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Speaking of flight – some books on that topic. April 17, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Been reading a fine, almost absurdly but somehow appropriately lyrical, book on the subject Skyfaring : A Journey with A Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker. A year or two ago I read the excellent Cockpit Confidential from Patrick Smith and this volume – perhaps because it takes a very different approach (a good review here from the NYT – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/books/review-mark-vanhoenackers-skyfaring-a-journey-with-a-pilot-on-joy-of-flight.html?_r=0) is a great companion piece. What comes through very strongly from both authors is the sheer love they have as people for the very process of flying. And, as noted in the other post on the matter today, the curious familiarity and strangeness of it all is very well represented in both. Both are highly recommended.

Next stop? William Langewiesche’s Fly By Wire. Any other recommendations?


1. gendjinn - April 17, 2016

The grandfather was an early FO in Aer Lingus and had many amusing anecdotes. He talked about flying into Middle Eastern countries in the 50s, opening up routes for Aer Lingus. Everywhere Aer Lingus went in the former British empire they were loved. There’s a story of an entire cockpit crew given gold Rolexes just for being the first AL flight into the country. I think it was Bahrain or Qatar.

But then that’s balanced by his stories of Lebanon, I’ve only ever seen the same pain when he talked about events like Bloody Sunday. The tragedy of that country, of what was lost.


WorldbyStorm - April 18, 2016

That’s remarkable gendjinn. I’ve heard some similar stories myself as regards Lebanon from people who were there pre civil war.


2. An Sionnach Fionn - April 18, 2016

Saw this video recently, a gyro-stabilized camera system on a SAAB D&S Gripen, and was pretty stunned by the quality.

Liked by 1 person

3. Michael Carley - April 18, 2016

I’m not a huge reader of pilot’s biographies, given that they’re not necessarily well-written and often aimed at the Bingo-Two-Zero demographic, but Eric Brown’s memoirs Wings on My Sleeve is exceptional. He will probably always hold the record for most types of aircraft flown, as a test pilot during and after the war (he rated some Italian and Russian ones very highly) and he writes well about his time. What is also fascinating, and I would have loved to read more, is his time as Naval Attache in West Germany in the 50s, including a couple of stories about the residual Nazism in the German Navy.

For aviation and economic development, Empire of the Clouds: When Britain’s Aircraft Ruled the World by James Hamilton-Paterson is a great account of the British aircraft industry at a time when it was turning out more, more interesting, aircraft than almost anybody else. It doesn’t take much to also read it as a story of (post-) imperial decline, and of the way British industry was neglected and destroyed by its mediocre management and an incompetent bourgeoisie (c.f. cars and motorcycles).

For fiction, Ascent by Jed Mercurio (Scrubs) is mainly about the Soviet space programme, but the accounts of flying in Korea are great.

And for high literary fiction, I only recently read James Salter. The Hunters is a great novel, which happens to be about combat flying in Korea, written by a fast jet pilot who had been there.


WorldbyStorm - April 18, 2016

Me neither, its flight itself I find most interesting. Thanks for the leads. They sound great. I’ve read Ascent, really liked it.


Liberius - April 18, 2016

Ascent has been only my reading list for a while, is it good enough to jump it up the pack?


Liberius - April 18, 2016

*been on…


Michael Carley - April 18, 2016

Yes. Well written and both the technical and cultural detail are right.


Liberius - April 18, 2016



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