Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: Solo: My Adventures in the Air

Solo: My Adventures in the Air
Clyde Edgerton

While going through a box of books donated to the library recently, this title caught my eye. I had read one of Clyde Edgerton’s other books, the novel Where Trouble Sleeps, and enjoyed it immensely. Edgerton is a North Carolina native who has a knack for presenting small towns in the South and the natives thereof in all their quirky majesty.

In Solo, Edgerton presents his lifelong love affair with flight, starting from his fascination with airplanes as a small boy, continuing through his days as a teenage cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, and progressing through his career as a Vietnam-era pilot to his recent “retiree” years. Although at first glance this might appear to be a war story, it is not that at all. Edgerton discusses his fears and foibles, faced by almost all young novice pilots and how he learned from experiences that could have proven fatal. He describes the difference between the single engine “tail-dragger” Cessna’s and Pipers and the increasingly faster and more powerful trainers and jets he learns to fly as his Air Force career progresses.

But then, after he has seemingly reached the apex of flying supersonic fighter aircraft, he has an almost spiritual experience and is channeled into once again flying a “low and slow” machine as a forward air control or FAC pilot. These men performed the extremely dangerous and crucial role of helping protect the troops on the ground by communicating with them to coordinate aerial bombing when needed. Sometimes this was the only thing that prevented numbers of soldiers from being overrun and killed or captured. As he flies mission after mission, and some of his comrades are killed or wounded or transfer to other roles such as flying for the CIA, Edgerton begins to simply hope to survive his tour and get back home. He explains that he did not take satisfaction or glory in the deaths of those he marked for rocket or bomb attacks and wishes he had not been a part of it. But it was a time when most young men answered their country’s call, for right or wrong.

After the end of the war, Edgerton gives up flying for a while as he concentrates on building a career in the civilian world. But as the years go by, he finds that he misses flying as both a hobby and a possible business venture and details his return to flying for pleasure and the simple joys of knowing how to land on a plowed field and take off again if necessary. His stories of various misadventures will be a guidebook for anyone who wishes to become a pilot, if not for business, then just for the sheer pleasure of soaring through the sky. If you enjoy reading about flying or airplanes, you will enjoy this book. And don’t throw away those gently used, recent books you have no further use for— consider donating them to your local library. This book is already in our collection but will be passed on to someone else to inspire them.

Jonathan Newman
Avondale Library

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