He applied the “Page 69 Test” to Hypersonic Thunder with this result:
It surprised and pleased me that the 69th Page test works for Hypersonic Thunder in an almost perfect way, for it combines the essential elements of my trilogy on jet aviation. I’d like to include the entire section concerning the 69th page here, with the actual 69th page in italics, and my commentary done in bold face caps.Readers can learn more about Walter Boyne and the “Thunder” series by going to www.air-boyne.com.
March 24, 1977, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma
Half of the personnel of the gigantic Tinker Air Force Base were on hand waiting to receive the Boeing E-3 Sentry, the first of the AWACS to reach the 552nd Airborne Warning and Control Wing.
AS WITH ALL THE AERIAL EVENTS IN THE BOOK THIS IS THE ACTUAL DATE, ACTUAL UNIT, ETC.
Not by chance, Harry Shannon and Bob Rodriquez were on board. Harry had worked extensively with Boeing on the massive thirty-foot diameter rotating dome that sat atop a modified Boeing 707 airframe, and the Air Force asked him to be on this delivery flight.
SHANNON AND RODRIQUEZ ARE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS WHO ARE COMPOSITES OF THE REAL PEOPLE WHO DID THE INVENTIONS, ETC.
Rodriquez helped in developing the fantastic radar system which could range out for more than 250 miles to detect, identify and track enemy aircraft in a 120,000 square-mile area. He’d also devised the massive liquid cooling equipment that the hot-running electronics required. And in the back of his mind, he knew that when GPS came along, it would enhance the AWACS’ capability immensely.
It was a magnificent weapon system, and they were already calling it a “force multiplier.” One AWACS could direct all the fighters in a battle, sending them where they were most needed, warning them of threats, lining them up with tankers. It was sort of like the English chain link radar system that helped win the Battle of Britain, but airborne, so it could be sent all over the world to any battle area.
THIS TYPIFIES HOW I TRY TO GIVE ACCURATE BACKGROUND INFORMATION TO THE READER, COMBINING IT WITH HISTORICAL DATA WHEREVER POSSIBLE.
But of course it was vastly advanced. The incredible thing was that it had been hotly opposed for all of its existence by people in Congress who had no idea of its capabilities, but called it the usual “billion dollar boondoggle” for political reasons. Harry and Bob knew that it would pay for itself the first day it went to war.
The usual first flight glitches had kept them occupied for most of the trip out from Seattle—the cooling system was difficult to regulate—but by the time they were inbound to Tinker, they had a chance to catch up.
“How did the board of director’s meeting go last October, Harry? Everything I’ve heard says it was very peaceful.”
“It was peaceful on the day of the board meeting, but a nightmare on the 13th, the day before. Tom kept Nancy out of the loop until then. She knew something was happening, but had no idea that we were going to call for her replacement. When Tom told her that I was going to takeover her position she burst into tears and had a fit of hysteria. He’d never seen her like that before, although some of us had a few times, when things didn’t go her way.”
THE BOOK ALSO DEALS WITH FICTIONAL CHARACTERS WHOSE PROBLEMS AND ADVENTURES REPLICATE THOSE OF THE REAL PEOPLE WHO WORKED ON THE AIRCRAFT AND SYSTEMS, AND WHO HAD THE SAME SORT OF HUMAN PROBLEMS.
“Tough on Tom, eh?”
“Yeah, it went on for about an hour, with her alternating between crying and making threats, or so he tells me. Then all of a sudden, she bursts into tears again, throws herself into his arms, and says she was glad it was over. She said she would voluntarily resign, and throw her votes, even all her proxies, which ever way Tom said.”
“Must have been a relief for everybody.”
“Yeah, except for the fact that I don’t really want the job. I hate the paperwork involved. But Tom refuses to take it, says he’s too hot-headed, and he’s right. But I wish you had stayed with the firm, and you could take over. You are a lot better at this modern stuff”—he waved his hand around the equipment packed fuselage of the AWACS—“than I am.”
“Tom would never have stood for that, Harry. Nancy was bad enough, I would have been intolerable to him.”
They talked for a while about the Shannons, then Harry asked
“How many of these big buckets do you think they’ll build??
“Not enough—too expensive. The Air Force is talking about buying sixty-four; if it winds up with half that it will be lucky. But we’ll sell a few to the NATO countries, and Japan, maybe. ”
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF PACKING IN BACKGROUND MATERIAL THAT THE READER MIGHT NOT OTHERWISE BE EXPOSED TO.
“Well, I can see where your strategy for your company is better than ours. We get in on the initial production run, but you are there for the updates.”
Rodriquez nodded. “Exactly, it’s the same with the B-52, they’ll constantly be adding new equipment to the old air frames.”
DITTO—USUALLY THIS IS OVERLOOKED.
Harry Shannon shook his head.
“Yeah, we’re doing better at that but we’ve got a long way to go. You know, thiis business about adding new equipment to old air frames,, Bob. Dad told us exactly that so many years ago. Somehow Tom and I never got the message. We’ve got to shift gears faster if we are going to make it.”
“That’s what worries, me, Harry. We’ve already seen how much better you are doing. You‘ve picked up a few contracts lately that we thought we had sewn up. The Vance Shannon name still means a lot. If you guys stick to your new business plan, you’ll do well, even though the market’s in a decline. And the better you do, the tougher it will be for AcTon. It is not easy as it is; we are locked into some long-term development stuff that is all outlay and no income for years.”
Harry knew he was talking about the GPS system, but didn’t let on. There was no way Vance Shannon Incorporated was getting into something as far out as the GPS, not for awhile, anyway.
“Well, we blew it on the Space Shuttle. We haven’t had any contracts so far, but we’re working with Rockwell to help on some of the maintenance efforts down at Cape Canaveral. There should be some money in that.”
THIS SHOWS HOW I TRY TO WORK IN ADVANCED SCIENTIFIC EQUIPMENT WITH REAL WORLD BUSINESS PROBLEMS. LOCKHEED DID EXACTLY THIS –PROVIDE SERVICE AFTER IT HAD MISSED OUT ON MAKING THE SPACE VEHICLE.
“Yeah, we’re looking at it too.”
They were quiet as the AWACS finally touched down, its tires squeaking on the long Tinker runway.
Then, embarrassed, Rodriquez asked,
“You hear anything from Mae?”
“Nancy and Anna do. I’m glad you brought that up. Mae’s been asking about working with us. How would you feel about that?”
THIS BRINGS UP TWO ELEMENTS OF DIVERSITY REPRESENTED IN THE BOOK . RODRIQUEZ IS DRAWN FROM MIGUEL FERNANDEZ, AN HISPANIC ACE IN KOREA WHO BELIEVED HE WAS BROUGHT HOME BECAUSE THE AIR FORCE DID NOT WANT SOMEONE OF HISPANIC DESCENT BECOMING THE LEADING JET ACE, AND IT MADE HIM (AND THUS RODRIQUEZ) RESENTFUL. THE OTHER ELEMENT OF DIVERSITY IS THAT RODRIQUEZ IS MARRIED TO MAE, A BEAUTIFUL BLACK AMERICAN WOMAN OF GREAT CAPABILITY AND CHARM. RODRIQUEZ IS ALSO RUINING HIS MARRIAGE BY BEING A WORK-A-HOLIC.
Rodriquez bristled. “She doesn’t need to work for anybody, not with the settlement I made and the alimony I pay her. I can’t believe that she asked you about a job. It’s humiliating.”
“She didn’t ask me, Bob, or Tom, she’s too sensitive to do that. But she’s been friends with Jill and the other two girls for years. It’s sort of natural that she’d ask them for a job if she wanted to work. And she knew that Jill would go to Nancy for her. Maybe she’s bored.”
Shaking his head angrily, Rodriquez yelled
“No it’s not. She’s doing this deliberately to embarrass me. There are a million other places she could work.”
Shannon had never seen Rodriquez like this, not even when Tom used to ride him hard. Furious, hand shaking, spittle spraying from his lips, he pressed his face up close to Harry’s.
THESE PEOPLE—THE SHANNONS, RODRIQUEZ, MAY, THEIR FAMILIES—ARE ALL FRIENDS, BUT JUST AS IN REAL LIFE, EMOTIONS GET IN THE WAY OF THEIR FRIENDSHIPS.
“I can’t stop you, but it would be a big mistake for you to hire her. How would it make me look? I can’t keep her as a wife, and she goes off to work to my old company so she can work for a competitor. It’s like you guys can get along with her and I can’t.”
Shannon didn’t speak for a while. Rodriquez was ready to fly off the handle right there on the flight line. After a bit, he said,
“I understand how you feel Bob. You were first rate with us about selling your stock. We’ll abide by your wishes on this. But I tell you, it won’t be easy, I’ll get pressured from Jill and Anna for sure, and maybe Nancy too.”
Rodriquez left without saying goodbye. It was totally unlike him. He was reacting more to Mae’s asking the Shannon’s for a job than he had to her divorcing him.
As Shannon walked toward Base Operations, carrying his battered B-4 bag and his parachute, he whistled softly to himself.
“Thank God this didn’t come up before he sold us the shares.”
MANY OF THE BIG AEROSPACE DEALS—BENDIX ATTEMPTED TAKE-OVER OF MARTIN MARIETTA, SIMONS’ ATTEMPTED TAKEOVER OF LOCKHEED, THE MERGER OF LOCKHEED AND MARTIN MARIETTA, ARE REFLECTED IN THE BOOK.
What Page 69 didn’t cover were some of the flying action scenes in the book, nor the incredible series of technological advances that are detailed, including GPS, stealth, the Space Shuttle, and much more.