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William Langewiesche seems drawn to those vast, open landscapes that challenge both body and soul. In Sahara Unveiled, he traversed the length of that inhospitable desert from Algiers to Timbuktu, along the way limning an intimate portrait of the environment and the people who inhabit it. In Inside the Sky Langewiesche meditates on a different wilderness as he explores the ramifications of flight. "Mechanical wings allow us to fly," he writes, "but it is with our minds that we make the sky ours."
And it is chiefly flight's workings on our perceptions and our imagination that interests Langewiesche. "Flying at its best is a way of thinking.... It lets us see ourselves in context, as creatures struggling through life on the face of a planet, not separate from nature, but its most expressive agents. It lets us see that our struggles form patterns on the land, that these patterns repeat to an extent which before we had not known, and that there is a sense to them." Flying has, in fact, changed humankind's perception of itself. Discussing the borderlands along the Rio Grande, Langewiesche points out that from the air it is impossible to disregard the great differences in wealth and environment between Mexico and the United States:
"The narrowness of the view is a problem particular to the ground. Few tourists ever went to Presidio, but those who did often got the astonishing impression that the border there hardly existed. Residents, too, because they freely forded the river, could share that illusion. But from the air the view always widens.... What the ordinary aerial view really shows is exactly the opposite of a unified world."
Langewiesche writes eloquently and at length about flight's influence on politics, environmentalism, culture, and human psychology, punctuating these musings with fascinating accounts of real people--everyone from Otto Lilienthal, a 19th-century German engineer who died while testing a hang glider, to Walton Little, a computer engineer and private pilot who happened to be an eyewitness to the 1996 Valujet air disaster. Bad weather, crowded airports, plane crashes, and the physics of flying all form part of the tapestry as Langewiesche weaves history, science, philosophy, and his own experiences as a pilot into this tough, tender paean to the miracle of flight. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The son of a pilot who wrote a classic book on aerial navigation, Langewiesche spent much of his childhood in the passenger seats of his father's and friends' aircraft, contemplating the process of flight and gazing at the landscape below. A cockpit prodigy who flew solo at 14, Langewiesche has been both a professional pilot and an author (Sahara Unveiled), and is also a foreign correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly. Writing with poetic authority, he uses this "meditation" to unfold, partially, the mysteries of flight, and to recommend flight as a metaphor for understanding elements of the human condition. Occasionally, the metaphor seems only tangentially connected to the subject, though overall this is an enlightening, often riveting work. What happens to an aircraft and its contents during a turn will surely prompt many an amateur physics experiment aboard commercial airliners. A familiar and curious effect of flight, in which passengers and pilots lose their senses of gravity and direction, is explored in its most tragic form, as in the case of a 1978 Air India flight from Bombay to Dubai, whose pilot, a 22-year veteran, flew "a perfectly good airplane into the water." In quiet prose whose steady meter helps build a sense of mounting terror, Langewiesche explains how the pilot managed to ignore working instruments while relying on a single faulty one. Elsewhere, an in-depth examination of the infamous demise of Valuejet Flight 592, which caught fire and plunged into the Everglades in 1996, presents an eloquent and powerful argument for re-regulation of the airline industry. Part expos?, part idyll, this is a meditation to savor.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Mr. Langewiesche is quite a brilliant gentleman. This book is both interesting and odd. I doubt that everyone would find this book to be an enjoyable read, though I did. Read morePublished 1 month ago by K. Thurm
The author seemed to be preoccupied with himself and his thesaurus.Published 6 months ago by J. Amos
Not the escapism I hoped for.
For those of you who insist on reading this, do so at your own risk: while the book has its moments, and brings you into the cockpit of... Read more
I love this book. Years ago I had read his fathers amazing,"Stick and Rudder", the ultimate primer for a budding pilot, as I was learning to fly. Read morePublished on August 16, 2009 by M. Walton
I enjoyed this book immensely. I read it on the plane which seemed a fitting place to be led through experiences of someone who really knew the sky. Read morePublished on July 19, 2002
This book chagned the way I think about flying. In general it is well written and has the added value of being written by someone who is obviously intimately familiar with the... Read morePublished on May 21, 2001 by Joshua Hershberg
Langewiesche is a gifted writer. It is a daunting task to put into words the emotion and spirit involved in flying, but he does a fantastic job of adding spiritual dimension to... Read morePublished on October 18, 2000
Some of the puzzlement generated by this book and expressed in the reviews may be generated by the fact of Langewiesche's genre. Read morePublished on September 12, 2000 by Edward G. Nilges
An collection of essays united mainly by their general theme of perspective, this book reminded me of John McPhee's work, except that the author is both a flyer and a writer, and... Read morePublished on April 24, 2000