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Publisher's Summary

Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson led the design of such crucial aircraft as the P-38 and Constellation, but he will be more remembered for the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. His extraordinary leadership of the Lockheed "Skunk Works" cemented his reputation as a legendary figure in American aerospace management.

©1985 Smithsonian Institution (P)2019 Tantor

What listeners say about Kelly

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Memoir of a Legend

This is a memoir of an aviation leader. A few years ago, I read “The Skunk Works” by Ben R. Rich about the Lockheed Research Department. Kelly was responsible for the design of the famous Constellation and the P-38. He also was responsible for the U-2 and SR71 Blackbird.

This is the story of the Skunk Works at its peak (1950-1990) by one of its founders. I think reading both books gave me a balanced insight into the halcyon days of aviation at Lockheed. Both books are well balanced, but Johnson’s book is a bit more technical. Johnson tells the story of his life as a child in Michigan to working at Lockheed. The book was originally published in 1988. This is a great book about a brilliant aeronautical engineer and the early days of aviation.

The book is six hours and six minutes. Johnny Heller does an excellent job narrating the book. Heller is an actor and a well-known audiobook narrator. He has won many awards such as the Audiophile’s Golden Voice Award and Best voice of 2008, 2011, 2014, 2018. He was also selected as one of the fifty voices of the 20th Century. His list of awards is too numerous to list.

18 people found this helpful

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Read this after "Skunk Works", didn't disappoint

The only low points are where the author starts covering details of his personal life that are entirely unrelated to aviation history. I don't really care to hear his justifications for remarrying a month after his wife's death.

3 people found this helpful

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Brilliant men and brilliant machines

Though the content frequently left me wondering if the author has switched subjects and the narrator rarely shifted tone or pace, I find this story to be a fascinating one about the early days of Lockheed and about what it takes to build things better. It isn't too long of a listen; granted my frequent rewinds to try to catch what was just said lengthened the time, but I still considered it worth it.

2 people found this helpful

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A bit impersonal, but some nice content

While much has been told elsewhere, there is some unique content here that make this book a valuable read.

1 person found this helpful

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Still a good listen

Even after 35 years the life of this engineer is amazing. It’s entertaining to hear predictions for the year 2000. Although I wished for greater technical detail, Johnson’s inside view of early aviation and developments into the 1980s is fascinating. Narration was poor, too fast, and at times confusing. In print, publishers put breaks and pauses on the page for a reason that was apparently lost on this narrator. I won’t bother with another title narrated by this individual.

1 person found this helpful

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a fascinating insight into the life of Kelly Johns

This was really a fascinating book especially the technical parts. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was I had an expectation, perhaps unrealistic, that this would be more of a technical book and talk more about the programs in detail.

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Ear burner

Loved the book. Anyone that's an airplane fan will benefit from this historic story of a man that demonstrated how to use common sense, which is rare in today's society.

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only mildly amusing

the book seems more self-serving. Others have accused Johnson of not actually writing this book. I don't know that I'll go that far. put the book seems very self-serving. the descriptions of the development of the P39, the SR-71 and U2 are of Interest. much of the book is just over glorified bragging.

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Kelly Johnson was one of a kind!

His resume is unmatched as the father of the P-38, U-2, and SR-71. Kelly was a great leader and a great American.

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A must read for anyone interested in engineering

This is not a book about all the story of all the planes he worked on, that would need to be a 30+ hour book at least. He covers some about a lot of them. This is a book about is 1 in a billion life and his perspective of it. The narration isn't all that exciting but the stories are and the perspective you get makes it worth it!

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Profile Image for MR J R Stagg
  • MR J R Stagg
  • 01-13-20

For the engineering out there

Great listen, Great insight. The elusive skunk works somewhat unraveled, the engineering pitfalls and problem solving was impressive to hear.

1 person found this helpful