New Though Familiar World

Ernest K. Gann should be known to everyone who designs to climb aloft into the heavens. If you’re one and you don’t know who Gann is, get thee to a library or bookstore or you cannot be taken seriously.

Here’s something he wrote in the foreword to Island in the Sky from 1944:

Before take-off, a professional pilot is keen, anxious, but lest someone read his true feelings he is elaborately casual. The reason for this is that he is about to enter a new though familiar world. The process of entrance begins a short time before he leaves the ground and is completed the instant he is in the air. From that moment on, not only his body but his spirit and personality exist in a separate world known only to himself and his comrades.

As the years go by, he returns to this invisible world rather than to earth for peace and solace. There also he finds a profound enchantment, although he can seldom describe it. He can discuss it with others of his kind, and because they too known and feel its power they understand. But his attempts to communicate his feelings to his wife of other earthly confidants invariably end in failure. Flying is hypnotic and all pilots are willing victims to the spell. Their world is like a magic island in which the factors of life and death assume their proper values. Thinking becomes clear because there are no earthly foibles or embellishments to confuse it. Professional pilots are, of necessity, uncomplicated, simple men. Their thinking must remain straightforward, or they die—violently.

The men in this book are fictitious characters but their counterparts can be found in cockpits all over the world. Now they are flying a war. Tomorrow they will be flying a peace, for, regardless of the world’s condition, flying is their life.

First class writing, what?