What a gift it is to fly. To fly and write is an even greater gift. For those of us who find our home in the sky, we have been graced with fellow aviators who have taken the time to put pen to paper to deliver us, through words, back to our place of belonging.

In the pages of their books these “skywriters” will take you along in the cockpit with the crew of a stricken airliner en route from Honolulu to San Francisco in Ernest K. Gann’s “The High and The Mighty” or journey along with Gann as he learns the airline pilot trade under the tutelage of Capt. Ross in “Fate is the Hunter.”

Maybe sit in the shade of a biplane in a Midwest summer hayfield listening to Richard Bach and Donald Shimoda as they spin wisdom in Bach’s “Illusions.” We can fly with a World War II B-17 crew from a base in England, across the channel to bomb a ball-bearing factory in Germany, suffering along with the group commander as he agonizes over his responsibility for the mission and the caring for his men in Beirne Lay, Jr. and Sy Bartlett’s “Twelve O’ Clock High.”

These gifted wordsmiths can carry us back to Kitty Hawk to stand, leaning into the wind with Wilbur, willing the airplane to fly as Orville makes the first powered flight (120 feet he flew, 93 feet shorter than the wingspan of the plane I fly for my work). We can fly, weighted with fatigue, struggling to keep our eyes open with Charles Lindbergh somewhere over the Atlantic. Or accompany Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles as they and their cabin crew perform their “Highest Duty” safely (miraculously?) ditching an A-320 in the Hudson.

Not long ago, in a second-hand book store, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of Nevil Shute books. One was “Rainbow and the Rose,” another “Slide Rule” complete with worm holes in the pages and some little critter still living in one of them. My wife made me keep the books sealed in a Ziplock bag under the seat in my truck. It was two weeks before I could finally sneak them in the house.

Each summer, at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, I scavenge the Fly Market and usually find several months worth of reading in out-of-print books; I even find some new ones with the author still attached at the Author’s Corner. What an opportunity it is, just to say thanks to those who keep the beacons lit for us.

It’s a magical thing, to join up on the wing of a good writer and fly with them for a while. Through their words, we are introduced to friends we’ll never meet and live lives we’ve only dreamed of. A gift, indeed.


Matt Ferrari, who now drives a 747 around the world for a living, is a CFI, CFII, MEI, and an A&P with IA.



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