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Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved.

There was science in each curve of an airfoil, in each angle between strut and wire, in the gap of a spark plug or the color of the exhaust flame. There was freedom in the unlimited horizon, on the open fields where one landed. A pilot was surrounded by beauty of earth and sky. He brushed treetops with the birds, leapt valleys and rivers, explored the cloud canyons he had gazed at as a child. Adventure lay in each puff of wind.

I began to feel that I lived on a higher plane than the skeptics of the ground; one that was richer because of its very association with the element of danger they dreaded, because it was freer of the earth to which they were bound. In flying, I tasted a wine of the gods of which they could know nothing. Who valued life more highly, the aviators who spent it on the art they loved, or these misers who doled it out like pennies through their antlike days? I decided that if I could fly for ten years before I was killed in a crash, it would be a worthwhile trade for an ordinary life time.

— Charles A. Lindbergh
'The Spirit of St. Louis.'


I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things . . .

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


To put your life in danger from time to time... breeds a saneness in dealing with day-to-day trivialities.

— Nevil Shute, 'Slide Rule:
The Autobiography of an Engineer'.


You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky.

— Amelia Earhart


More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.

— Wilbur Wright


Never stop being a kid. Never stop feeling and seeing and being excited with great things like air and engines and sounds of sunlight within you. Wear your little mask if you must to protect you from the world but if you let that kid disappear you are grown up and you are dead.

— Richard Bach
'Nothing by Chance,' 1963.


As soon as we left the ground I knew I myself had to fly!

— Amelia Earhart
after her first flight in an airplane,
a ten minute sight-seeing trip over Los Angeles, 1920.


I ask people who don't fly, "How can you not fly when you live in a time in history when you can fly?"

— William Langewische
2001


We contrive to make the invisible air support us, we relinquish the security of feet on the ground because flying is demanding, delightful, beautiful: because we love it. Very few of us are actually crazy, and nearly all of us manage the risks as well as we can, but we all willingly trade some of our security for the immeasurable beauty of the sky.

— Paul J. Sampson


Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace.

The soul that knows it not knows no release from little things.

Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,

Nor mountain heights, where bitter joy can hear

The sound of wings.

— Amelia Earhart


But to fly is just like swimming. You do not forget easily. I have been on the ground for more than ten years. If I close my eyes, however, I can again feel the stick in my right hand, the throttle in my left, the rudder bar beneath my feet. I can sense the freedom and the cleanliness and all the things which a pilot knows.

— Saburo Sakai
Tokyo, 1956
Japan's greatest living ace with 64 kills,
who was banned from flying at the end of W.W. II.
From the foreword to 'Samurai!'


Flying alone! Nothing gives such a sense of mastery over time over mechanism, mastery indeed over space, time, and life itself, as this.

— Cecil Day Lewis


Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the word, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite.

— José Maria Velasco Ibarra
President of Ecuador.


You can always tell when a man has lost his soul to flying. The poor bastard is hopelessly committed to stopping whatever he is doing long enough to look up and make sure the aircraft purring overhead continues on course and does not suddenly fall out of the sky. It is also his bound duty to watch every aircraft within view take off and land.

— Ernest K Gann
'Fate is the Hunter.'


Before I went to the Mess I made the excuse I wanted to get something out of my aeroplane, and climbed into the cockpit; I did this, however, to be able to say good-bye to the old dear; and I really felt dreadfully sorry to part with her. I get very attached to aeroplanes, and I am one of those people who think that they aren't so inanimate as we are told they are.

— Charles Rumney Samson
'A Flight from Cairo to Cape Town and Back,' 1931.


Flying is a lot like playing a musical instrument; you're doing so many things and thinking of so many other things, all at the same time. It becomes a spiritual experience. Something wonderful happens in the pit of your stomach.

— Dusty McTavish


"Just try and remember," I said slowly," that if God had intended men to fly He'd have given us wings. So all flying is flying in the face of nature. It's unnatural, wicked and stuffed with risks all the time. The secret to flying is learning to minimize the risks."

"Or perhaps — the secret of life is to choose your risks?"

— Gavin Lyall
'Shooting Script,' 1966.


My father had been opposed to my flying from the first and had never flown himself. However, he had agreed to go up with me at the first opportunity, and one afternoon he climbed into the cockpit and we flew over the Redwood Falls together. From that day on I never heard a word against my flying and he never missed a chance to ride in the plane.

— Charles Lindbergh
'We,' 1928.


I can't remember the time when airplanes were not a part of my life and can't remember ever wanting anything so much as to fly one. Once I had started I had to keep flying.

But it was not until I was seventeen that I finally got into an airplane. At that time I felt I had come to the place where I belonged in the world. The air to me was what being on the ground was to other people. When I felt nervous it pulled me together. Things could get too much for me on the ground, they never got that way in the air. flying came into my mind like fresh air into smoked up lungs and was food in my hungry mouth and strength in my weak arms. I felt that way the first time I got into an airplane. I wasn't nervous when I first soloed. There was excitement in me, but it was the nice kind you get when you're going home after a long, long unhappy time away.

— Major Don S. Gentile
USAAF.


Don't let the fear of falling keep you from knowing the joy of flight

— Lane Wallace
'Flying' magazine, January 2001.


They say it's better than sex. It's so much better. It's amazing.

— Angelina Jolie
pilot and actress, regarding flying.


Flying is like sex - I've never had all I wanted but occasionally I've had all I could stand.

— Stephen Coonts
'The Cannibal Queen'


I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty. That the reasons flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying.

— Amelia Earhart.


You are brave. Not brave because you are going to be facing any physical dangers; you are not really going to. I mean brave in another, deeper sense. By being on this flight you have shown that you are willing to explore your own identity to discover what might lie within you. Your human clay has not hardened, and you are also willing to explore your own perceptions of the universe, knowing that you may be forced to set aside many comfortable and cherished assumptions. The idea that you must approach honestly and directly is that flying very dramatically makes the pilot solely responsible for his own life.

— Harry Bauer
'The Flying Mystique:
Exploring Reality and Self in the Sky,' 1980.


I had that morning gone to say my farewells to Broadhurst and to the RAF. I had made a point of going to HQ at Schleswig in my 'Grand Charles'. Coming back I had taken him high up in the cloudless summer sky, for it was only there that I could fittingly take my leave.

Together we climbed for the last time straight towards the sun. We looped once, perhaps twice, we lovingly did a few slow, meticulous rolls, so that I could take away in my finger-tips the vibration of his supple, docile wings.

And in that narrow cockpit I wept, as I shall never weep again, when I felt the concrete brush against his wheels and, with a great sweep of the wrist, dropped him on the ground like a cut flower.

As always, I carefully cleared the engine, turned off all the switches one by one, removed the straps, the wires and the tubes which tied me to him, like a child to his mother. And when my waiting pilots and my mechanics saw my downcast eyes and my shaking shoulders, they understood and returned to the dispersal in silence.

— Pierre Clostermann
'The Big Show (Fortunes of War)' 1951.


Pilots track their lives by the number of hours in the air, as if any other kind of time isn't worth noting.

— Michael Parfit
'The Corn was Two Feet
Below the Wheels', Smithsonian Magazine, May 2000.


What freedom lies in flying, what Godlike power it gives to men . . . I lose all consciousness in this strong unmortal space crowded with beauty, pierced with danger.

— Charles A. Lindbergh


A man can criticize a pilot for flying into a mountainside in fog, but I would rather by far die on a mountainside than in bed. What sort of man would live where there is no daring? Is life itself so dear that we should blame one for dying in adventure? Is there a better way to die?

— Charles A. Lindbergh


I don't understand these people anymore, that travel the commuter-trains to their dormitory towns. These people that call themselves human, but, by a pressure they do not feel, are forced to do their work like ants. With what do they fill their time when they are free of work on their silly little Sundays?

I am very fortunate in my profession. I feel like a farmer, with the airstrips as my fields. Those that have once tasted this kind of fare will not forget it ever. Not so, my friends? It is not a question of living dangerously. That formula is too arrogant, too presumptuous. I don't care much for bull-fighters. It's not the danger I love. I know what I love. It is life itself.

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
'Wind, Sand, and Stars,' 1939.


To fly! to live as airmen live! Like them to ride the skyways from horizon to horizon, across rivers and forests! To free oneself from the petty disputes of everyday life, to be active, to feel the blood renewed in one's vein — ah! that is life. . . . Life in finer and simpler. My will is freer. I appreciate everything more, sunlight and shade, work and my friends. The sky is vast. I breathe deep gulps of the fine clear air of the heights. I feel myself to have achieved a higher state of physical strength and a clearer brain. I am living in the third dimension!

— Henri Mignoet
'L'Aviation de L'Amateur; Le Sport de l'Air,' 1934.


Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying.

— Neil Armstrong

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