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The Man Who Rode the Thunder Paperback – 1961
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A spell-binding account of a nine mile fall through space, thunder, lightning, rain, hail, made by the author in July, 1959. The author reviews the years of professional military training, from joining the Marines in 1940, through boot training, war in the Pacific, graduation to wings, training in jets. It was the culmination of this that made possible his survival of a fantastic 35 minute ordeal, when forced to abandon his Crusader jet at almost 50,000 feet. His ordeal was harrowing from the moment before ejection to even the moment he came down, right smack into a tree trunk, and until he could find someone to help him on the ground. Review: The amazing story of the pilot who survived the highest-altitude emergency ejection (without a pressure suit) on record. Normally, a descent from 48000+ feet would have taken 10 minutes; Rankin's journey took 40 minutes, as he traveled five states in the grip of a thunderstorm. An inside look at nature, from a unique perspective. What the writing lacks in style and skill it more than makes up for in description.
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Top Customer Reviews
Would love to get my hands on a copy of this book, so my children could read it as I did.
Lt. Col. Rankin tells a wonderful story of his most historic and singular flight, taking an F8U Crusader across country, and winding up with an engine failure and ejecting at 47,000 ft, without a pressure suit. Not only did the canopy not separate (and he ejected THRU it), but his chute opened just in time for him to be caught in the up- and down-drafts of a severe thunderstorm cell. A 10-minute ride to earth turned into nearly an hour of living hell.
I have never forgotten this amazing story. I have never forgotten how Rankin was troubled by his inability to recall some of the instrument readings just before his punch-out. As a pilot, I think of him as I make my own instrument scans, wondering if I would or could remember these things if I found myself in similar straits, in a failing airplane and needing to make a critical survival decision. I have never forgotten his recollection of trying to flag down passing motorists on the backwoods highway, and not succeeding, and only later realizing what a horrific sight he must have been, beaten, bruised, and bloodied by his ordeal and staggering along, barely conscious, trying to get a ride to civilization. I have never forgotten his telling of the ordeal of having the surgeons pick out shards of plexiglass canopy from his shoulders, fragments that didn't show up on x-rays and had to be painstakingly located by eye and removed.
Yes, this is a great story, told by a great Marine and a great human being. I was inspired by it as a child and cherish the experience of reading this story, even to this very day. Thank you Bill Rankin, you will be sorely missed and always remembered.