Stayin’ Alive is the name of a 1977 hit song by the Bee Gees. It was about life in the big city, and the radio stations played it so much I became thoroughly sick of it. It still airs occasionally. The song popped into my head recently when researching the origin of the quote, “Any landing you can walk away from is a good one.” (It was first penned by Gerald R. Massie in 1944 after the crash-landing of his B-17 while serving as a photographer.)
The site where I found this is called Great Aviation Quotes – Piloting, and there were a number of gems on the list. Taken together, they give a pretty good idea of what flying is really all about. First and foremost, it is about staying alive. Therefore I am offering up some of my favorites. They speak for themselves.
“Get rid at the outset of the idea that the airplane is only an air-going sort of automobile. It isn’t. It may sound like one and smell like one, and it may have been interior decorated to look like one; but the difference is — it goes on wings.”
— Wolfgang Langewiesche, first words of Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying, 1944.
“My first shock came when I touched the rudder. The thing tried to bite its own tail. The next surprise I got was when I landed; she stalled at a hundred and ten miles an hour.”
— Jimmy Haizlip, commenting on his only flight in the Gee Bee.
“From a safety standpoint, in our view one of the things that we do in the basic design is the pilot always has the ultimate authority of control. There’s no computer on the airplane that he cannot override or turn off if the ultimate comes. In terms of any of our features, we don’t inhibit that totally. We make it difficult, but if something in the box should behave inappropriately, the pilot can say ‘This is wrong’ and he can override it. That’s a fundamental difference in philosophy that we have versus some of the competition.”
— John Cashman, former Chief Test Pilot, Boeing 777.
“Great pilots are made not born… A man may possess good eyesight, sensitive hands, and perfect coordination, but the end result is only fashioned by steady coaching, much practice, and experience.”
— Air Vice Marshal J. E. “Johnnie” Johnson, RAF.
“I have flown in just about everything, with all kinds of pilots in all parts of the world — British, French, Pakistani, Iranian, Japanese, Chinese — and there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between any of them except for one unchanging, certain fact: the best, most skillful pilot has the most experience.”
— General Chuck Yeager
“A pilot who says he has never been frightened in an airplane is, I’m afraid, lying.”
— Louise Thaden
“If you’re faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible.”
— Bob Hoover
“Mistakes are inevitable in aviation, especially when one is still learning new things. The trick is to not make the mistake that will kill you.”
— Stephen Coonts, naval aviator and author.
“It’s when things are going just right that you’d better be suspicious. There you are, fat as can be. The whole world is yours and you’re the answer to the Wright brothers’ prayers. You say to yourself, nothing can go wrong… all my trespasses are forgiven. Best you not believe it.”
— Ernest K. Gann, advice from the “old pelican,” The Black Watch, 1989.
“Prepare for the unknown, unexpected and inconceivable… after 50 years of flying I’m still learning every time I fly.”
— Gene Cernan, last man to walk on the moon.
“You’ve got to expect things are going to go wrong. And we always need to prepare ourselves for handling the unexpected.”
— Neil Armstrong, 2005 movie Magnificent Desolation: Walking On The Moon.
“I enjoyed my service flying very much. That is where I learned the discipline of flying. In order to have the freedom of flight you must have the discipline. Discipline prevents crashes.”
— Captain John Cook, British Airways Concorde Training Captain.
“If you are bored flying, your standards are too low.”
— Lauran Paine Jr., article in Sport Aviation, June 2014.
“Cloud-flying requires practice, even if you have every modern instrument, and unless you keep calm and collected you will get into trouble after you have been inside a really thick one for a few minutes. In the very early days of aviation, 1912 to be correct, I emerged from a cloud upside down, much to my discomfort, as I didn’t know how to get right way up again. I found out somehow, or I wouldn’t be writing this.”
— Charles Rumney Samson, A Flight from Cairo to Cape Town and Back, 1931.
“There is no reason to fly through a thunderstorm in peacetime.”
— Sign over squadron ops desk at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, 1970.
“There is no reason to fly through a thunderstorm.”
— Sign over squadron ops desk at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand, 1970.
Anything you would add to the list?