This evening, while wandering back to the computer, my ears caught the words “Tex Johnston” coming from a TV show my wife was watching called “Pawn Stars.” Mindless TV drivel for the most part, but my sweetie listens to this stuff while playing games or emailing on her laptop. I think it’s called multi-tasking.
Anyway, Tex Johnston caught my attention because he is one of the most famous civilian test pilots who ever lived. He worked for Boeing and flew test flights in the 40s, 50s, and 60s on the B-47, B-52 (the first to do so in that ageless bomber), and the Dash 80. For those unschooled in aviation history, the Dash 80 is the prototype of the Boeing 707 and its military version, the KC-135, an aerial tanker which is still in service.
In 1955, Tex demonstrated the Dash 80 over Seattle Lake to an audience gathered along the shoreline and proceeded to do a barrel roll on the deck with an aircraft that was destined to become America’s primary jet passenger carrier for nearly two decades. A fucking barrel roll on the deck with a heavy lift jet aircraft in its test phase in front of an invited audience that, had it failed, might have sunk the company. Thus began Tex’s legend in the aviation community.
Fast forward to “Pawn Stars” and Tex’s son, who had just wandered into the Las Vegas pawn shop where the show is filmed. Sonny Boy, who was skinny and balding with a bad comb over, was hawking some of Tex’s memorabilia. After all was said and done, he got $290 for Tex’s stuff and said, “Well, that’ll be enough to fill up the gas tank on my brand new SUV.”
That’s it. Two minutes of “fame” for a total asshole who dishonored his father just for a tank of gas. I wanted to throw up.
Alvin “Tex” Johnston With Someone Who Looks Familiar