A potentially fascinating autobiography of one of the aviation and business giants of the mid-20th century that, because of lackluster writing and pervasive superficiality, never gets off the ground. The aviatrix's life possesses all the elements needed to make an almost casebook study of a female's rise to power and fame during the first three-quarters of this century. Possibly illegitimate, raised in poverty in a southern mill town, scrabbling for money in a series of demeaning jobs, Cochran (even the name was adopted by the young woman who was totally ignorant of her natural parents) eventually improved her lot until she was one of the two best-known women pilots in America, as well as the head of a sprawling cosmetics empire. Married to a financial wizard, she mingled with the leading military, industrial, and political figures of her time. What is missing in Cochran's narrative is frankness. She is outspoken--often rudely so--about others, but insists on drawing a veil over her own inner feelings and personal relationships. The reader gets the feeling that, for Cochran, those around her--husband, friends, business associates--exist only in relationship to herself. The introduction of the by this time overworked ""oral history"" device--here referred to as ""Other Voices""--fails to save the situation. Most of the reminiscences by such friends as Chuck Yeager and Stuart Symington read like testimonials suitable for a memorial service. Flattering, obviously sincere, even possibly true (though one wonders)--and utterly unrevealing. All in all, frustratingly, infuriatingly earthbound.