It is rare to find one person whose life embodies the history of an
industry the way Bob Buck's life encompasses the history of
commercial aviation in America. Buck first flew in the 1920s,
inspired by the exploits of Charles Lindbergh. In 1930, at age
sixteen, he flew solo from coast to coast, breaking the junior
transcontinental speed record. In 1936 he flew nonstop from
Burbank, California, to Columbus, Ohio, in a 90-horsepower
Monocoupe to establish a world distance record for light airplanes.
He joined Transcontinental and Western Air (T&WA) as a copilot
in 1937; when he retired thirty-seven years later, he had made more
than 2,000 Atlantic crossings -- and his role had progressed from
such tasks as retracting a DC-2's landing gear with a cockpit-based
hand pump to command of a wide-body 747. Buck's experiences go back
to a time when flying was something glamorous. He flew with and
learned from some true pioneers of aviation -- the courageous
pilots who created the airmail service during flying's infancy. At
the behest of his employer Howard Hughes, Buck spent three months
flying with Tyrone Power on a trip to South America, Africa, and
Europe. He flew the New York-Paris-Cairo route in the days when
flight plans called for lengthy stopovers, and enjoyed all that
those romantic places had to offer. He took part in a flight that
circled the globe sideways (from pole to pole). He advised TWA's
president on the shift to jet planes; a world expert on weather and
flight, Buck used a B-17G to chase thunderstorms worldwide as part
of a TWA-Air Force research project during World War II, for which
he was awarded the Air Medal (as a civilian) by President Truman.
In North Star over My Shoulder, Bob Buck tells of a life spent up
and over the clouds, and of the wonderful places and marvelous
people who have been a part of that life. He captures the feel,
taste, and smell of flying's greatest era -- how the people lived,
what they did and felt, and what it was really like to be a part of
the world as it grew smaller and smaller. He relates stories from
his innumerable visits to Paris, the city he loves more than any
other -- echoing Gertrude Stein's view that "America is my country,
and Paris is my home town" -- and from his trips to the Middle
East, including flights to Israel before and after it became a
state. A terrific storyteller and a fascinating man, Bob Buck has
turned his well-lived life into a delightful memoir for anyone who
remembers when there really was something special in the air.
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