves, but, even worse, they’ll come to wrong conclusions about airplanes and others will kill themselves later when the aircraft reach squadron service. They have to be more deliberate, better trained—and they’re not as much fun as fighter pilots. People think of a test pilot as a fellow with a white scarf trailing out of the cockpit as he puts the plane into a power dive to see if the wings fall off. Fighter pilots may have a little of that in them, but not test pilots. The test pilot has to be more of an engineer, and a lot of his work is drudgery, studying charts and graphs, determining what is safe for the airplane to do and what isn’t. And the test pilot has to be older…
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