Hard Air: Adventures from the Edge of Flying

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Hard Air is a book about extraordinary flying—flying under conditions that keep fighters on the carrier deck and rockets on the launch pad—a book about rescue missions and long, lonely flights to gather urgently needed information, about flights to places where no one should be flying: into hurricanes, firestorms, and deep, engine-killing cold. As a pilot himself, W. Scott Olsen brings to these tales a sense of wonder and adventure as well as a genuine, firsthand understanding of the dangers and rigors of such flying.
In prose that deftly conveys the grit and grace of his subjects, Olsen transports us into the air with hurricane hunters who fly into the planet’s fiercest storms, with helicopter pilots racing emergency patients to clinics, with Canadian pilots who fly supplies to the Arctic, and with heavy air tanker pilots who drop water and slurry on remote wildfires. Their stories afford a rare look into the working lives of pilots whose methods are extreme and missions are simple: get there, do the job, and get out alive.
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Editorial Reviews

"It's hard to imagine a more gripping book for aviation buffs than Olsen's depiction of some of the hairier aspects of service networks usually taken for granted and seldom properly noticed by the media."

— Roland Green, Booklist

William Langewiesche
"Hard Air is an exceptional read, and a rare piece of work, as much sheer artistry as deep exploration of flight. Olsen is a skillful writer, and it shows here, start to stop."

-William Langewiesche, author of Inside the Sky

Booklist - Roland Green

“It’s hard to imagine a more gripping book for aviation buffs than Olsen’s depiction of some of the hairier aspects of service networks usually taken for granted and seldom properly noticed by the media.”—Roland Green, Booklist

William Langewiesche

Hard Air is an exceptional read, and a rare piece of work, as much sheer artistry as deep exploration of flight. Olsen is a skillful writer, and it shows here, start to stop.”—William Langewiesche, author of Inside the Sky
KLIATT - Raymond Puffer
The subtitle to this book—adventures from the edge of flying—is especially appropriate. Most pilots soon become aware of the aerodynamic limits of their planes, and the dangers of flying anywhere near the edge of the "performance envelope." Young pilots, in fact, quickly learn that it is inherently dangerous even to approach the limits of an aircraft's capabilities. This reviewer well remembers once trying to see just how fast his venerable Cessna 140 would fly, and the shivering and groaning of the main spar that ensued long before the red line on the airspeed indicator was reached. Having said that, there are many pilots who find that their professional duties must take them perilously near the safety limits of their mounts. The Air Force's famed Hurricane Hunters, based in Florida, routinely fly through fierce cyclones that push both planes and airmen to their limits. Similarly, air-and-sea rescue pilots of all kinds commonly push themselves beyond any reasonable limits in order to save lives. And those who fly air tankers and helicopters into mountain wildfires prove every day that valor in the skies is not reserved for combat fliers. Author Scott Olsen is a combination of pilot and professor of English, in Minnesota. Most of his literary output is tinged by the world of flight, but on a rarified level of classroom and seminar. In preparing for this book, however, he talked his way into joining the flight operations described above as an observer. Consequently, he was able to provide exciting and appealing first-person accounts of flights and aerial missions that very few people ever experience. Never exploiting danger and natural drama for their own sakes, hewrites in an appreciative and matter-of-fact style that will leave an unforgettable impression upon ground-bound readers and veteran pilots alike. Reviewer: Raymond Puffer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

With Gravity: The Allure of Distanceand At Speedalready to his credit, Olsen (English, Concordia Coll.) focuses his latest book on pilots flying on the edge of civilization and on the edge, and sometimes in the midst, of danger. The first-person account begins and ends with the author's own adventures in learning to fly, and in between he discusses his involved coverage of dangerous flights at the North Pole, hunting hurricanes, providing airborne ambulance service, and fighting fires. Though Olsen is not doing the flying himself, his narrative is reminiscent in tone of Beryl Markham's early African aviation adventures chronicled in West with the Night. The book might have been even more engaging if Olsen himself was the pilot, but he does a good job of capturing, in a journalistic interview style, the experiences of the men and women who routinely fly these adventurous missions. The stories are good enough to inspire future pilots. Recommended for public and academic libraries with travel and/or aviation collections.
—Sara Tompson Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803211445
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 246
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

W. Scott Olsen is a professor of English at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He is editor of the literary journal Ascent and author of several books, including At Speed: Traveling the Long Road between Two Points (Nebraska 2006) and Gravity: The Allure of Distance.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    Grasping, The cover page stands out and enhances the curiousity of the reader

    Having flown the DEW line and with the Hurricance Hunters for the USAF. I thourghly enjoed the accurate account of these high profile missions. I was in Pensacola, FL when Hurrican Ivan came ashore. Rest assured I would have been more comfortable in that C-130 than I was on the ground.

    My son was involved with the smoke jumper aircraft in Alaska and the authors tale coinsides with his accounts.

    Great book, the attention to detail makes the overall book authentic and enjoyable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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