Bob Buck's life and career encompass the entire history of American commercial aviation; he's flown biplanes, jumbo jets, and everything in between. Inspired by the legendary Charles Lindbergh, Buck flew solo from coast to coast at the tender age of sixteen. Numerous other flight records were set, leading to his hiring by now-departed TWA in 1937. His achievements in aviation unparalleled, he now shares his incredible life of flight with the world.
What's not to love about flying? For all the numbing routine, constant danger and bad food, Buck can't find much to complain about. He's been flying since the 1920s and still today, at age 87, takes the occasional glider for a spin. His autobiography is a thumbnail history of the air transport industry, which he's been a part of practically since its inception. The book skips most of Buck's personal life and focuses on airplanes. Buck relates his wide-eyed first flying experience at 16 with an enthusiasm normally relegated to the pages of romance novels. He quickly became a copilot and eventually a pilot for nascent Missouri airline TWA. His descriptions of these early flights in bare-bones vehicles have a white-knuckle intensity, especially when the weather turns bad (one passage tells of the few options pilots had when dealing with ice forming on their windshields: opening a small window at 10,000 feet and scraping it off with a putty knife was one of them). During WWII, Buck flew a special weather-research B-17 around the world and after the war became one of the airline's most senior pilots. In the course of his life, he flies over most of the known world and meets fellow air aficionados Tyrone Power and Howard Hughes. Buck writes in an appealing, no-nonsense manner that only occasionally becomes labored the literary equivalent of one too many friendly punches in the shoulder but this is an exciting memoir from an endearingly obsessed man who has been just about everywhere and can't wait to tell how he got there, and in what kind of plane and at what altitude. (Apr. 11) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A former chief pilot for TWA and the holder of a world distance record for light planes, Buck is also the author of Weather Flying, a classic text for pilots. Here he describes his long life in flying, which mirrors the evolution of aviation in America in its scope and versatility. Buck began his flying career during the age of biplanes and Charles Lindbergh, when navigation consisted of looking down at roads and other landmarks. By 1937 he was a pilot for a major airline. His career lasted for 37 years and included stints as the pilot for several of Hollywood's biggest stars. He conducted weather research during World War II and received the Air Medal as a civilian from President Truman. The author has a knack for storytelling, and his straightforward narrative flows easily from one chapter to the next, giving the reader a feel for what has been called "the golden age" of flying. While this blow-by-blow account may appeal primarily to subject specialists, collections that include aeronautical history will welcome its personal approach to a similar subject. Mark Ellis, Albany State Univ., GA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A longtime commercial pilot recounts his association with airplanes, from open cockpits to 747s, in a voice displaying the surety of a talented surgeon. Buck got his pilot's license when he was a teenager, only three years after Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis from Brooklyn to Brittany. Aviation was still in its infancy: you flew by the seat of your pants, landed on grass runways (if you were lucky)-and forget about radio contact. It was the era of barnstorming, but although Buck pulled a few stunts of his own (he was the youngest pilot to fly coast-to-coast), he was no cowboy. His goal was to become a master, not a casualty, and he takes readers on his journey up through the license grades, learning sight navigation and weather flying, honing his judgment and instincts, making the plane an extension of his person. While he explains the evolution of aviation, Buck works into the story just enough technical material-when high pressure forms over northern Europe, why the tropopause is defined by a layer of dust, the inevitability of being pounded by an intertropical front-to make you realize how difficult it is to fly any airplane. He also talks fondly of decompressing between flights with long walks and good meals in various European cities, and of his days piloting around celebrities for Howard Hughes, who pretty much owned TWA-which in turn pretty much owned Buck. What may well be the most captivating chapter finds Buck walking us from pre-flight through takeoff on a 747, a dance of such intricate choreography that readers will be infused with a decided measure of either comfort or gloom. Illuminates not just the history of commercial aviation, but the whole mysterious process ofgetting a plane off and back on the ground.
Walter J. Boyne, former director, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum An absolutely brilliant book by an aviation pioneer! Bob Buck's beautiful writing style conveys his intimate and loving knowledge of aviation, evoking the best of the past...while keeping us solidly grounded in the present. Buck's memoirs put him in the first rank of aviation writers with Ernie Gann and Charles Lindbergh. Any airman will love this book, and any writer will envy it.
Reeve Lindbergh North Star over My Shoulder provides the connection between the very first pioneers, like my father, and the brave band of young aviators who followed him. [Bob Buck] writes so eloquently about his life and work....It's a wonderful story. A real delight to read.
Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post [Buck] has written a strong, vivid, and wholly engaging memoir of his flying life...a lively, informative book that loses not a bit of its wonder and excitement now that aviation has been transformed from science fiction into everyday reality.