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on January 21, 2016
Full disclosure: I know the author, although I do not know her from her aerospace background. That said, I really did enjoy this book. Being a technical person, albeit a big picture person more than a detail person, the book has enough technical insight into the X-15 program that you really know what a marvel of engineering, planning, and teamwork it was. At the same time it doesn't get bogged down in tech and read like textbook. Which brings me to what really made this book and the X-15 program successful: The people. Michelle Evans is a people person and she had access to so many people involved; pilots, crew, engineers, directors, mission control people, technicians, and the families of pilots and other X-15 personnel.

The research and interviews involved in telling this story are mind boggling, how did she get so much access? I don't know, but she did. flights are described in great detail (like from logbooks) you know dates, times, places, altitudes, and speeds. Plus so many photos there is an accompanying website to view them all. The book has photos as well.

The last thing that really made the book enjoyable for me as a native Californian who has been all over the west: They needed a big empty space to do great big things and they found it in the Mojave Desert and Great Basin of Nevada. I can put myself in Mojave or Rosamond, CA, Tonopah or Beatty Nevada because I've been there. Now I know the amazing history of what went on there long ago when the space race was brand new.
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on March 7, 2017
A very interesting book detailing the lives of the pilots in this program. It does go off on tangents every once in a while, veering off into more details about those around the pilots than the pilots themselves but that is a minor complaint. A good addition to the information on the X-15 currently available. The in depth mission details were the best part of the book.
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on August 9, 2013
Michelle Evans has done a wonderful job on the subject of the X-15, its pilots, and the ever present engineers. But, in following their careers, she has gone beyond just the airplane, and into space. The X-15 was truly the first manned vehicle that could stick its nose above the atmosphere and into space. And, many of its pilots went on from the X-15 into the manned space program. She especially followed Neil Armstrong, who was her original motivator to write this book, back when Michelle was a kid and her daddy took her to his NASA work one day, when she got to meet the pilot.

The amount of detail she has woven into the story, via personal interviews with people connected with the X-15, is just phenomenal. The book doesn't just give one a feeling for the bird, but for the whole engineering and operations culture of the early aerospace age. When I read it, I felt very at home, remembering things I'd forgotten forty years ago, in my NASA days. She even put in a couple of paragraphs about when I got to teach Armstrong's astronaut class about space radio at NASA-MSC in Houston in 1962.

So, my bottom line is that this is a book written by a woman who was immersed in the aerospace culture from its inception. And, that culture comes through on every page. Michelle's done an outstanding job on this book.
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on March 25, 2015
I happen to know that Ms. Evans spent over fifteen years researching this book, and personally interviewed almost all of the X-15 participants (as opposed to reading someone else's book). Those she missed (because of death) she made up for by interviewing the families and co-workers. With great humor, obvious admiration and not a little fan-adoration, she brings to life the plane, its development, and the men and women behind it, including pilots, ground crews, engineers, technicians and all their families. By devoting a chapter to each pilot, she covers each singular man's history, their reasons for involvement and their individual contributions to the X-15 rocket plane and the project as a whole. I'm not a technical person, but even I found myself being caught up and cheering her intriguing, deep and sometimes humorous descriptions of the back-stage support of this wonderful episode in American history.
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on December 1, 2013
I too have many books on the X-15 and thought that another one would be redundant. I read the other reviews and decided to get it. I wasn't let down by this book!! It's the best book I have read about the history of the X-15 and the men who flew her. I just received it and am already on page 176. All this while studying for finals says a lot! There's one tiny mistake that I found on one of the captions. It shows Jack McKay in a hellcat where the captions says it's a Corsair. This book is wonderful to read and sheds far more light on the history of this great bird than any other book I have or read. Great job to Michelle Evens on writing this masterpiece of aviation history. Bravo!!
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on January 27, 2014
I am not a person that is truly into any of these planes and yet I really enjoyed Michelle's book. What I liked most was the way it was written, the way she uses the language. She is bright and has a wonderful way of phrasing; often a fresh take or unique angle. She also has a nice sense of humor.

I realize that this book will mostly be read by people interested in the history of flight and the X-15 in particular, but it is also of interest to those looking for a good book on a subject usually outside of our preferred genre. A well-written book is always a pleasure.
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on December 18, 2013
While stationed at Chanute AFB in Central Illinois during the sixties I was fortunate to know and fly with Mike Adams who later died flying the X-15. Mike was an outstanding pilot and was one of the best I have ever flown with in my career of twenty years in the USAF. At that time I was the head of the Air Base Wing Instrument and Transition Section and responsible for providing the training and evaluation of the pilots assigned to the USAF Maintenance School. Mike Adams was an instructor in the school at the time and flew the T-33.

This book gave me a much better understanding of the importance of the X-15 program and an accurate account of the accident that took a friend's life.
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on January 25, 2014
I have read extensively about our experimental planes and our space program. I have enjoyed many of the books I read read..Most recently James Hanson's "First Man" and "The Bird Is On The Wing" and Tony Landis' "Hypersonic"...These were very good reads, but Ms. Evans has created something special. She succeeds in bringing the people she writes about to life...

If you are looking for a book about this special plane and the times in which it was designed and flown look no further...Do yourself a favor...Buy this book and enjoy...
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on January 9, 2014
This is a fascinating book that tells the story of the North American X-15 program by looking at the pilots, selection process, the development process and people who worked in the project. I love this sort of thing and while there are lots of other books out there on the X-15, they tend to be about the specific flights, whereas this book covers that but includes the development backstory.
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on August 28, 2013
I have always marveled at the pilots of that era. So many discoveries were happening, along with great risk for the pilots. In the pre computer age, many things were not able to be simulated before the first flight. These brave men risked, and sometimes lost their very lives exploring the unknown. I will read this book again!
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