Science: Portrait of an Ace

What makes a good jet-fighter pilot? During the Korean war, U.S. Air Force commanders kept wondering why some jet pilots, with the same educational backgrounds and physical qualifications as others, were so outstandingly successful. The brass had good cause to wonder: of the 823 MIG-158 shot down by the Fifth Air Force, well over a third were bagged by an elite handful of 38 jet aces, representing only 5% of all the Air Force fighter pilots who saw combat.

Last week, after a six-month study of 31 jet aces and 62 of their less successful contemporaries, the Air Force's Psychologist E....

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