Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bourchinal, Bob Hoover and Tom Peterson in Zero 3 Bravo

I finally finished Zero 3 Bravo and quite enjoyed it.

Author Mariana Gosnell is a journalist, so she had no need of a ghost writer to put this book together. It's well written and keeps your interest. It's not a saga of a woman overcoming barriers to become a pilot, but rather simply of a pilot flying across country, and the people she meets in all the small airports she visits. She does share a couple of anecdotes that only a female pilot would probably notice or think about - a few times when she was greeted at an airport with condescension or surprise, a time a married woman confided to her how trapped she'd felt in her marriage ever since she'd learned to fly, but over all it's just the stories a pilot-pilot would share.

Mariana is knowledgeable about the wide variety of planes and of pilots. She meets people with interesting stories to tell, for example she was present when Bryan Allen powered the Gossamer Condor around the figure 8 course which won its designers the Kremer Prize.

She meets a couple of Midgetts - two children in a family of Midgetts that have served in the Coast Guard since the late 1800s. (Although they are apparently a well-known family, and used to have news articles written about them each year when the had a family reunion, they don't seem to have a presence on the web, but it's really an inspiring story. Over 150 Midgetts have served in the Coast Guard in the past several decades. (Read about the USCG Midgett http://www.uscg.mil/pacarea/cgcMidgett/history.asp : it is named for the late Chief Warrant Officer John Allen MIDGETT, Jr. - born in 1876 in Rodanthe, North Carolina and served for nearly forty years with the U.S. Lifesaving Service and the Coast Guard. He was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for his heroic rescue of 36 crewmen from the torpedoed British tanker MIRLO in 1918. Bos'n Midgett and his lifeboat crew rescued the entire crew, despite rough seas and flames from the tankers cargo of refined oil and gasoline. J.A. Midgett, Jr. was also one of seven of Midgett family members to have been awarded the nations highest award for saving a life - the Gold Lifesaving Medal. More than 150 living members of the Midgett family have made the Coast Guard a career, including more than thirty still on active duty.

She also flew in just as the Reno Air Races were being prepared - and mentions Bob Hoover, but doesn't really go into detail about who he really was - just mentioned him as an aerobatic pilot known as the "Flying Brain Surgeon" because of the precision of his routine.

She also spent some time with Isaac Newton Burchinal, Jr., (called Junior) the owner of the Flying Tigers airport, which was full of World War II planes which he taught people to fly. He called it Warbird School. Although she admired him for his pilot skills, there were some personal quirks she did not care for - she paints a no-flaws-withheld portrait of the man. (And as a matter of fact, Burchinal just died about a year ago. There's a message board where people discussed his legacy. (http://www.topix.com/forum/city/paris-tx/TN703UO1TLNO0UVIL

And she also spends time with Tom Peterson, the pilot who flew presidential candidate Jimmy Carter around Georgia until he was elected. (Although the book was published in 1993, she's detailed a 3-month trip she took in the late 1970s.) (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,911856,00.html)

Anyway, one thing that always annoys me with memoirs and travel tales of this nature are that they rarely contain indexes. So, I usually end up making one myself, and I have done so in this case. It's nothing fancy - just the names she mentions throughout the book. If you're interested in reading the book and want to see specifically whom she talks about, or if you're an aviation researcher and simply collect indexes, you can download this index here:

http://volcanoseven.com/YouFlyGirl/IndexPDFs/Zero3BravoIndex.pdf

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