Friday morning—mid-November, 1959. Hesitantly I reached for the
doorknob to leave the New York Office of my United Air Lines friend and
boss, Marshall Faye. My hand which gripped the knob, I realized pensively,
would never be called upon again to use my thirty-seven years of flying skill
and know-how, would never hold the controls of an airplane again.
It mattered no longer that I had been the first airline pilot to fly the
inaugural flights of the DC-4, DC-6, and DC-7. Within months, I was slated
to fly the DC-8, the first jet used in commercial aviation. But all of those
honors and dreams were shattered.
Marshall and I walked into the hallway. Everyone in the office knew that
I was leaving. Several friends and lots of well-wishers were there, but I had
to get away from them. My eyes kept filling up with warm tears. I wanted to
be alone with my sadness.
When I walked outside, I knew that an era was ending. I could never go back again to the way it was. The
blustery New York wind pelted my face.
Struggling to maintain control of my flooding emotions, I hurried the thirty yards to my little red Mercedes.
Once safely inside, I suddenly felt isolated from the world. I glanced again at the building from where I had
just walked. It seemed impossible that my career could have ended so quickly.
With nothing to hide, I rested my forehead against the steering wheel. Never before would I have dreamed
that walking away fro United Air Lines could have been so difficult.
Thirty-seven years of memories cascaded over me. It was as if my nerves were raw and I was experiencing
everything again in a pictorial, sensory-filled series of flashbacks.
Again I felt the utter helplessness of a young boy in a little Oklahoma town, watching the airplanes fly
overhead, wanting more than anything to be able to ride in one of those wonderful machines, and knowing
that in all probability I would never see those dreams fulfilled.
I was a teenager once more, and my nostrils twitched as I remembered the pungent odor of banana oil and
hot metal when I saw J. W. Cantwell’s Jenny. For the first time4, I had been close enough to touch an
I sensed the wind against my face as I relived that incredible moment when I went airborne with Borwnie, the
same fly-by-night pilot who secretly sold me that airplane.
My heart broke once more as I remembered the crack-up which ended my barnstorming days.
I reveled again at the seemingly happenstance steps which helped me move from barnstormer to mail pilot,
then eventually to Senior Captain for United Air Lines.
I recalled with nostalgia the special friends I had known during my aviation career: Charles Lindbergh, Will
Rogers, Gloria Swanson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eddie Rickenbacker….
I wondered one more time how I survived those treacherous flights over “Hell’s Stretch,” the battle-torn
Aleutian Islands, or the ravaged South Pacific.
I had, of all men, been blessed.
I glanced in the mirror. I had been BORN TO FLY. My dream had carried me more than seven million miles—
and nothing would bring back the past. Gradually I was able to wipe away the tears and take a deep sigh.
With a new resolve, I turned the ignition of the Mercedes and drove away.
I knew that as I left that parking lot, the most cherished part of my life was not going home with me that day.
“I’ll never fly again."
Something about those words rang with such a finality that the overwhelming sadness left me distraught.
Enjoy the airborne adventures of this legendary pioneer and Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall
of Fame member, who was, without a doubt BORN TO FLY!
[360 pages, filled with photos and print memorabilia]
(Inaugural Printing Quantities are Limited)
In the Beginning
Jess and Brownie
Wings to Fly
The Army Pilots