, and welcome to my collection of man’s great thoughts on flying, airplanes, and being a pilot.
On the web since 1996, published years ago as a couple of books, now completely updated and formated to work on modern computers, tablets and phones. Quotations are loosely arranged into broad topics for easy browsing, plus there’s a fast search function. Facebook and twitter pages for updates and conversation.
When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.
Wrongly attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.
This may be one of the most famous aviation quotes — but it wasn’t Leonardo! It’s attributed everywhere (including some Smithsonian publications, the Washington Post newspaper and science quotation books) to him, but I never found definitive source information. Neither did some nice folks I talked with at National Geographic Magazine years ago, who had contacted one of the world’s leading Leonardo authorities in Italy as part of a long research process and were told that Leonardo da Vinci did not write it.
He did, however, write this one about flying and writing:
Feathers shall raise men even as they do birds, towards heaven; that is by letters written with their quills.
The object here is to capture man’s first-hand experiences with flight in all its forms, to collect and document our spoken and written words about aviation. It’s the ultimate online quotable flyer. It is not ‘under construction’, but it very much is a ‘work in progress’. If you can supply dates or sources for existing quotes, or correct my typos, or suggest further sources of quotations, or of course if you see some cool new quotes, please please send them in to me.
Always happy to add new sections, and to correct mistakes. This collection is growing into something no one person could have created, a real product of the worldwide aviation community.
I started the site in 1996 using Netscape Navigator 3.0 Gold and hand-coded HTML in MS notepad. This was back when AOL was king and before Google even existed! Internet Archive has screenshots from 1997. It was featured in the LA Times (17 December 1996) and USA Today (17 April 1997) newspapers. Been a few changes over the years, got a grown-up URL, and now it’s made using fancy Dreamweaver software running on a Mac.
Back then research meant college liberies and card indexes. Now with the wholesale scanning and digitalization of old books and magazines, finding the exact original source of a quotation is finally possible. Lots of corrections made over the years to the sometimes third-hand quotes I first found reading flying books in the late 80’s.
The collection has been cited in several academic papers, and has been used as a resource for both books and movies. Now spreading wings on Pinterest and Instagram. It’s pretty neat that I’ve been able to share treasures from what Richard Bach called the ‘special section on private bookshelves’:
Thousands of volumes have been written about aviation, but we do not automatically have thousands of true and special friends in their authors. That rare writer who comes alive on a page does it by giving of himself, by writing of meanings, and not just of fact or of things that have happened to him. The writers of flight who have done this are usually found together in a special section on private bookshelves.
The Pleasure of Their Company, in Flying magazine, April 1968.
Or like a poet woo the Moon,
Riding an armchair for my steed,
And with a flashing pen harpoon
Terrific metaphors of speed.
The Festivals of Flight, 1930.
It isn’t often that a writer of superlative skills knows enough about flying to write well about it.
A Teller of Tales Tells His Own, in The New York Times, 7 September 1997.