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Flying Stories

If you wish to really master a subject or skill, you should have a broad knowledge about its history and its varieties. These are books — just some of many — that combine exciting aeronautical reading with many messages. Learn from the pilots that have gone before us, they fly different airplanes in different times, but we all fly in the same sky.

 

Fate is the Hunter
Ernest K. Gann

"It was frequently impossible to be sure the DC-2 had actually touched the earth. Nor would there be any further commotion of thumps and blasting engines. He would allow the landing roll to continue without application of either power or brakes until the final, sensuous result was that the twelve-ton airplane eased to a halt exactly in line with the waiting ramp. Throughout the entire show — and it was nothing other than sheer display — a passenger could have held a brimming cup of coffee in his lap without spilling a drop. There was never an indication of effort or special concentration on Ross's face. At these moments he was the true virtuoso, performing for his own joy, lost in it, and thus quite unaware of his audience."

Ernie is hired at an airline — never directly stated but it's American Airlines — to be a DC-2 co-pilot. He learns the line on AM-21, a mail route between Cleveland and Newark. He advances to captain, heads to South America, and is part of the Second World War Air Transport Command. This is the classic book of serious airline flying, up close, up front. Real life reading like a novel.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Richard Bach

"Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there's a reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!"

Short. Sweet. And deceptively simple. The story of a seagull that wants to do more than fly straight and level on the way to and from feeding. What aerobatics are possible for a 'gull? What perfection of flight, of life, is possible?

Barefoot In The Sky
Sheila Scott

"But if flying becomes one's vehicle to seeking more in life, then the inner rewards are great enough to make me unwiling to give them to give them up after just a few steps toward the blue expanse disguising the vastness of the universe. I am compelled to return again and again, striving to get higher and stay longer — at least in mind — for though I feel dwarfed by it, I find a purity of thought not always possible to recapture on the ground. I become as one with my aircraft — I am she."

The Autobiography of a gentle English lady who flew many record-breaking flights around the world and over the North Pole in the middle sixties and early seventies. Her airplanes are 'Myth'  (modified Tiger Moth), 'Myth Too' (single-engine Piper Comanche) and 'Mythre' (Piper Aztec). She overcomes prejudices and weather, disbelief and mechanical failures.

Fire and Air: A Life On The Edge
Patty Wagstaff

"In exacting timing and technique, I wanted to avoid even the smallest mistake, the least bobble, the most imperceptible of errors. These were flying's challenges that pushed me to excel, that gave me pure delight…. A match of one-on-one, mastery of the flying and mastery of the mind require equal amounts of effort and time. Mastering flying means simply gaining an athletic skill, but mastering the mind is equivalent to trying to hold a dollop of quicksilver."

Another autobiography of a lady pilot. This time one who's alcoholic, dysfunctional parents send her to a string of girl schools around the world, but finds flying in Alaska and then becomes the first female to win the U.S. Aerobatic Championship. Her plane is in the National Air and Space Museum; her story of struggle, passion, reward and flying is here.

No Visible Horizon: Surviving the World's Most Dangerous Sport
Joshua Cooper Ramo

"For truly great pilots, the plane is simply an accouterment and the human body is an inconvenience. You fly your brain. Your brain flies the plane. This was the place I wanted to go, a field where the line between the physical and the mental was dissolved by pure speed and crushed by many times the force of gravity. A place of pure faith."

The sport is unlimited aerobatics, the pilot an editor at Time magazine. This is not a wanna-be or some outside academic, or the grunts of a pilot who can fly but not write. This is inside the cockpit, mind and soul of a pilot wrenching the maximum from himself and his plane. Loving, flying, dying.

My Secret War
Richard S. Drury

"A pilot lives in a world of perfection, or not at all."

The war is Southeast Asia in the late 1960's. The airplane is the A-1 Skyraider, a slow propeller-driven job in a world of fast Phantoms. And the secret is that this is still one of the best books for taking you into a combat zone cockpit.

Wind, Sand and Stars
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"And through this tool we will find again the old nature, the nature of the gardener, the navigator, the poet."

Intensely autobiographical aeronautical adventures told by a pilot who is also philosopher and poet. Saint Ex was an airline pilot for the Lat — co — re Company in the 1920's flying between Toulouse, France, and Dakar, Africa. It becomes a route we should all take several times.

 

 

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The best and fastest way to learn a sport is to watch and imitate a champion.

— Jean-Claude Killy

You're involved in the action and vaguely aware of it, but your focus is not on the commotion but on the opportunity ahead.  I'd liken it to a sense of reverie — not a dreamlike state but the somehow insulated state that a great musician achieves in a great performance.  He's aware of where he is and what he's doing, but his mind is on the playing of his instrument with an internal sense of rightness — it is not merely mechanical, it is not only spiritual; it is something of both, on a different plane and a more remote one.

— Arnold Palmer

Not being tense but ready. Not thinking but not dreaming. Not being set but flexible. Liberation from the uneasy sense of confinement. It is being wholly and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.

— Bruce Lee

May serenity circle on silent wings and catch the whisper of the wind.

— Cheewa James, Modoc Indian

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you.  Never excuse yourself.

— Henry Ward Beecher

The greatest man chooses right with the most invincible resolution, is calmest in storms, and is most fearless under menaces and frowns.

— Senaca

Do every act of your life as if it were your last.

— Marcus Aurelius

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.

— Rumi

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