Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Aviation Pioneers Who Built the Airlines

In writing my recent book, Stalking the Sky, I wanted to give readers a sense of aviation history after the invention of the airplane that had led up to an era of giant airlines flying giant planes.

Here's an excerpt:
There was no denying that Ben Buck was larger than life in many ways. Well over six feet tall by age fourteen, he had lied about his age to join the Flying Service in 1917, the same day he had seen his first biplane chug suddenly out from behind a hill and across the sky. He had chased it all the way to town. During the war, swooping and wheeling like the cavalry he replaced, he had gunned down his share of Fokkers and had had his share of fighter planes shot out from under him. He had barnstormed in the twenties—like so many who could not rid themselves of the addiction to air and skill and the flirtation with death—and then had flown mail to South America. On the spindly backs of those mail routes, Ben Buck had built an airline, leaving it only to fight a second war, when he had helped put a worldwide military air transport network together almost from scratch. After that he was "the General" to most of his employees, "Big Ben" to those who had known him longer, "Buckie" to a few old-timers still captaining Global Universal’s flights around the world, and the "Old Man" to all.
Until the early seventies, he could do no wrong. Global Universal grew to become America’s premier air carrier. But in recent years higher fuel and operating costs and lower ticket sales had hurt all of the airlines' revenues. Global Universal had been hard hit. Only last week Financial World had asked in its cover story, "Has Big Ben Finally Struck Out at Global Universal?" . . .

In the midst of Will’s musing, Ben Buck suddenly spun around.

"Took you long enough."

It was always a mistake, Will reminded himself for the dozenth time, to consider Ben Buck in terms of the past. Buck lived in the most immediate present.

Read more: Stalking the Sky

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