Sixty years ago, cars and aeroplanes were deathtraps waiting to happen. Today, both are safer than they were, thanks in part to a pioneering US Air Force doctor's research on seatbelts and ejection seats. The exploits of John Paul Stapp (1910-1999) come to life in this biography of a man who was once blasted across the desert in his Sonic Wind rocket sledge, only to be slammed to a stop in barely a second. The experiment put him on the cover of Time magazine and allowed his swashbuckling team to gather the data needed to revolutionise car and aeroplane design. From the high-altitude balloon tests that ensued to the battles for car safety legislation, Craig Ryan's book is as much a history of the transition into the Jet Age as it is a biography of the man who got us there more safely.
Craig Ryan is the author of acclaimed books on extreme adventure and scientific discovery in the stratosphere as well as the coproducer of the documentary film The Angry Sky. He lives in Portland, Oregon.