Flight of Passage

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Overview

In the Summer of 1966, Rinker and Kernahan Buck - two teenaged schoolboys from New Jersey - bought a dilapidated Piper Cub airplane for $300, rebuilt it, and piloted it on a record breaking flight across America - navigating all the way to California without a radio, because they couldn't afford one. Their trip retraced a mythical route flown by their father, Tom Buck, a brash, colorful ex-barnstormer who had lost a leg in a tragic air crash before his sons were born - but who so loved the adventure of flight ...
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Flight of Passage: A True Story

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Overview

In the Summer of 1966, Rinker and Kernahan Buck - two teenaged schoolboys from New Jersey - bought a dilapidated Piper Cub airplane for $300, rebuilt it, and piloted it on a record breaking flight across America - navigating all the way to California without a radio, because they couldn't afford one. Their trip retraced a mythical route flown by their father, Tom Buck, a brash, colorful ex-barnstormer who had lost a leg in a tragic air crash before his sons were born - but who so loved the adventure of flight that he taught his boys to fly before they could drive. The journey west, and the preparations for it, become a figurative and literal process of discovery; as the young men battle thunderstorms and wracking turbulence and encounter Arkansas rednecks, Texas cowboys, and the languid, romantic culture of smalltown cafes, cheap motels, and dusty landing strips of pre-Vietnam America. The brothers have a lot to resolve among themselves, too - as Kern, the meticulous, dedicated visionary; and Rinker, the rebellious second son, must finally come to understand and depend on each other in the complex way that only brothers can. Most of all, Flight of Passage is a timeless story of fathers and sons. These two young men must separate from their difficult, quirky father - literally by putting a country's distance between them - but they do it on their father's terms: in an airplane. As he looks back from the perspective of now being a father himself, Rinker Buck's tale of two young men in search of themselves and their country becomes a book about the eternal enigma of family - of the distance and closeness of generations, of peace lost so that understanding can be gained - and it is explored with a storytelling power that is both brave and rare.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"It was the best summer of our lives and there would never be another one like it," Buck recalls in this gripping adventure story from June 1966. That was when, at age 15, he and his 17-year-old brother, Kern, flew from New Jersey to California and back in a Piper Cub that they had painstakingly restored, becoming the youngest aviators to fly coast to coast. Freelance writer Buck successfully combines details of this flight with a chronicle of the family interaction that inspired the trip. The eldest sons of magazine publisher Tom Buck, father of 11 children and a barnstorming pilot whose flying days ended when he lost a leg in a 1946 plane accident, Rink and Kern were raised to fly. This coming-of-age memoir, replete with colorful anecdotes about open-cockpit planes and their pilots, is a pleasure to read. Photos. BOMC, QPB and Reader's Digest Condensed Books selections; audio rights to BDD Audio. June
Library Journal
In 1966, the 15-year-old author and his 17-year-old brother flew across the United States in a Piper Cub. This book recalls their adventure, from conceiving the idea, persuading their father to allow it, preparing the airplane, and taking the trip itself. As a memoir, it is enlivened by adult reflection on youthful feelings and thoughts. Buck is a skilled writer who, even at that age, was familiar with the classics of aviation literature by Saint-Exupry and Ernest Gann. His description of crossing the Rockies at Guadalupe Pass in Texas echoes the best scenes of Saint-Ex's short stories and Gann's novels. But Buck has fashioned a rite of passage, involving the important presence of the boys' father, Tom Buck, an old barnstorming pilot who, although a successful magazine editor, never forgot his glory days. Buck sensitively describes the father-sons and brother-brother relationships through the filter of intense and confused emotions of a teenager. Highly recommended for all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/97; BOMC selection.]Mary Ann Parker, California Dept. of Water Resources Law Lib., Sacramento
Kirkus Reviews
An old-fashioned air adventure in the tradition of Charles Lindbergh's celebrated autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis.

Buck, who has written for New York magazine, among other publications, revisits the crowning moment of his youth, the newsworthy 1966 coast-to-coast trek undertaken with his older brother, Kernahan, in a reconditioned Piper Cub. Young Kern Buck, soon after getting his pilot's license at 17, cooked up the idea of flying all the way from New Jersey to California in the two-seat, hand-crank, tailwheel airplane, which the brothers would purchase for $300 and meticulously restore over a long winter. Rinker's presence would be required as copilot and navigator in the radioless Cub. After settling on a southern route through Texas by way of Arkansas, the brothers steered "stack to stack" through the steel smog along the river mills at Pittsburgh, with overnights in Indiana, Arkansas, and Texas, reporters picking them up for interviews along the way. The memorable pass through the Rockies, near El Paso, where the pilots battled oxygen starvation as they approached the Guadalupe Pass, is the dramatic centerpiece of the book. From the distance of early middle age—he is now near the age of his father at time of the flight—the author filters his impressive tale through a prism of sympathy for the passionate, damaged man who taught his sons to fly and whose own barnstorming yarns inspired their unusual feat. Says the author, who like his brother sought a way to make a place for himself beyond the shadow of Buck Sr., "The simple audacity of our trip, our complete naiveté and nonchalance, astounds me still."

This enchanting story of youthful accomplishment, which includes masterly insider descriptions of flight, should reach a broad audience.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786861002
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 6/1/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2007

    Should Be a Classic

    If you love to fly, love old planes, or if you grew up loving the sight and sound of crop dusters weaving over your house as the worked - this is a great book. It's about more than two boys' adventure cross-country. It gives a look into an era and a unique culture.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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