Which Wordsmith Best Describes The "Free Spirit" Of Aviators? - June 16, 2017

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Which Wordsmith Best Describes The “Free Spirit” Of Aviators? – June 16, 2017


Robert Novells’ Third Dimension Blog

June 16, 2017

Good Morning,

Father’s Day is Sunday, the backyard grill is ready for the big event, and Father’s around the world are ready for new socks, ties, and assorted sundries. However, when all of the action settles down on Sunday I think we all should consider a little quiet time, and maybe a nap, before the rat race begins again on Monday.

Today I want to talk about about a man who developed a talent for words and the importance of the visual image they create. The man I speak of is “Ernest K Gann” and following the brief profile of Ernest Gann’s life I have a number of quotes from him, as well as a link to the website where these, and many others, can be found.

Also, I have had numerous articles on the blog showcasing “Antoine de Saint Exupery” whose skill as a wordsmith is equal to that of Mr. Gann; however, if you don’t recall the specifics of those articles then CLICK HERE.


Ernest K. Gann

(Born in Lincoln (Nebraska), The United States October 13, 1910 Died December 19, 1991)

After earning his pilot license, Gann spent his much of his free time aloft, flying for pleasure. The continuing Great Depression soon cost him his job and he was unable to find another position in the movie business. In search of work, he decided to move his family to California. Gann was able to find odd jobs at Burbank Airport, and also began to write short stories. A friend managed to get him a part-time job as a co-pilot with a local airline company and it was there that he flew his first trips as a professional aviator. In the late 1930s many airlines were hiring as many pilots as they could find; after hearing of these opportunities, Gann and his family returned to New York where he managed to get hired by American Airlines to fly the Douglas DC-2 and Douglas DC-3.For several years Gann enjoyed flying routes in the northeast for American. In 1942, many U.S. airlines’ pilots and aircraft were absorbed into the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army Air Forces to assist in the War Effort. Gann and many of his co-workers at American volunteered to join the group. He flew DC-3s, Douglas DC-4s and Consolidated C-87 Liberator Express transports (the cargo version of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber). His wartime trips took him across the North Atlantic to Europe, and then on to Africa, South America, India, and other exotic places. Some of his most harrowing experiences came while flying The Hump airlift across the Himalayas into China. In the years to come Gann’s worldwide travels and various adventures would become the inspiration for many of his novels and screenplays.At the end of World War II, the Air Transport Command released the civilian pilots and aircraft back to their airlines. Gann decided to leave American Airlines in search of new adventures. He was quickly hired as a pilot with a new company called Matson Airlines that was a venture of the Matson steamship line. He flew from the U.S. West Coast across the Pacific to Honolulu. This experience spawned ideas that were developed into one of his best-known works, ‘The High and the Mighty.’ Matson ultimately soon fell prey to the politically well-connected Pan American Airlines and failed. After a few more short-lived flying jobs, Gann became discouraged with aviation and he turned to writing as a full-time occupation.

Gann’s major works include the novel The High and the Mighty and his aviation focused, near-autobiography Fate Is the Hunter. Notes and short stories scribbled down during long layovers on his pioneering trips across the North Atlantic became the source for his first serious fiction novel, Island in the Sky (1944), which was inspired by an actual Arctic rescue mission. It became an immediate best-seller as did Blaze of Noon (1946), a story about early air mail operations. In 1978, he published his comprehensive autobiography, entitled A Hostage to Fortune.

Although many of his 21 best-selling novels show Gann’s devotion to aviation, others, including Twilight for the Gods, and Fiddler’s Green reflect his love of the sea. His experiences as a fisherman, skipper and sailor, all contributed storylines and depth to his nautical fiction. He later wrote an autobiography of his sailing life called Song of the Sirens.

Gann wrote, or adapted from his books, the stories and screenplays for several movies and television shows. For some of these productions he also served as a consultant and technical adviser during filming. Although it received positive reviews, Gann was displeased with the film version of Fate Is the Hunter, and removed his name from the credits. (He later lamented that this decision cost him a “fortune” in royalties, as the film played repeatedly on television for years afterward.)

Source Document

  You can always tell when a man has lost his soul to flying. The poor bastard is hopelessly committed to stopping whatever he is doing long enough to look up and make sure the aircraft purring overhead continues on course and does not suddenly fall out of the sky. It is also his bound duty to watch every aircraft within view take off and land.

 Ernest K Gann, ‘Fate is the Hunter.’

Are we lost, or are we found at last?

On earth we strive for our various needs, because so goes the fundamental law of man. Aloft, at least for a little while, the needs disappear. Likewise the striving. In the thoughts of man aloft, food and evil become mixed and sometimes reversed. This is the open door to wisdom. Aloft, the earth is ancient and man is young, regardless of his numbers, for there, aloft he may reaffirm his suspicions that he may not be so very much. This is the gateway to humility.
And yet, aloft there are moments when man can ask himself, “what am I, this creature so important to me? Who is it rules me from birth to tomb? Am I but a slave destined to crawl for labor to hearth and back again? Am I but one of the living dead, or my own god set free?” This is the invitation to full life. . . .”Where are we?” “If you really must know, I’ll tell you.”

“Never mind. Here aloft, we are not lost, but found.”

 Ernest K. Gann, ‘Ernest K. Gann’s Flying Circus,’ 1974.

And he supposed it might not be the best of days. But then, he was flying the mails and was not expected to squat on the ground like a frightened canary every time there was a cloud in the sky. If a pilot showed an obvious preference for flying only in the best conditions he soon found himself looking for work. This was the way of his life and he had always ascended when others had found excuse to keep their feet on the ground.

 Ernest K. Gann, ‘Fate is the Hunter.’

During this period Steen and Fox were killed trying a single-engine instrument approach at Moline. Then Campbell and Leatherman hit a ridge near Elko, Nevada. In both incidents the official verdict was “Pilot error,” but since their passengers, who were innocent of the controls, also failed to survive, it seemed that fate was the hunter. As it had been and would be.

 Ernest K. Gann, ‘Fate is the Hunter.’

I am drawn to the new chart with all of its colorful intricacies as a gourmet must anticipate the details of a feast . . . I shall keep them forever. As stunning exciting proof that a proper mixture of science and art is not only possible but a blessed union.

 Ernest K. Gann, ‘Fate is the Hunter.’

Rule books are paper – they will not cushion a sudden meeting of stone and metal.

 Ernest K. Gann, ‘Fate is the Hunter.’

Electronics were rascals, and they lay awake nights trying to find some way to screw you during the day. You could not reason with them. They had a brain and intestines, but no heart.

 Ernest K. Gann, ‘The Black Watch,’ 1989.

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, describing advice from ‘a very old pelican of an aviator,’ ‘The Black Watch,’ 1989.

Nobody who gets too damned relaxed builds up much flying time.

 Ernest K. Gann, describing advice from ‘a very old pelican of an aviator,’ ‘The Black Watch,’ 1989.

The emergencies you train for almost never happen. It’s the one you can’t train for that kills you.

 Ernest K. Gann, describing advice from ‘a very old pelican of an aviator,’ ‘The Black Watch,’ 1989.

For more quotes like this CLICK HERE.

 Happy Father’s Day to all of the daddy’s of the world and have a good weekend/week, take care, and fly safe/be safe.

Robert Novell

June 16, 2017