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James Brown: Above & Beyond

Dream Jobs 2008

3 min read

James ”J.B.” Brown had just taken off in an F-22 Raptor on a routine test flight when 730 oC air escaping from a loose connection in one engine began melting wires and hydraulic and fuel lines. Protocol dictated that he shut down the ailing engine and fly on the healthy one, but he remembered that an F-117 had been lost by just such an action--the aircraft tumbled out of control while the pilot ejected to safety. Brown's plane was too close to the ground for him to eject. Thinking fast, he idled the bad engine and lowered the landing gear. Then, on final approach, the other engine started to fail. With just seconds to spare before the jet lost power, he landed the aircraft, shut it down, and ran from it in case there was a fire. Happily, there wasn't.

”Had I followed the emergency procedures verbatim, I could have ended up in a world of hurt,” he says in a jovial Alabama twang. ”But, hey, I get to fly one of the most powerful airplanes in the world. I'm a 53-year-old guy doing stuff teens dream about.”

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Special Report: Top Tech 2021

After months of blood, toil, tears, and sweat, we can all expect a much better year

1 min read
Photo-illustration: Edmon de Haro

Last January in this space we wrote that “technology doesn't really have bad years." But 2020 was like no other year in recent memory: Just about everything suffered, including technology. One shining exception was biotech, with the remarkably rapid development of vaccines capable of stemming the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year's roundup of anticipated tech advances includes an examination of the challenges in manufacturing these vaccines. And it describes how certain technologies used widely during the pandemic will likely have far-reaching effects on society, even after the threat subsides. You'll also find accounts of technical developments unrelated to the pandemic that the editors of IEEE Spectrum expect to generate news this year.

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