Saturday, November 7, 2009

Read This: Airplane Stories

I love flying. There's a certain romance to strapping yourself to a giant, powerful machine and hurtling through the air. The rituals, traditions, and processes involved often seem arcane, and so are fascinating. However, arcane processes are notoriously difficult to articulate, particularly in writing. Short stories or vignettes are perhaps the best way to share the rich feelings flying inspires. I present several sources of excellent aviation writing, all worthwhile reads.

Flight Level 390 is a blog written by an anonymous airline pilot. Tantalizingly laced with jargon, the posts are nonetheless accessible and very well-written. The author clearly has a romantic connection with his trade, and his topic never fails to be interesting, even poignant.

Published by the Naval Safety Center, the print document: Approach magazine is a treasure-trove of dramatic incidents. The quality of the articles is consistent, an amazing accomplishment since they are written by various Naval Flight Officers. Most of the incidents thus come to us directly from those involved. Because of the extreme nature of military flying, the intensity of the writing is interesting, but often documents tragedy. Now distributed on the web in PDF format, Approach is outstanding. Bravo Zulu!

My last selection is difficult to read, but not because of the writing, because of the format. On the Straight Dope Message Board, a regular poster named Broomstick has a series of posts titled 'Airport Stories:' that document her personal experiences learning to fly and flying. Very accessible writing, an interesting subject, and excellent narration make these stories compelling. The only problem is that the individual posts are buried in tons of other writing. I provide here a list of links to some of her posts, but there are more in the archives of the message board. You now don't have to be a member to search, so you can mine for more if you like:

Airport Stories: The New Guy Is Still Generating Problems
Airport Stories: Shopping for Taildragger Lessons
Airport Stories: Whole Lotta Pre-Flighting Goin' On
Airport Stories: Bouncing Tuna Salad Sandwhich
Airport Stories: Heiligenschein
Airport Stories: Tailwheel on Ice

Airplanes on Whidbey Island.

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