Fate Is the Hunter: A Pilot's Memoir
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Ernest K. Gann’s classic memoir is an up-close and thrilling account of the treacherous early days of commercial aviation. In his inimitable style, Gann brings you right into the cockpit, recounting both the triumphs and terrors of pilots who flew when flying was anything but routine.
bothered to make any check against wind or course. I looked at his chart which covered the ocean area between the California coast and the Hawaiian Islands. There was not a mark on it. "I think the skipper would like a fix right now. We've got a position report coming up in ten minutes." As if Dudley didn't know, I thought—or certainly should know. "Sure." He picked up his octant and watch, then turned off the light. After several collisions with the bulkhead in the forward passageway and a
The occasional pairs of pilots passing to their planes nod distantly. I am alone, the new boy in the neighbourhood. A refuge suitable to my bitterness proves impossible to find on a windswept airport in spring, even though its black cinder surface is anything but inspiring and the surrounding landscape marsh and grimy factories far from beautiful. So I stand for a long time slewing one foot across the cinders, my vicious self-censure relieved only by watching an occasional plane land or take
relief to the monotony. Now the soprano whine sent out from the range station below changes in character. The volume increases very suddenly. There is an even quicker fading away as we pass through the cone of silence and then the tone begins once more. Beattie, who has actually been adjusting the volume on our radio, turns his hand over and points at the floor with his thumb. I nod sagaciously for I must always maintain the sham—that I know what must happen and when it must happen. I cannot
away, and hold it locked within this antagonistic bubble which is three inches from my nose. Finally tensed into position, I began clicking at the octant's trigger, holding to Dubhe as if I would shoot it down. The trigger activated a pencil which made vertical marks on a small metal drum. These I averaged and noted the resulting altitude on a scrap of paper together with the time according to Greenwich. I repeated the process with the star Arcturus which hung as a thrilling amber blob,
puckered his nose and shook his head. "Jesus . . . they must be cold." There were four aeroplanes in this formation, all C-47's. We spread out in a line across the clear sky so that our total point of view would cover a maximum area. The farthest plane to the west was barely a speck against the afternoon sun and at dmes became invisible. We communicated easily by voice radio and until we had long passed the ice-laden St. Lawrence, kept up a constant chatter like so many loquacious geese in