Erica Jong, author, Fear of Flying
Amelia Earhart’s last flight ended her life and gave birth to a myth.
Tom D. Crouch, senior curator for aeronautics, National Air and Space Museum
“Success four flights Thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind started from level with engine power alone average speed through air thirty one miles longest 57 seconds inform press home Christmas.” That’s how Orville Wright described the first and most important airplane flight in a 30-word telegram to his father on December 17, 1903.
Laurence Gonzales, author, Flight 232
Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge was the first passenger to be killed in an airplane, in September 1908, testing whether flying machines could be useful in war. The aircraft was piloted by Orville Wright, who was severely injured. Selfridge’s death drove home the message that we would have to pay to fulfill Faust’s wish “to fly among the stars.”
Gregory Crouch, author, China’s Wings
The first commercial crossing of the Pacific, by Pan Am’s China Clipper, in 1935, inaugurated modern transoceanic air travel and changed the world.
Colum McCann, author, Thirteen Ways of Looking (forthcoming, October 2015)
In 1919, Alcock and Brown crossed the Atlantic ocean in an open-top Vickers Vimy. They flew without a gyroscope, fueled by passion and desire. They arrived in County Galway after a 16-hour flight from Newfoundland through snow and sleet and rain. The tips of their hair froze. They crash-landed in a bog in the west of Ireland, thinking it was hard, level ground. The earth is always full of surprises.