…. flying for fun

The first review written. First Published May 2012

The Armchair Pilot suggests …. flying for fun

Being tucked away for a few months of academic endeavour has lead to the last resort of reading about flying as the nearest thing to actually doing it. At least the pre-flight checks for “Armchair Flying” are much simpler enabling it to be done in the odd free moments that are available, but it can only be second best to flying for real, even when the “fuel” is a rather pleasant snifter (remember to drink responsibly, don’t get caught drunk in charge of a paperback folks!)

Having “flown” his way through several good books the Armchair Pilot would like, with your permission, to share some titles that have made for pleasant, if literate, journeys should you wish to follow sometime.

As a starter I’d like to share some social flying, doing it for the fun of it…well mostly

The Big Journey…

Recent PPL decides to hitch-hike around the world by whatever flying means possible, and in doing so conjures up some aviation history along the way. The book is Absolute Altitude by Martin Buckley, and he must be a real pilot because the picture on the back cover shows him wearing a pilot’s leather jacket (bet he’s got a big watch too).

Presented in two parts, the first part is structured around the syllabus of learning to fly presented with light but dry humour. For those of us who were taught spin avoidance, the chapter on Extreme Attitudes is misnamed but useful, it’s actually a short history of spinning with a dash of other aerobatic techniques thrown in for good measure. Probably best to stay away from gin & tonic whilst reading this chapter.

In contrast the second part is about the journey taken through hitches on a myriad of different aviation services. For those of you who’ve landed at Stornaway, the chapter on flying the mail at night in a Shorts 360 makes an interesting comparison to a daylight landing in calm weather. Ski-landings in New Zealand, and a Cessna Caravan ride over the Sudan are there, but this book’s mix of aviation past and travelogue prevent it from becoming a “I flew here..then I flew herẹ..” list, instead it’s a tour that links together bits of our aviation world in a new and interesting way.

The twists and turns of the various chapters make this a fun book, and the chapters stand up on their own so you can pick it up & put it down without losing context.

Around America by Luscombẹ…

Disaffected New York journalist tired of looking at the small patch of blue that she can see between the skyscrapers, Mariana Gosnell, decides to take a sabbatical and build up some hours by flying her Luscombe around the US for three months before writing about it in “Zero 3 Bravo”

New York? Writer? She?

Sounds like a potential car crash between the gibber of Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City” meeting the philosophical angst of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The chapter list doesn’t help, suggesting a long & tedious description of flying in short hops from one small town to another.

Yet this is a delightful book lamenting on how small town US is being lost, and with it the old ways of flying from town to town. Along the way we are introduced to so many characters involved with aviation, and the out of the way airstrips. As someone who has only seen the US via business trips to the large cities, this book introduces a whole new world that I’ve never had the pleasure to see. But be warned, it’s not all sweetness & light, it’s a hard living for the people she meets and a storm in Texas claims the lives of two pilots while she is there.

If you’ve got to spend some time armchair flying, sometimes known by its alternative: “airline seat flying”, then I’d suggest a bit of forethought in getting either of these provides an alternative to the run-of-the-mill paperbacks at the airport.


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