Great Aviation Quotes: Quotable Flyer: Pilot and Flying Quotations
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I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

— Isaiah 14:14

It is not necessarily impossible for human beings to fly, but it so happens that God did not give them the knowledge of how to do it. It follows, therefore, that anyone who claims that he can fly must have sought the aid of the devil. To attempt to fly is therefore sinful.

— Roger Bacon, thirteenth century Franciscan friar.

The desire to reach for the sky runs deep in our human psyche.

— Cesar Pelli, architect of the tallest building in the world, the twin Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, quoted in the New York Times, 20 September 2001.

Second to the right, and straight on till morning.

— Peter Pan, in the James M. Barrie play of the same name. Changed in some productions (and all Disney versions) to “Second star on the right.” Chapter 4, 'The Flight,' “That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland; but even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just said anything that came into his head.” First seen on the London stage 1904.

I must place on record my regret that the human race ever learned to fly.

— Sir Winston Churchill, 1953

Any one who has common-sense and patience may learn to fly. In the aviation schools a good working knowledge of airmanship is ordinarily gained in a total of four hundred minutes spent in the air, divided into a score of lessons. The air would almost seem the natural element of man, such has been the progress in flying during the past few years.

— Francis A. Collins, first lines of the book 'The Air Man His Conquest In Peace And War,' 1917.

This book is dedicated to all those who fell by the airside, for nothing is wasted, and every apparent failure is but a challenge to others.

— Dedication to 'Sky Roads of the World,' by Amy Johnson, 1939.

Man's flight through life is sustained by the power of his knowledge.

— Austin 'Dusty' Miller, the quote on the Eagle & Fledgling statue at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Donated by personnel from Air Training Command in 1952.

Although powered aircraft may express the language of flight, soaring is its eloquence.

— Richard Miller, 1967.

Somebody with a flair for small cynicism once said: “We live and do not learn.”

But I have learned some things. I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesterdays are buried deep - leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour, because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. The cloud clears as you enter it. I have learned this, but like everyone, I learned it late.

— Beryl Markham, ‘West With The Night,’ 1942

I have been luckier than the law of averages should allow. I could never be so lucky again.

— Jimmy Doolittle, from his autobiography, 'I Could Never Be So Lucky Again,' 1991.

At that time [1909] the chief engineer was almost always the chief test pilot as well. That had the fortunate result of eliminating poor engineering early in aviation.

— Igor Sikorsky, reported in 'AOPA Pilot' magazine February 2003.

Any language where the unassuming word fly signifies an annoying insect, a means of travel, and a critical part of a gentleman's apparel is clearly asking to be mangled.

— Bill Bryson, first page of chapter one, 'Mother Tongue: The English Language,' 1990.

The English, a haughty nation, arrogate to themselves the empire of the sea; the French, a buoyant nation, make themselves masters of the air.

— The Count of Provence (afterward Louis XVIII of France), Impromptu on the first successful balloon ascension by the brothers Montgolfier, 1783. In original French, “Les Anglais, nation trop fi — re, S'arrogent l'empire des mers; Les Fran — ais, nation l — g — re, S'emparent de celui des airs.”

Providence has given to the French the empire of the land, to the English that of the sea, and to the Germans that of the air.

— Jean Paul Richter, quoted by Thomas Carlyle, ‘Edinburgh Review,’ 1827.

The weird thing is that I hate to fly, and the quote that I give people is that every time I get off a plane, I view it as a failed suicide attempt.

— Barry Sonnenfeld, movie director.

Chicks dig us, and guys think we’re cool.

— Tom Krizek, airline captain.

The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.

— Chinese proverb

The airplane stays up because it doesn't have the time to fall.

— Orville Wright

There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. His controls would freeze up, his plane would buffet wildly, and he would disintegrate. The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man would ever pass. They called it the sound barrier.

— Ridley in the 1983 movie 'The Right Stuff.'

If you don't get in that plane you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

— Rick Blaine in the 1942 movie 'Casablanca.'

Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it.

— Evel Knievel

Remember the first principle of wing walking. Don't let go of something unless you have a firm grip of something else.

— Dick Truly, NASA administrator. Reported in AW&ST 24 February 2003.

As a piece of applied science the aeroplane has a place alongside the wheel, gunpowder, the printing press and the steam engine as one of the great levers of change in world history. The effect of aircraft on the way we live has been profound: they have shrunk the world, mingling previously isolated cultures, they have added a menacing dimension to warfare, spawned new technologies, created new economic zones and given us a toehold in Space.

— Ivan Rendall, first paragraph of the introduction, Reaching for the Skies, 1988.

Talking about airplanes is a very pleasant mental disease.

— Sergei Sikorsky, AOPA Pilot magazine, February 2003.

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.

— Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey, (OK: so this one may not be about flying, but I like it anyway.) 1879.

Every year, more people are killed by injuries caused by donkeys than those caused by aircraft.

— found in The Toastmaster, official journal of Toastmasters' International.

Facts are the air of scientists. Without them you can never fly.

— Ivan Pavlov

Daddy, the plane turned into a boat.

— Sophia Sosa, a 4-year-old traveling with her family on US Airways flight 1549, after the A320 was forced to ditch into the Hudson River. Reported on 2 February 2009 by Time magazine, 15 January 2009

Motor cut. Forced landing. Hit cow. Cow died. Scared me.

— Dean Smith, telegraph to his chief, quoted by Amelia Earhart, The Fun of It,’1932.

Night flying in blacked-out Britain is like flying up a cow’s ass.

— Squadron Leader Earl Bracken, RAF.

The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings,
And why the sea is boiling hot,
And whether pigs have wings.”

— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, 1872.

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help - for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

— Edward Fitzgerald, The Rub — 'iy — t of Omar Khayy — m, Edn. 1. 52

My mansion is, where those immortal shapes
Of bright aerial spirits live insphered
In regions mild of calm and serene air,
Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot
Which men call Earth.

— John Milton, Comus, 1634.

Some newspapers have an adversarial approach to the Boeing Company that actually nauseates me and I’ve stopped reading them. I spent fifteen years on the Boeing crash investigation committee, and I learned first hand the difference between what gets reported in the paper and what the facts are. I concluded that there was almost no relationship between what was written there and the facts, and it kind of made me nervous about reading anything else. I just quit taking the papers.

— Granville “Granny” Frazier, The Boeing Company.

Does anyone on board know how to fly a plane?

— Elaine, speaking over the cabin speakers in the 1980 movie Airplane!

Four semesters of organic chemistry made a pilot out of me.

— Rick Perry, Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate, explaining his student college record of C, D & F grades. He received a low-scoring degree in animal science, then joined the US Air Force becoming a C-130 pilot. Speech at Liberty University, 14 September 2011. 

What of the Wright boys in Dayton? Just around the corner they had a shop and did a bicycle business — and they wanted to fly for the sake of flying. They were Man the Seeker, Man on a Quest. Money was their last thought, their final absent-minded idea. They threw out a lot of old mistaken measurements and figured new ones that stood up when they took off and held the air and steered a course. They proved that “the faster you go the less power you need.” One of them died and was laid away under blossoms dropped from zooming planes. The other lived on to meditate: what is attraction? when will we learn why things go when they go? what and where is the power?

— Carl Sandburg, The People, Yes, section 89.

Flight was a metaphor for the new Nietzschean age that was dawning. The deeds if the technological hero's of the twentieth century would equal, and perhaps exceed, those of the mythical figures of the Ancient World… . The urge to dominate, to master, to conquer, was the motivation that drove men to fly. Speed was the divinity of the new century, to be worshipped at any cost. the cult of movement required victims. In its service, no sacrifice was too great. Aviators were the new aristocracy. Power and primacy would come to those peoples who dominated the air… . Death was the price that man would have to pay in order to live like gods in a world of fast machines.

— Robert Wohl, last paragraph of A Passion For Wings: Aviation and the Western Imagination 1908-1918, 1994.

When wild the head-wind beat,
Thy sovereign Will commanding
Bring them who dare to fly
To a safe landing.

— Duncan Campbell Scott, Hymn for Those in the Air, RCAF.

No, son - you’re not up there alone - not with all the things you come through. You have the greatest co-pilot in the world even if there is just room for one in that fighter ship - no, you’re not alone.

— Colonel Robert L. Scott, Jr., USAAF, God Is My Copilot, 1943.

We who fly are going to get to know that Great Flying Boss in the sky better and better.

— Colonel Robert L. Scott, Jr., USAAF, God Is My Copilot, 1943.

On the second day after I arrived at Cranwell I was commanded to report to 'the flights.' I had imagined weeks if not months of tedious 'bull' and ground instruction before I was even allowed to smell an aircaft.
They had a special smell - burnt castor oil and dope - which will still bring nostalgic sparkles to the eyes of an old pilot.

— A.G. Dudgeon, The Luck of the Devil, 1985.

If we love to fly so much, how come we’re always in such a hurry to get there?

— Louie Manyak

The vilest enemy of the morale of aeronautics is a scab.

— David Behnecke, founder of the Air Line Pilots Association.

If a prisoner, he must escape; if dead he must come back to life.

— 'Le Temps' newspaper referring to the disappearance of French W.W.I ace Guynemer.

The whole history of the Canadian North can be divided into two periods — before and after the aeroplane.

— Hugh L. Keenleyside, Deputy Canadian Minister of Mines and Resources, October 1949.

I came to admire this machine which could lift virtually any load strapped to its back and carry it anywhere in any weather, safely and dependably. The C-47 groaned, it protested, it rattled, it leaked oil, it ran hot, it ran cold, it ran rough, it staggered along on hot days and scared you half to death, its wings flexed and twisted in a horrifying manner, it sank back to earth with a great sigh of relief - but it flew and it flew and it flew.

— Len Morgan. The C-47 was the U.S. military designation for the DC-3.

… four other pieces of equipment that most senior officers came to regard as among the most vital to our success in Africa and Europe were the bulldozer, the jeep, the 2 — -ton truck, and the C-47 airplane. Curiously, none of these is designed for combat.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Give me fifty DC-3's and the Japanese can have the Burma Road.

— Chiang Kai-Shek

We badly need an aircraft which will provide the DC-3's reliability, its same ease of maintenance, and a similar low cost. One approach could be to marry a modern turboprop engine to a modern airframe. Surely our design capabilities are great enough to create a plane as advanced … as the DC-3 was in its day

— U.S. Senator A.S. 'Mike' Monroney. This former chairman of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee isn't the only one to have this thought, lots of planes have claimed to be 'the next DC-3.' None have succeeded.

… as you approached Arnhem you got the impression that there wasn't wingspan room between flak bursts, not to mention the small-arms fire! To my right a Dakota, I think flown by Flt Lt Lord, caught fire. Having dropped our load, we banked and weaved as violently as possible to avoid fire from the ground and headed home … I never ceased to be amazed at the damage the Dakota could sustain and continue to fly. One came back home with a hole in the fuselage large enough to push a chair through.

— Flight Lieutenant Alec Blythe

It doesn't look nearly as big as it did the first time I saw one. Mickey McGuire and I used to sit hour after hour in the cockpit of the one that American used for training, at the company school in Chicago, saying to each other, 'My God, do you think we’'' ever learn to fly anything this big?'

— Ernest K. Gann, quoted in 'Flying' magazine, September 1977.


In fifty-one they tried to ground the noble DC-3
And some lawyers brought the case before the C.A.B.
The board examined all the facts behind their great oak portal
And pronounced these simple words “The Gooney Birds Immortal"

The Army toast their Sky Train in lousy scotch and soda
The Tommies raise their glasses high to cheer their old Dakota
Some claim the C-47's best, or the gallant R4D
Forget that claim, their all the same, they’re the noble DC-3.

Douglas built the ship to last, but nobody expected
This crazy heap would fly and fly, no matter how they wrecked it
While nations fall and men retire, and jets go obsolete
The Gooney Bird flies on and on at eleven thousand feet.

No matter what they do to her the Gooney Bird still flies
One crippled plane was fitted out with one wing half the size
She hunched her shoulders then took off (I know this makes you laugh)
One wing askew, and yet she flew, the DC-3 and a half.

She had her faults, but after all, who's perfect in every sphere?
Her heating system was a gem we loved her for her gear
Of course the windows leaked a bit when the rain came pouring down
She'd keep you warm, but in a storm, it's possible you'd drown.

Well now she flies the feeder lines and carries all the freight
She's just an airborne office, a flying twelve ton crate
The patched her up with masking tape, with paper clips and strings
And still she flies, she never dies, Methuselah with wings.

— unknown

I am not a very timid type. It's very important to some people, but not to me. I have a simple philosophy: worry about those things you can fix. It you can't fix it, don't worry about it; accept it and do the best you can… .

— General James H. Doolittle

That inverted bowl they call the sky,
Whereunder crawling coop'd we live and die.

— The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

I didn't start out to chart the skies; it's just no one had done it before.

— E. B. Jeppesen. Captain Jeppesen drew the first approach charts to airports, and founded the company that now supplies them to airlines around the world.

I didn't start the business to make a pile of money. I did it to preserve myself for old age.

— E. B. Jeppesen

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.'

To the IFR cognoscente, it's a serious misunderstanding of instrument flying to think of an approach plate as a mere map for dropping out of the clouds in search of a runway, at the very least, a plate is a work of art and for the true zealot, it's a symbol of man's continuing struggle against the forces of nature.

— Paul Bertorelli, 'IFR' Magazine.

The map is not the territory, the word is not the thing it describes. Whenever the map is confused with the territory, a 'semantic disturbance' is set up in the organism. The disturbance continues until the limitation of the map is recognized.

— Count General Alfred Habdank Korzybski

Where did you get your eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.

— George MacDonald, 'At The Back Of The North Wind.'

East to the dawn, and southward to the sun,
Borne on aloft by Man's great gift of wings.

— Gander Dower

The Admiralty said it was a plane and not a boat, the Royal Air Force said it was a boat and not a plane, the Army were plain not interested.

— Sir Christopher Cockerell, regards his invention the hovercraft.

Some fear flutter because they do not understand it. And some fear it because they do.

— Theodore von Karman, aerodynamicist.

Simplicate and Add Lightness

— design philosophy of Ed Heinemann, Douglas Aircraft.

Beware of men on airplanes. The minute a man reaches thirty thousand feet, he immediately becomes consumed by distasteful sexual fantasies which involve doing uncomfortable things in those tiny toilets. These men should not be encouraged, their fantasies are sadly low-rent and unimaginative. Affect an aloof, cool demeanor as soon as any man tries to draw you out. Unless, of course, he's the pilot.

— Cynthia Heimel

My wife was a stewardess, flying DC-3's. That's how we met. She knew what was going on. So when we got married, I made her a promise — the obvious one. And I’ve kept it.

— Captain Anson Harris, in the 1970 movie Airport.

There is no more alluring airspace in the world than the slit up a China girl's dress.

— Earnest K. Gann, Band of Brothers.

If you want to fuck with the eagles, you have to learn to fly.

— Veronica in the 1989 movie Heathers.

Hangover cure: Rigorous sex, hydration, hot bath, then “go up for half an hour in an open aeroplane. (needless to say, with a non-hungover person at the controls).”

— Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking – The Distilled Kingsley Amis. 2008

The pilots life is founded on three things: sex, seniority, and salary, in that order.

— Dr. Ludwig Lederer, corporate physician, American Airlines.

We have no effective screening methods to make sure pilots are sane.

— Dr. Herbert Haynes, Federal Aviation Authority.

The wish to be able to fly is to be understood as nothing else than a longing to be capable of sexual performance.

— Sigmund Freud

They tout The Joy of Sex, but it don't last like The Fun of Flying.

— spoken by Lucille Benson in the 1976 movie Silver Streak.

A free ride and free food are two of the three things no pilot ever turns down.

— attributed to Dick Rutan.

Airplane buffs are a rabid bunch.

— the Wall Street Journal. Article about the Pan Am TV show, 23 September 2011.

There are many excellent pilots who would rather do anything than land a private airplane at Newark, Cleveland, or Chicago.

&mdashAviation magazine, August 1935.

When the art of radio communication between pilots and ATC is improved, the result will be vastly increased areas of significant misunderstandings.

— Robert Livingston, Flying The Aeronca.

Anyone that tells you that having your own private jet isn't great is lying to you. That jet thing is really good.

— Oprah Winfrey, speech to the graduating class at Duke University, 10 May 2009.

In part a flying machine and in part a deeath trap, the aeroplane has done both more and less that its sudden arrival among the great inventions of the age had promised. This combination of Chinese kite, an automobile motor, a resaurent fan, ballon rudders, junior bicycle wheels and ski runners, the whole strung together with piano wire and safeguarded with adhesive tape and mammoth rubber bands, sprang from toyland into the world of industry and finance with two plodding and pratical tinkers of genius — self-made engineers from the American school of try, try and try again — proved they could balance and steer it by a twist of its muslin. Now, the world turns a searching glance upon this machine which does so much and fails for treacherously.

&mdashScientific American, May 1911.

I think we can build a better plane.

— William Boeing, The Boeing Company, later a company's motto, 1914.

You Americans build airplanes like a Rolex watch. Knock it off the night table and it stops ticking. We build airplanes like a cheap alarm clock. But knock if off the table and it still wakes you up.

— Alexander Tupolev, to Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich, quoted in Skunk Works.

Why is Communism like flying in an aeroplane?
You see the glorious horizon approaching, but the longer you fly the less the glorious horizon seems to approach, you feel sick, and you can't get out.

— Unknown

… one of my life rules was to never give up a free ride when you’re shark bait …

— Lieutenant Colonel Dan House, SR-71 pilot describing his rescue from shark infested waters by a native canoe, Lockheed SR-71: The Secret Missions Exposed, 1993.

When asked 'How was your flight?'
Well, aeronautically it was a great success. Socially it left quite a bit to be desired.

— Noel Coward

Beyond the Sudd there is the desert, and nothing but the desert for almost three thousand miles, nor are the towns and cities that live in it successful in gainsaying its emptiness.
To me, desert has the quality of darkness; none of the shapes you see in it are real or permanent. Like night, the desert is boundless, comfortless, and infinite. Like night, it intrigues the mind and leads it to futility. When you have flown halfway across a desert, you experience the desperation of a sleepless man waiting for dawn which only comes when the importance of its coming is lost.

— Beryl Markham, West With The Night, 1942.

The transcontinental jet flight is a condensed metaphor of the escapist's Geographical Change. One starts out wit the gorgeous hope that the self one abhors can be left behind. Three thousand miles is a powerful distance; such speed, such height should get you away before that self can catch up.

— Jill Robertson, 1974.

You little fool! don't you know it is even dangerous to look at an airplane?

— Spencer Tracy, advice to Myrna Loy in the 1938 movie 'Test Pilot.'

And if you screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.

— Air Boss Johnson in the 1986 movie, Top Gun.
Listen to the original quote (mp3)

Maverick: “I feel the need…
Maverick & Goose (together): “The need for speed.

— from the 1986 movie, Top Gun.
Listen to the original quote (mp3)

Charlie: “Excuse me Lieutenant. Is there something wrong?
Maverick: “Yes ma'am. The data on the MIG is inaccurate.
Charlie: “How's that Lieutenant?
Maverick: “Well I just happened to see a MIG-28 do…
Goose: “We… we.
Maverick: “Sorry Goose We happened to see a MIG-28 do a 4G negative dive.
Charlie: “Where did you see this?
Maverick: “That's classified.
Charlie: “That's what?
Maverick: “That's classified. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

— from the 1986 movie, 'Top Gun.'
Listen to the original quote (mp3)

Well boys, we got three engines out, we got more holes in us than a horse trader's mule, the radio is gone and we’re leaking fuel and if we was flying any lower why we’d need sleigh bells on this thing. But we got one little budge on those Russkies. At this height why they might harpoon us, but they dang sure ain't gonna spot us on no radar screen!

— Major T. J. “King” Kong, in the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

In the early days it was fun to fly. You could soar over rooftops and trees, or drop down to meet a passing train and wave at the engineer. The whole sky belonged to you. now there are so many regulations. The sky is crowded. All the fun is gone.

— Katherine Stinson, quoted in 'Katherine Stinson: The Flying Schoolgirl' by Debra L. Winegarten.

To be happy in this world, first you need a cell phone and then you need an airplane. Then you’re truly wireless.

— Ted Turner

we’d have more luck playing pick-up sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak.

— Del Griffith (John Candy), in the 1987 movie airplanes, Trains & Automobiles.'

It looked like a Taco Bell after an earthquake.

— Karen Breslau, reporter for Newsweek' describing Air Force One after hitting severe air turbulence while serving Mexican food, 1996.

When you think about flying, it's nuts really. Here you are at about 40,000 feet, screaming along at 700 miles an hour and you’re sitting there drinking Diet Pepsi and eating peanuts. It just doesn't make any sense.

— David Letterman

First, listen to the question the student asked, then listen to the question he didn't ask and then figure out the question he really meant to ask.

— Tom Coutch, FAA

Airplanes are like women - pick what you like and try to get it away from the guy who has it, then dress it out to the limit of your wallet and taste.

— Stephen Coonts, The Cannibal Queen: A Flight into the Heart of America.

Flying around the world is like raising kids. When you’ve finally figured out how to do it the right way, you’ve finished.

— Ron Bower, who has flown around the world solo in a helicopter.

The helicopter appeared so reluctant to fly forward that we even considered turning the pilot's seat around and letting it fly backward.

— Igor Sikorsky, regards the prototype VS-300, 1940.

You can't lomcevak in an F-16, but you can't go Mach in a Pitts.

— Ed Hamill, who has flown both aircraft.

Myanmar Air traffic control: Hotel Bravo-Bravo Romeo Alpha, what is your departure point and destination?
Brian Jones: Departure point, Ch — teau d'Oex, Switzerland. Destination, somewhere in northern Africa.
Myanmar Air traffic control, after several seconds' silence: If you’re going from Switzerland to northern Africa, what in hell are you doing in Myanmar?

— Brian Jones and unknown controller, approaching Myanmar's air space during record around the world in a balloon trip, 9 March 1999.

The mother eagle teachers her little ones to fly by making their nest so uncomfortable that they are forced to leave it and commit themselves to the unknown world of air outside. And just so does our God to us.

— Hannah Whitall Smith, evangelist, reformer, suffragist, author.

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.

— Langston Hughes

In spite of me it drew forward into the wind, notwithstanding my resistance it tended to rise. Thus I have discovered the secret of the bird and I comprehend the whole mystery of flying.

— Jean Marie Le Bris, a French sea captain who experimented with gliders, cica 1850.

This is earth again, the earth where I’ve lived and now will live once more … I’ve been to eternity and back. I know how the dead would feel to live again.

— Charles Lindbergh, on sighting Ireland after first solo Atlantic crossing, 1927.

Of all the inventions that have helped to unify China perhaps the airplane is the most outstanding. Its ability to annihilate distance has been in direct proportion to its achievements in assisting to annihilate suspicion and misunderstanding among provincial officials far removed from one another or from the officials at the seat of government.

— Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 'Wings Over China,' Shanghai Evening Post, 12 March 1937.

I know planes, but I don't know INS.

— Berton Beach, Vice President of Operations Aeroservice Aviation Center, Miami, (where 9-11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah studied) regards how Saddam Hussein's stepson Mohammad Saffi was able to enroll without the required student visa. July 2002.


I could see it wasn't worth
Spending time with them on earth.
There were fewer in the sky.
I decided I would fly.
I need air …

Where only stars get in my hair:
And only eagles stop and stare.
I need air.

Oh, the work is mad
And I’ve had my share.
I need air.
I need air.
I need air…

There's not a sign of life down there.
Just hats and grown-ups everywhere.
I need air.

Lots of cosy sky
That God and I can share.
I need air.
I need air.

— lyrics by Alan Lerner, from the musical 'The Little

It was written by a former B-17 crewmember (unfortunately I am at a loss to recall what position he flew). Anyway, it's about the B-17 which, as you probably know, was often referred to as the “Queen of the Skies". I think it serves as an outstanding tribute to all veterans (especially those of the second world war) and as such, would make a great addition to an already outstanding website. I hope you agree.



From Guadalcanal and the Philippines,at the start of World War II,
To the hostile skies of Europe,
thru miles of flak she flew.
At home at thirty thousand, majestic as a Queen,
A Silver Bird flow by men,
many in their teens.
She carried war to the tyrants lair,
to keep all nations free;
She flew thru flak and flame, as far as eye could see.
She slugged it out with Hitler's best,
brought her dead and wounded home.
Damaged and with engines out, it was often times alone.
Born of war, but seeking peace, she carried valiant men
into the very jaws of death, and brought them home again.
Berlin, Frankfurt, and countless others, courageous daylight raids,
and only God in Heaven knows, the awesome price she paid.
She met death at 30,000, or on a treetop run.
A victim of ack-ack shell or Luftwaffe fighters gun.
Like all the men who flew her, for peace and hope she yearned.
But too often mission boards would read, “Failure to return".
Often plane and crew went down, in a hostile place.
Others were missing in action, and lost without a trace.
Her era's in the past, but the history that she's made, must always be remembered, and never be betrayed.
Generations have come and gone;
Enjoyed their hopes and dreams,
Yet never paused in gratitude to this aging Silver Queen.
And the men who flew her, Heroes every one,
who stood between our nations shores, and the tyrants mighty guns.
Yes, she's tired and weary, A little aged and worn.
But, she fought and bought their freedom, before most of them were born.
And we who still remember, To-Jo and Hitler's dreams,
Stand a little prouder …
in the presence of the Queen.

— Ivan Fail, former B-17 crewmember, regards the B-17 Queen of the Skies, 4 September 1985.

we’d sit outside and watch the stars at night
She'd tell me to make a wish
I’d wish we both could fly

— James McMurtry, the song 'Levelland.'

He was neither seen nor heard as he fell, his body and his machine were never found. Where has he gone? By what wings did he manage to glide into immortality? Nobody knows: nothing is known. He ascended and never came back, that is all. Perhaps our descendents will say: He flew so high that he could not come down again.

— 'L'Illustration,' obituary of Capitaine Georges Marie Ludovic Jules Guynemer, 53 victories WWI. 6 October 1917.

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

— Carl Sagan

If I had a buck for every time I heard “I always wanted to be a pilot,” but lost a buck when hearing the expression, “I wish I spent more time with my kids,” how rich am I?

— Captain Jeff 'The Cat' Morris

It [flying] is not a bad sport, but there's no place to go.

— Glenn H Curtiss, 1907

I have seen so much on my pilgrimage through my three score years and ten,
That I wouldn't be surprised to see a railroad in the air
Or a Yankee in a flyin' ship a-goin' most anywhere.

— J. H. Yates, 'The Old Ways and the New.'

It may be merely the impatience of a woman, but is it not time we ceased to quibble over the exact amount in pounds, shillings, and pence each unit is to contribute to the cost of an All-red route and looked at the broader Imperial aspect? Trade, they used to say, followed the Flag. To-day and in the future it will also follow the aerodrome, for without speedy communications commercial competition is impossible.

— Lady Sophie (Mary) Heath

It was a magic caused by the collision of modern methods and old ones; modern history and ancient; accessibility and isolation. And it was a magic which could only strike spark about that time. A few years earlier, from the point of view of aircraft alone, it would have been impossible to reach these places; a few later, and there will be no such isolation.

— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, part of the preface to 'North to the Orient,' 1935

On wings of winds came flying all abroad.

— Pope, 'Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot.'

I flew in combat in Vietnam. I got shot at, I shot back, I got shot down. Compared to this flight, I felt a lot safer in combat.

— Dick Rutan, regards engine failure over the Pacific during the record round-the-world flight, 'Newsweek' 5 January 1987

But you the pathways of the sky
Found first, and tasted heavenly springs,
Unfettered as the lark that sings,
And knew strange raptures, — though we sigh,
“Poor Iccarus!"

— Florence Earle Coates, 'Poor Icarus.'

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the sky.

— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, Ch. 7. After Taylor.

You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead -
There were no birds to fly.

— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Ch. 4

Air show? Buzz-cut Alabamians spewing colored smoke from their whiz jets to the strains of 'Rock You Like A Hurricane'? What kind of countrified rube is still impressed by that?"

— Sideshow Bob on TV's 'The Simpsons,' episode: “Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", by Spike Ferensten.

Let brisker youths their active nerves prepare
Fit their light silken wings and skim the buxom air.

— Richard Owen Cambridge, 'Scriblerad,' 1751.

The fortress inspired a tremendous confidence. It was the only propeller driven aircraft I have flown that was completely viceless; there were no undesirable flight characteristics. The directional stability was excellent and, properly trimmed, the B-17 could be taken off, landed and banked without change of trim.

— Lt. James W. Johnson, USAAF

Most of us [the test pilots] agreed the Cutlass [Chance-Vought F7U-3] could be made into a pretty good flying machine with a few modifications, like adding a conventional tail, tripling the thrust, cutting the nosewheel strut in half, completely redoing the flight control system, and getting someone else to fly it.

— John Moore, 'The Wrong Stuff: Flying on the Edge of Disaster'

The simple expression ‘Suck, Squeeze, Bang and Blow’ is the best way to remember the working cycle of the gas turbine.

— Rolls Royce training manual, 2002.

If we did not have such a thing as an airplane today, we would probably create something the size of NASA to make one.

— H. Ross Perot.

Engineering is the science of doing things over again.

— John E. (Jack) Steiner, the chief engineer on the Boeing 727.

The sun is now climbing from the west. In winter it is possible to leave London after sunset, on the evening Concorde for New York, and watch the sun rise out of the west. Flying at Mach 2 at these latitudes will cause the sun to set in the west at three times its normal rate, casting, as it does so, a vast curved shadow of the earth, up and ahead of the aircraft.

— Concorde First Officer Christopher Orlebar, British Airways.

The Boeing 747 is so big that it has been said that it does not fly; the earth merely drops out from under it.

— Captain Ned Wilson, Pan Am.

I put the sweat of my life into this project, and if it's a failure, I’ll leave the country and never come back.

— Howard Hughes, to a U.S. Senate subcommittee regards the HK-1 Hughes Flying Boat, aka the 'Spruce Goose,' 1946.

Being a stealth pilot is one of the most labor intensive and time constrained types of flying that I know. We have very strict timing constraints: to be where you are supposed to be all the time, exactly on time, and that has to be monitored by the pilot. For example, during a bomb competition in training in the US, I dropped a weapon that landed 0.02 seconds from the desired time, and finished third!

— Lieutenant Colonel Miles Pound, USAF

Two phrases are stamped on the key ring that every new 'Bandit' (a pilot who has soloed in an F-117) receives:
Stealth Equals Death.
When it absolutely, positively has to be taken out overnight.

Ode To The P-38

Oh, Hedy Lamarr is a beautiful gal, and Madeleine Carroll is too,
But you’ll find if you query, a different theory amongst any bomber crew
For the loveliest thing of which one could sing (this side of the pearly gates)
Is no blonde or brunette of the Hollywood set -
But an escort of P-38s.

Yes, in the days that have passed,
when the tables were massed with glasses of scotch and champagne,
It's quite true that the sight was a thing of delight us,
intent on feeling no pain.
But no longer the same, nowadays is this game
When we head north for Messina Straits
Take the sparkling wine-every time,
just make mine an escort of P-38s.

Byron, Shelley and Keats ran a dozen dead heats
Describing the views from the hills,
of the valleys in May when the winds gently sway
In the air it's a different story;
We sweat out our track through the fighters and flak
we’re willing to split up the glory
Well, they wouldn't reject us, so heaven protect us
and, until all this shooting abates,
Give us courage to fight 'em - one other small item -
an escort of P-38s.

— Frederic Arnold, 'Kohn's War.'

To propel a dirigible balloon through the air is like pushing a candle through a brick wall.

— Alberto Santos-Dumont, regarding Zepplin's Airship.

… the back motors of the ship are just holding it just enough to keep it from —
— it's burst into flame! Get this Charley, get this Charley … . and it's flames now and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast, all the humanity, and all the passengers. Screaming around me … . I’m sorry, honestly, I can hardly breathe, I’m going to step inside where I cannot see it. Charley that's terrible. I, I can't… listen folks I’m going to have to stop for a minute, just because I’ve lost my voice, this is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed.

— Herb Morrison, reporting for WLS radio, regards the end of LZ-129 the Hindenburg, 6 May 1937. After Morrison recovered from the initial shock of the tragedy, he went on to calmly describe what he had witnessed. Listeners in Chicago and across the country didn't hear Morrison's coverage of the disaster until the next day because his report was not broadcast live from Lakehurst. He and engineer Charlie Nehlsen had been experimenting with field recordings on huge acetate discs. They realized the gravity of their recordings as they found themselves being followed by German SS Officers. After hiding out for a few hours, the two managed to make a clean getaway and get back across the country to WLS. The chilling account aired the next day on the station and was the first recorded radio news report to be broadcast nationally by NBC.

Listen to the whole original recording (mp3)

Twenty years for 270 murders is less than a month per victim. It's just not right.

— Peter Lowenstein, father of a young American killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, on the conviction of Libyan intelligence official Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, February 2001.

If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it.

— Blanch Lovell in the 1995 movie Apollo 13.

So there he is at last. Man on the Moon. The poor magnificent bungler! He can't even get to the office without undergoing the agonies of the damned, but give him a little metal, a few chemicals, some wire and twenty or thirty billion dollars and, vroom! there he is, up on a rock a quarter of a million miles up in the sky.

— Russell Baker, New York Times, 21 July 1969.

Military pilots and then, soon, airline pilots, pilots from Maine and Massachusetts and the Dakotas and Oregon and everywhere else, began to talk in that poker-hollow West Virginia drawl, or as close to it as they could bend their native accents. It was the drawl of the most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff: Chuck Yeager.

— Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff.

I had always wanted an adventurous life. It took a long time to realize that I was the only one who was going to make an adventurous life happen to me.

— Richard Bach

Aviation records don't fall until someone is willing to mortgage the present for the future.

— Amelia Earhart

Not so long ago, when I was a student in college, just flying an airplane seemed a dream. But that dream turned into reality.

— Charles A. Lindbergh, beginning his autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis, 1953.

Lone eagle of the wild Atlantic plain,
Tall, laughing boy, with sun-glints in your eyes,
Playfellow if the lightning and the rain,
Co-sentry with the old watchers of the skies.

— Wendell Phillips Stafford, Lindbergh.

We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.

— Oscar Wilde

Can build plane…Delivery about three months.

— Donald Hall, Chief engineer, Ryan Airlines, to Charles Lindberg's request for feasibility of the airplane later known as 'The Spirit of St. Louis.'

The work of the individual still remains the spark that moves mankind ahead.

— Igor I. Sikorsky

The time has arrived for my family to give back to America part of the reward that aviation has been instrumental in creating… . I hope the Dulles Center will introduce children to the same love for aviation that I have… . An airplane rising into the sky is the only hope, the only way to reach into a bigger world.

— Steven Udvar-Hazy, founder of International Lease Finance Corporation, 7 October 1999. Contained in Mr. Udar-Hazy remarks as he donated $60 million to help build the Dulles expansion of the National Air and Space Museum. His family fled to the US following the Soviet invasion of Hungary when he was 12.

Any damned fool can criticize, but it takes a genius to design it in the first place.

— Edgar Schmued, Chief Designer North American Aviation.

Some are concerned about the risks from computer hackers with such a connected system. [A spokesman] said that with the current FAA software, it's not a problem. A recent White House panel on security concluded that [the] software is so out of date that no one could possibly hack into it.

— Aviation Week & Space Technology, December 1996.

they’re multipurpose. Not only do they put the clips on, but they take them off.

— Pratt & Whitney spokesperson explaining why the company charged the Air Force nearly $1000 for an ordinary pair of pliers, 1996.

The important thing in aeroplanes is that they shall be speedy.

— Baron Manfred Von Richthofen

For a plane to fly well, it must be beautiful.

— Marcel Dassault

Oh no, it wasn't the aeroplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.

— James Creelman, Final words of the movie, 'King Kong' (1933 version)

Look boys I ain't much of a hand at making speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is goin' on back there. And I got a fair idea the kinda personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin.' Heck, I reckon you wouldn't even be human beings if you didn't have some pretty strong personal feelings about nuclear combat. I want you to remember one thing, the folks back at home are counting on you and by golly we ain't about to let them down. I tell you something else, if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I’d say that you’re all in line for some important promotions and personal citations when this thing is over with. That goes for ever' last one of you regardless of your race, color or creed. Now let's get this thing on the hump…we got some flying to do.

— Major T. J. “King” Kong, in the 1963 movie 'Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.'

Well boys, we've got three engines out, we've got more holes in us than a horse trader's mule, the radio is gone and we’re leaking fuel and if we was flying any lower why we’d need sleigh bells on this thing…but we've got one thing on those Russkies. At this height why thy might harpoon us but they dang sure ain't gonna spot us on no radar screen!

— Major T. J. “King” Kong in the 1963 movie 'Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.'

Fighter Pilot's Toast

Here's to me in my sober mood
As I ponder, sit and think.
And here's to me in my drunken mood
As I gamble, sin and drink.
When my flying days are over
And from this world I pass
I hope they bury me upside down
So the world can kiss my ass.

— anon

"The birds can fly, an' why can't I?
Must we give in,” says he, with a grin,
“'T the blackbird an' phoebe are smarter 'n we be?
Jest fold our hands, an' see the swaller
An' blackbird an' catbird beat us holler? …
Jest show me that! er prove 't that bat
Hez got more brains thans's in my hat,
An' I’ll back down, an' not till then!"

— John Townsend Trowbridge, 'Darius Greene and His Flying Machine,' 1869.
The whole poem is online

Kansas City Center, this is Air Force One. Would you please change our call sign to SAM 27000.

— Colonel Ralph Albertazzie, 39,000 feet over Missouri after hearing that passenger Richard Nixon was no longer president, 9 Aug 1974.

We don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all.

— President Obama, commenting on the state of FAA regulations regards drones, UAVs and model flying airplanes. Interview with CNN following a drone flown by a drunk crash landing on the White House lawn. 27 January 2015

Newspapers found grand material for front-page stories. The lone fight of human endurance against Nature's overwhelming odds was the favourite. Setting off unknown to face the unknown, against parental opposition, with no money, friends, or influence, ran it a close second. Clichés like “blazing trails,” flying over “shark-infected seas,” “battling with monsoons,” and “forced landings amongst savage tribes” became familiar diet for breakfast.
Unknown names became household words, whilst others, those of the failures, were forgotten utterly except by kith and kin.

— Amy Johnson

The Wright brothers’ design … allowed them to survive long enough to learn how to fly.

— Michael Potts, spokesman, Beech Aircraft, regards the Wright wing, NY Times, 17 Apr 1984

We realized the difficulties of flying in so high a wind, but estimated that the added dangers in flight would be partly compensated for by the slower speed in landing.

— The Wright brothers

I found myself caught in them wires and the machine blowing across the beach heading for the ocean, landing first on one end and then on the other, rolling over and over, and me getting more tangled up in it all the time. I tell you, I was plumb scared. When the thing did stop for half a second I nearly broke up every wire and upright getting out of it.

— John T. Daniels, who snapped the famous photo of the Wright's first flight, describing what happened to the Wright Flyer later that day.

Flying Machine Soars 3 Miles in Teeth of High Wind Over Sand Hills and Waves at Kitty Hawk on Carolina Coast
Steadily it pursued its way, first tacking to port, then to starboard, and then driving straight ahead. 'It's a success,' declared Orville Wright to the crowd on the beach after the first mile had been covered. But the inventor waited. Not until he had accomplished three miles, putting the machine through all sorts of maneuvers en route, was he satisfied. Then he selected a suitable place to land, and gracefully circling drew his invention slowly to earth, where it settled, like some big bird, in the chosen spot.
'Eureka,' he cried, as did the alchemists of old.

— 'Virginian-Pilot' newspaper, much embellished 'report' of the first 12 second flight. Published 18 December 1903.

I’ve seen him! I’ve seen him! Yes, I have today seen Wilbur Wright and his great white bird, the beautiful mechanical bird. There is no doubt! Wilbur and Orville Wright have well and truly flown.

— 'Le Figaro' 11 August 1908.


I believe that my course in sending our Kitty Hawk machine to a foreign museum is the only way of correcting the history of the flying machine, which by false and misleading statements has been perverted by the Smithsonian Institution. In its campaign to discredit others in the flying art, the Smithsonian has issued scores of these false and misleading statements…In a foreign museum this machine will be a constant reminder of the reasons for its being there, and after the people and petty jealousies of the day are gone, the historians of the future may examine the evidence impartially and make history accord with it. Your regret that this old machine must leave the country can hardly be so great as my own.

— Orville Wright, letter to the Smithsonian, regarding sending The Flyer to the Science Museum, London, England.

The original Wright brothers aeroplane the world's first power-driven, heavier-than-air machine in which man made free, controlled, and sustained flight invented and built by Wilbur and Orville Wright flown by them at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina December 17, 1903. By original scientific research the Wright brothers discovered the principles of human flight as inventors, builders, and flyers they further developed the aeroplane, taught man to fly, and opened the era of aviation.

— Inscription next to The Flyer when it was finally brought back to the United States and unveiled at the Smithsonian in 1948, after that institution dropped claims that Langley was first with powered flight.

There was something strange about the tall, gaunt figure. The face was remarkable, the head suggested that of a bird, and the features, dominated by a long, prominent nose that heightened the birdlike effect were long and bony… . From behind the greyish blue depths of his eyes there seemed to shine something of the light of the sun. From the first moments of my conversation with him I judged Wilbur Wright to be a fanatic of flight, and I had no longer any doubt that he had accomplished all he claimed to have done. He seemed born to fly.

&mdashDaily Mail newspaper, 17 August 1908.

That Wilbur Wright is in possession of a power which controls the fate of nations is beyond dispute.

— Major B. F. S. Baden-Powell, President of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain.

This morning at 3:15, Wilbur passed away, aged 45 years, 1 month and 14 days. A short life full of consequences, an unfailing intellect, imperturbable temper, great self-reliance and as great modesty, seeing the light clearly, pursuing it steadily, he lived and died.

— Bishop Milton Wright, in his diary, 30 May 1912.

Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.

— William Shakespeare

He bores me. He ought to have stuck to his flying machine.

— Pierre Auguste Renoir, regards Leonardo Da Vinci



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