Arts and Entertainment

Bellevue author's book recounts growing up in the jet age

An author born and raised in Bellevue has released her debut book about the Jet Age and growing up as the daughter of a Boeing test pilot. “Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot’s Daughter” is a look at the people behind Boeing’s prolific commercial jet development from the post-WWII era to the 1980s, framed by the author’s life in a company family.

Rebecca Wallick is the daughter of the late S.L. “Lew” Wallick Jr., Boeing’s chief test pilot during the introduction of the “7” series of jetliners. The elder Wallick was the pilot or co-pilot on the first flights of the 727, 737, 747SP and 767. In 1999, he was inducted into the Museum of Flight’s Pathfinder Hall of Fame.

“The biography part of this book isn’t just about my father, but all the men who worked on these jetliners and were a part of this age in flight from the ‘50s to the ‘80s,” Wallick said. “I’ve been researching and working on this book for over 10 years and I was able to interview many of these men who worked with my father, who are older. I’m thankful for how lucky I was to sit down with them and hear their stories while it was still possible.”

The quality Wallick’s father and other test pilots shared was a “joie de vivre,” as she put it, a zest for life and adventure they passed on to their children. Wallick described herself and her brothers as water skiers, snow skiers and general outdoor adventurers.

It was perhaps that quality of derring-do that inspired test pilots of the era to push their craft to the limits. Flight enthusiasts may remember Alvin “Tex” Johnston’s 367-80 barrel roll over Lake Washington in an August 1955 test flight. Though a historical moment, the stunt led Boeing to forbid its test pilots from rolling their planes, under threat of losing their jobs.

“Probably the biggest reveal was that Tex Johnston wasn’t the only one to roll one of those big jets,” Wallick said. “Whenever we asked our dad if he had rolled a plane, he would respond, ‘No, that was Tex.’ It wasn’t until I attended his retirement party in 1986 that they played footage of one of his test flights and, yeah, there it was.”

Her father admitted to the roll formally in a later group interview with his peers. His colleagues were shocked, she said, but a few of them admitted to sneaking in their own rolls.

“To me, it’s kind of funny how hesitant they are to admit to it, even years later,” Wallick said.

Readers interested in taking in a snapshot of the personal side of Boeing’s post-war jet development can find “Growing Up Boeing” available in print and e-book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and SmashWords.

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