Adventures in Flying

by Jack Elliott, Alexander & Ray, Gillette, N.J., 2007,$29.95

It probably sounds elitist to say this, but I believe readers can usually tell when an aviation book is written by a pilot. There is an unmistakable ring of authenticity, not only when it comes to the events described but also extending to the precise use of technical terms and the context. That kind of authenticity and depth of understanding is exactly what makes Jack Elliott’s Adventures in Flying such a superb read for the widest possible audience.

A veteran pilot and an aviation writer for more than 40 years, Jack brings all his knowledge and experience to a series of fascinating stories that range from the Wright brothers to the Concorde and beyond. In each he demonstrates his understanding of flight and, perhaps more important, the outstanding individuals who have transformed a dangerous experiment into one of the most important social phenomenons of our time.

Jack was the only person who could write this book; few authors have met the incredible catalog of people he covers. Further, it took his comprehensive vision to create the architecture of the book, which consists of 27 chapters, each one devoted to a particular facet of this great adventure we call flying. The brilliance of his concept lies in the fact that for the most part, he tells of the feats of “ordinary people” who found within themselves the greatness flying can bring.

Jack knew many famous people, such as the gregarious test pilot Herb Fisher and the master aerobatic pilot Leo Loudenslager. He was also privy to little-known facts about the great names—including Colonel and Mrs. Charles Lindbergh, Jimmy and Joe Doolittle and others—so his anecdotes about them keep you eagerly turning pages. But it’s the stories of the relative unknowns that make Adventures in Flying so inspirational.

All pilots will love this book, but I believe it has a more important function. Anyone who knows someone they would like to see embark upon an aviation career should buy this book as a gift. It might give that someone a jump-start into a wonderful life.


Originally published in the November 2008 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here