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Kelly: More Than My Share of It All Paperback – December 17, 1989

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Editorial Reviews


“Reads like the autobiography of the American dream. . . A readable collection of the people and influences that touched his life and remarkable career. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal

“The highly objective autobiography of one of the real giants of the aerospace world, . . . written so clearly that the average person cannot only understand it but gets caught up in it.”—Aerospace Historian

“Fast-paced, very readable, and technically interesting. It covers a fifty-year span of American aviation without being a history book. . . What makes this book so valuable is Mr. Johnson's exposition of the mind-set to find the simplest, least expensive fix to each technological problem. . . . Recommended for all harried technologists and defense planners, it will encourage one's faith that a better way is possible.”—H. Lawrence Elman, National Defense

“A good look at a fascinating man who has led, and who continues to lead, a perfectly charmed life."—Air Force

About the Author

Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson was an aviation engineer best known for his work on the Lockheed U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird planes.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books (December 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874744911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874744910
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you want the definitive account of Kelly Johnson's life - this is the book. If you're looking for detailed technical information on the various aircraft he designed, look elsewhere. In my opinion this is the only real problem with this book - there are not enough details. Too many subjects that should warrant complete chapters are only mentioned in passing. This book would have to be over 1,000 pages to really do justice to Kelly Johnson's achievements. It's too bad that this book was written before the major declassification reviews of the past several years. With the passing of Kelly and Ben Rich, many interesting details have been lost forever.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on November 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
The prior reviewers are right, the book is short on details of the of that flood of technical innovation ( beyond the leading edge of what was thought possible ) that characterized Kelly's work. One only has to walk through the Smithsonian to understand his impact. Not just the advanced design of the SR-71, now older than most of the visitors, but the hushed awe its black hulk imposes of visitors from those in kneepants to gray haired veterans.

Kelly, the book, offers perhaps a more important gift to those who follow. Looking at his technical achievements is like driving down the highway at 120 staring out the side window at the double yellow line. You get the sensation but no useful guidance.

The gift of the book is that it sets forth in simple terms the vision and principles that led to these incredible achievements. Kelly focused on simplicity - simplicity in mission statement, simplicity in concept, simplicity in leadership and simplicity in execution. Of course brilliant engineering was also the order of the day.

We live in a business world increasingly dominated by individuals holding advanced degrees in business management. I was part of the process, spending a number of years as adjunct faculty in a leading MBA program. The challenge in business, and politics, is not the lack of sophistication in our analytical techniques, but rather in our leadership, ethics, vision and communication. Kelly not only had these virtues, but left a priceless journal of his voyage through some of the greatest achievements of the 20'th Century.

For those with little interest in aircraft or technology, the book offers insights on how to overcome complex challenges in remarkably short periods of time and at a fraction of the accepted cost levels.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Roberts on July 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Clarence "Kelly" Johnson is probably the most recognizable name in the Aerospace Industry, rising to an iconic level as the designer of or major engineer involved with aircraft from the P-38 Lightning to the F-104 Starfighter and from the Lockheed Constellation to the SR-71 blackbird. He is widely regarded as a supremely capable engineer and aircraft designer, if not, THE supreme figure of the aerospace design and engineering industry. One of his principles was to seek the simplest solution for any problem, and this autobiography fits squarely in that mold, being a taut, quick, and easy to read story of what was a truly amazing life.

Kelly was born into rural northern Michigan to a working class family in 1910, a very modest begining for a meteoric career, but one which would prove fundamental. His family left him with a solid work ethic and a drive for learning, which he married to an intense interest in aviation he found by age 12. Working early in construction taught him the value of practicality and gave him a good knowledge of machinery. Guided half by accident and half by design he attended the University of Michigan gaining an excellent engineering degree - where aerospace engineers had to first complete strings of courses in all other engineering fields and where one of the nation's first wind tunnels was located. For someone who has suffered through engineering school, particularly being up till 2:00AM for days in a row studying in the dorms with a 8:00AM class looming while it seemed like over 50% of the rest of the students were running through the halls drunkenly fondling each other with classes in hyphenated American studies no earlier than noon, Kelly's experiences in college were, sadly, reassuring.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Cyrus on January 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
I read this book after reading Skunk Works by Ben L Rich. This was a nice secondary read, and I'm quite happy with the *order* in which I read the books. Here, you get to see things from Kelly's persepctive. In Skunk Works, you get Ben Rich's side of the story (Kelly's employee and right hand man). From Richs accounts, Kelly is an abrasive character at times, but always fair and respectful; meanwhile, Kelly comes off much softer in his own book. Perhaps this dichotomy is a result of hearing the same story from two different perspectives, one the employee and the other the boss. After reading Kelly, this abrasive character can be clearly linked to his managment style. He is the boss. The end. This was key to their sucess. No design by comittee. Kelly had final say and that was that.

The book lacks the prose of Skunk Works and the amount of detail, but I think its a vital read for anyone interested in Aviation, and a MUST read for any aerospace engineers.

Kelly: The greatest Aerospace Engineer (possibly) of all time.
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