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The Famous Barrel-Roll

The Famous Barell Roll, Pilot Tex Johnston, Co-Pilot Jim Gannett and the above photo was taken by Dix Loesch from the observer seat

View a 1:43 minute clip of "Tex" Johnston's Famous Barrel Roll
with commentary by Tex himself.

Tex Johnston: Jet Age Test Pilot

Tex Johnston (1914-98) was one of America's significant aviation pioneers, and he deservedly became a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
He grew up a classic
Boeing President William M. Allen greets Tex in Washington DC, Nov. 1955
all-American boy and experienced a pretty good rags-to-riches life, which included a paper route and saving to buy his first glider and his first motorcycle. But his passion was flying-that's where he ended up no matter how many detours he took or how high he rose . His first exposure to an airplane came as a kid of 11 when a barnstorming pilot offered a free ride to the locals, and he was the only one to take the offer. From that point he was committed, and he devoted his free time to the study of airplanes. Still, his route from Kansas to the hall of fame was circuitous and unusual in that it did not include military flying. His journey included training and employment as a mechanic, catch-as-catch-can flight instruction, and-finally-civilian flight school. He moved from barnstorming to the Apollo program without making a fatal mistake in an accident-prone profession. With a little bit of luck and a lot of skill (knowledge, training, and practice), this Kansas boy who wanted to be a test pilot eventually made it without fighting in either World War II or Korea.

Two Kansas Boys, Tex Johnston and President Dwight Eisenhower
Over his career, he flew or tested just about every significant aircraft, from biplanes to the NON-supersonic XP-59-the first American-made jet. As he rose through the ranks at Bell and Boeing, he played a key role in making planes faster and safer. Even when his job title put him behind a desk, he kept flying until his projects went into space.
Tex Johnston was one of the pioneers of military and commercial aviation. He made helicopters functional for oil exploration and made the Boeing 7-series planes safe and successful for passenger flight. As this memoir brings out, developing new machines entails lots of mistakes (and people do die), but Tex was always in control and able to explain why the others screwed up. From almost the beginning, he was the pilot who figured out where the other guys went wrong and adjusted the training and manuals accordingly
Col. Guy Townsend and Tex Johnston after the first flight test of the YB-52
He knew his planes better than most, and he could get the designed performance out of them. He could, after all, double-barrel-roll a 707.
Much of the text is devoted to step-by-step description of the various moves in each of the planes-a pilot's pleasure but not of particular interest to the general reader. Further,the narrative sometimes reads as if it came directly from the operator's manual or the pilot's postflight report. The language and much of the material is surprisingly impersonal. Stilted prose and noticeable detachment from the subject are unusual in a work written with the help of an experienced writer. Still, the book holds the reader's interest. The hardcover version was originally published in 1991; this paper reissue is useful in bringing a particular era in aircraft development to a larger audience.

John H. Barnhill, PhD
Tinker AFB, Oklahoma





The YB-52 in a low high speed fly by demonstration


A letter from a Bill Haynes...

Thank you for providing the bio of Tex and allowing an old pilot to enjoy again the sight of the 707 rolling.
Tex was the Boeing manager for the MinuteMan missile test force when I commanded it at Cape Canaveral in 1966.He and I, while serving as missileers then, shared
an aircraft flight test background .
I am writing to suggest a minor correction in the narrative. The XP-59 was the rather limited US prototype jet all right, but it was most assuredly NOT supersonic! In fact, it never got beyond the protoype stage. The first operational US Air Force jet aircraft was of course, the P-80, later designated as the F-80. But it was also not capable of super sonic flight, even in a dive. The first operational USAF aircraft capable of sustained horizontal flight above Mach one was the F-100. I have considerable flying time in both the F-80, its T-33 trainer derivative and the F-100, all of which were excellent aircraft.

Bill Haynes
Wm E Haynes Lt Col USAF (Ret)
Aerospace Systems Analyst


Tex Johnston and Co-Pilot Jim Gannett with flight engineer Tom Layne
Tex and Boeing chief of flight test John Fornasero at XB-47 cockpit ladder, Wichita, Kansas, 1948

"City of Renton"

Boeing’s 1st 707 production model of the KC-135 tail number 53118 christened “City of Renton” is presently on display at McConnell AFB, Wichita, Kans.



Left: Boeing test Pilots Tex Johnston and Dix Loesch (on ladder) prepare to take the first KC-135 up for its first flight on Aug. 31, 1956

"City of Renton" display at McConnell AFB


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