Uncle Gus: from American Sky: Good Landings and Other Flying Adventures

The summer before my first solo, a massive heart attack nailed my Uncle Gus in the month of August, exactly two months before his forty-sixth birthday. My aunt said a mirror cracked and a clock stopped at the moment of his death. Perhaps the leap from his body startled the world on his departure. (more…)


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A Perfect View: from American Sky

From my hotel room overlooking Lambert Field in St. Louis, I was thinking of the pilots who had influenced me. It had been their humor, their insight that lightly tapped the back of my hand as I moved the throttles forward, a tap of confidence, a playful nudge to move forward on the loneliest of nights.

I had a perfect view of the airport. Airliners and corporate jets took the runway, each producing a roar on takeoff that paid tribute to thunder and hurricane winds. I thought of Frank Corbi, who flew as maintenance chief on the early jet aircraft. He once told me how the other mechanics begged him to explain over and over again what it was like, how jet aircraft were different from the piston ships of the first five decades of flight. Smooth, he would say. The way you fly in a dream.


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DNA: from American Sky

Flying is woven throughout the double helix of every human cell. Desire leaped into birds and poets distilled the experience into verse and melody. Every dream of flight has struck the planet’s base elements until an impression began to form. And like a footpath worn in stone by centuries of prayer, the craft became visible.

The first airplanes were mud pies: the smell of the barn, baling wire, fabric, the spray of oil and gas to lubricate and to power. I heard once of a farmer and his son building their own plane and soloing without instruction.

Not long after the Wright Brothers, a citizen army of pilots and mechanics arose from the American countryside. Fifty years after Kitty Hawk, a young man would purchase a P-51 Mustang on a rainy day in Louisville, and then fly home, low and fast, to a grass landing strip in northeastern Ohio.


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