Lots of interesting assorted stuff here, a mixed bag of quotations that don’t fit neatly the other sections of the flying quotes collection. Sorta reminds me of a special section within the wonderful Heffers bookstore in Cambridge, England:


I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer—born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow.

Neil Armstrong, The Engineered Century, speech to the National Press Club, 22 February 2000.

Neil Armstrong

Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines.

Attributed to Enzo Ferrari, 1960. The sentiment may have been true at the time, but with faster speeds and power limitations, Ferrari’s became aerodynamic.

The story is that Belgian racer/journalist Paul Frère was concerned about the drag caused by the huge front windscreen on the Ferrari 250 TR he was going to drive in the high-speed 24 Hours of Le Mans. He asked Enzo about it directly and supposedly l'Ingegnere (The Engineer) replied with the great line. Whether he said exactly is uncertain, it was also reported as “You don't need to worry about aerodynamics, if you build a superb motor”.

Enzo Ferrari

If anyone tries to tell you something about an aeroplane which is so damn complicated that you can’t understand it, you can take it from me it’s all balls.

R. J. Mitchell, aeronautical engineer and designer of the Spitfire, told to test pilot Jeffrey Quill in the 1930’s. Quoted in his 1983 book Spitfire: A Test Pilot's Story.

R J Mitchell

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Isaiah 14:14, King James version.

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. Quoted in 2000 Southern Illinois University Press book The American Aviation Experience: A History.

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.


Captain Kirk quotes this line in the 1991 movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country just before he and the original crew of the Enterprise go on one last trip.

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

Sir Winston Churchill, letter to Lord Bevearbrook, 26 September 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. It was donated to the academy by personnel from Air Training Command in 1952.

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

Richard Miller, Soaring magazine editor, 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, The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way, 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.

Comte de Provence (later Louis XVIII of France), Impromptu on the first successful balloon ascension by the brothers Montgolfier, 1783. It rhymes in the original French:

“Les Anglais, nation trop fière, S’arrogent l’empire des mers; Les Français, nation légère, 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, after being a passenger in a crash of a Gulfstream jet landing at the Van Nuys airport. Reported in Variety 16 Febrary 1999.

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

Tom Krizek, airline captain. Personal conversation, 1995.

I hope they don't think I'm paying for this class.

Max Sylvester, on his third lesson, radio call to ATC after his instructor became unconscious and he got to log some PIC time and a first landing. 31 August 2019. Reported in The Guardian newspaper 7 August 2020.

Student Pilot Max Sylvester

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

Chinese proverb.

There is a lot of obscurity surrounding these questions. Indeed, I must confess that I have never encountered a simple answer to them even in the specialist literature.

Albert Einstein, on the aerodynamic question of how a wing works. Elementary Theory of Water Waves and of Flight, published in the journal Die Naturwissenschaften, 1916. In 1917, on the basis of his theory, he designed an airfoil that was built by Luftverkehrsgesellschaft in Berlin. It was not a success. In 1954 he described his excursion into aeronautics as a “youthful folly” (quoted in Scientific American, February 2020).

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

Attributed to Orville Wright, it became the weary answer to questions of how wings work.

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.

Jackie 'Jack' Ridley, chief of the USAF Flight Test Engineering Laboratory, played by Levon Helm, in the 1983 movie The Right Stuff.

The Right Stuff

I went up with Yeager in a Piper Cub. I figured if I died while flying with the world’s greatest pilot, it would be OK.

Sam Shepard, who played Chuck Yeager in the 1983 movie The Right Stuff. Quoted in An Oral History of the Epic Space Film The Right Stuff, Wired magazine, November 2014.

When I posted this quote on Twitter, Chuck remembered flying Sam and wrote that “He barely fit in it”. @GenChuckYeager, Twitter, 21 Janurary 2020.

Sam Shepard and Chuck Yeager

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, played by Humphrey Bogart, in the 1942 movie Casablanca. Screenplay by Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein, and Howard Koth.

Maybe not today

Straighten up and fly right.

Song written by Nat 'King' Cole, first written down in a hotel room in Omaha, Nebraska, in the winter of 1943. One of the first vocal hits for the King Cole Trio, reaching number one on the US Harlem Hit Parade for ten nonconsecutive weeks and peaking at number nine on the pop charts. The song was based on a black folk tale that Cole's father had used as a theme for one of his sermons. In the tale, a buzzard takes different animals for a joy ride. When he gets hungry, he throws them off on a dive and eats them for dinner. A monkey who had observed this trick goes for a ride; he wraps his tail around the buzzard's neck and gives the buzzard a big surprise by nearly choking him to death.

The song has been covered many times, for example The Andrews Sisters in 1944, Sammy David Jr., Diana Krall, and Robbie Williams. It was used in the 1983 movie The Right Stuff and the 1995 movie The Tuskegee Airmen. It was added to the National Registry in 2005.

Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it. I never missed a take-off in my life.

Evel Knievel. Quoted in Stuart Barker’s 2008 book Evel Knievel: Life of Evel.

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.

All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics. TSR-2 simply got the first three right.

Sir Sydney Camm, aeronautical engineer and designer of the Hawker Hurricane, quoted in The Telegraph newspaper, 7 June 2005. The UK Minister of Defence, Dennis Healey, made this (more boring) statement:

“The fundamental reason for our decision of the TSR-2 was the cost of the programme was out of all proportion to the aircraft’s military value.” Quoted in the 2021 book Britain’s Glorious Aircraft Industry: 100 Years of Success, Setback and Change.

Airfix kit TSR-2

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 and it’s my webpage.) 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, letter Bequest to the Academic Youth of Soviet Russia, 1936. Also widely attributed to Linus Pauling, American quantum chemist and biochemist.

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.

Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1859 translation by Edward Fitzgerald.

The daily bread of our eyes. The sky is the ultimate art gallery just above us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 25 May 1843.

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.

Although man is not armed by nature nor is naturally swiftest in flight, yet he has something better by far — reason. For by the possession of this function he exceeds the beasts to such a degree that he subdues … You see, therefore, how much the gift of reason surpasses mere physical equipment.

Tina Stiefel, Science, Reason, and Faith in the Twelfth Century, 1976.

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, 1936.

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.

For someone who’s crazy about being in the air, dying down on the ground is something of an abdication.

Maryse Bastié, French aviator who set several international records for female aviators during the 1930s. She did die in an airplane crash, 6 July 1951. Quoted in the 2013 book Women Aviators: From Amelia Earhart to Sally Ride, Making History in Air and Space.

Maryse Bastié

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.

Air ViceMarshal A.G. Dudgeon, RAF, 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

In the ongoing battle between objects made of aluminum going hundreds of miles per hour and the ground going zero miles per hour, the ground has yet to lose.


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

David Behnecke, founder of the Air Line Pilots Association, editorial in Air Line Pilot magazine, 20 April 1932.

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

Le Temps newspaper referring to the disappearance of French WWI 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, Crusade in Europe, 1948.

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

Attributed to 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.

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’ll ever learn to fly anything this big?’

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

DC-3 and pilots

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. If you can’t fix it, don’t worry about it; accept it and do the best you can. But some folks worry about things they can’t do anything about until they lose their effectiveness.

General James H. Doolittle, interview in American Heritage magazine, April 1974.

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. Quoted in the book Capt. Jepp And The Little Black Book, 2007.

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, 1961.

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.

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, 1868.

East to the dawn and southward to the sun,
Borne on aloft by Man’s great gift of wings
To legend lands that make the pulses run
And towns that leap with names of ancient Kings.

K. C. Gander Dower, preface to Amateur Adventure, 1934.

If a flying machine really has to go anywhere it takes the railroad or a steamboat.

Syndicated US newspaper content, late summer 1908. Seen here in the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper, Rochester, NY, 6 August 1908.

Can't go it alone

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.

Attributed to Sir Christopher Cockerell, regards his invention the hovercraft.

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

Attributed to Theodore von Kármán, engineer and physicist active primarily in aerodynamics.

Simplicate and Add Lightness

Design philosophy of Ed Heinemann, Douglas Aircraft.

Flying is more thrilling than love for a man and far less dangerous.

Thea Rasche, 1920’s aviatix. Quoted in Air & Space Smithsonian magazine, 1987.

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, cited in Dictionary of Quotations, 2008.

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, played by Barry Nelson, in the 1970 movie Airport.


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. The line is sourced to him in Hard Landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits That Plunged the Airlines into Chaos, 1995. However, the phrase was used in a 1950 article in ALPA’s magazine The Air Line Pilot.

I thought it would stop both engines, the plane would start to head towards a crash, and I would wake up.

Joseph Emerson, Alaska Airlines pilot who tried to crash an airliner from the jumpseat. He was under the inflence of psychedelic mushrooms taken two days earlier. Interview with the New York Times newspaper, published 10 November 2023. Let’s hope it starts real change in FAA medical certification.

But why do so many people dream of being able to fly? The answer that psycho-analysis gives is that to fly or to be a bird is only a disguise for another wish, and that more than one bridge, involving words or things, leads us to recognize what it is When we consider that inquisitive children are told that babies are brought by a large bird, such as the stork; when we find that the ancients represented the phallus as having wings; that the commonest expression in German for male sexual activity is vögeln [‘to bird’: Volgel is the German for ‘bird’]; that the male organ is actually called l’ucello [the bird] in Italian — all of these are only small fragments from a whole mass of connected ideas, from which we learn that in dreams the wish to be able to fly is to be understood as nothing else than the longing to be capable of sexual performance.

Sigmund Freud, Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood, 1964 Alan Tyson translation, published as Eine Kindheitserinnerung des Leonardo da Vinci, 1910.

Leonardo da Vinci, A Memory of His Childhood

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. In article about the TV show Pan Am, 23 September 2011.

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

Aviation 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, 1981.

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.

Scientific 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.

Oe 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.

Nobody is going to drown. The plane is pressurized.

Capt Don Gallagher, pilot of Stevens Flight 23, a Boeing 747 that crashed and sunk under the Atlantic Ocean, 1977.

To be clear, this is all in the movie Airport '77. Capt Don Gallagher was played by Jack Lemmon, screenplay by Michael Scheff and David Spector, based on the 1970 movie Airport, itself based on the novel by Arthur Hailey. It was the third movie in the Airport franchise, and actually received two Acadamy Award nominations. The premise is of course Bravo Sierra, but the plane used in filming was real, an ex American Airlines B-747-123, N9667.

Airport 1977

Well, aeronautically it was a great success. Socially it left quite a bit to be desired.

Attributed to Noel Coward, after being asked ‘How was your flight?’

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 Schary Robinson, Bed/Time/Story, 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.

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

Maverick and Goose in the 1986 movie Top Gun.

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.

Tom Cruise in the 1986 movie, Top Gun.

Air Force One has more televisions that any plane in history. They've got them in closets, they've got them on ceilings, floors. They've got more … You can't escape a television.

President Donald Trump, speech to the RNC, 24 August 2020. He clearly has never flown JetBlue!

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, 2000.

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

Attributed to 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, payed by John Candy, in the 1987 movie Airplanes, Trains & Automobiles.

It looked like a Taco Bell after an earthquake.

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

Selling airplanes.

Alvin 'Tex' Johnson, Boeing test pilot, asked by Boeing President William Allen what he thought he was doing the day before after two surprise barrel rolls of the new Dash 80 (later the B-707) airliner over a crowd of 250,000 people at the Seattle Gold Cup, 8 August 1955.

Tex explained the maneuver was harmless, performed at one G. In his book Tex Johnston: Jet-Age Test Pilot he says “the airplane does not recognize attitude, providing a maneuver is conducted at one G. It knows only positive and negative imposed loads and variations in thrust and drag. The barrel roll is a one G maneuver and quite impressive, but the airplane never knows it’s inverted.” Allen responded:

“You know that. Now we know that. But just don’t do it anymore.”

Inverted 707

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, 1992.

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.

No weapons, no defenses, just speed. Great in battle, but non-violent.

Grimes (née Claire Boucher) explaining the A-12 aeroplane part of her son's name X Æ A-12 Musk. She tweeted:

•X, the unknown variable ⚔️`
•Æ, my elven spelling of Ai (love &/or Artificial intelligence)
•A-12 = precursor to SR-17 (our favorite aircraft). No weapons, no defenses, just speed. Great in battle, but non-violent 🤍
(A=Archangel, my favorite song)
(⚔️🐁 metal rat)

Elon Musk quickly corrected the typo, the plane is the SR-71. 5 May 2020.

It was wonderful to feel the delicate movement of the aircraft through the controls.

Helen Keller, blind and deaf author and advocate, decribing the sensation of controling a airplane. She received Tactical Sign Language communication through her travel companion Polly Thompson. American Foundation for the Blind has a June 1946 newspaper clipping of the event from an unknown newspaper.

Myanmar Air traffic control: Hotel Bravo-Bravo Romeo Alpha, what is your departure point and destination?

Brian Jones: Departure point, Chateau 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.

Flying gives me complete control, freedom, and access to take my adventurous lifestyle to new heights.

Kellee Edwards, TV travel show host and pilot, in the 2021 new pilot edition of Flight Training magazine.

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, circa 1850.

This is earth again, the earth where I’ve lived and now will live once more. Here are human beings … 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. In The Spirit of St. Louis, 1953.

Of all the inventions that have helped to unify ar 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.

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, 1995.

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, weekly French newspaper, 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, Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science , 1979.

Carl Sagan

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

[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, in The Australian Journal: A Family Newspaper, 1888.

On wings of winds came flying all abroad.

Alexander Pope, Prologue to the Satires, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot. Composed in 1734, first published in 1735.

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 magazine, 5 January 1987.

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

Poem recited by the Mad Hatter, a parody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, 1865.

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, The Walrus and The Carpenter, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872.

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 the TV show The Simpsons, episode 137, Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming, by Spike Ferensten. First aired 26 November 1995.

Bart Simpson in the Wright Flyer

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, 1997.

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, quoted in Computerland newsweekly, 10 November 1986.

Engineering is the science of doing things over again.

John E. 'Jack' Steiner, chief engineer on the Boeing 727. A ‘summary he had once invented for a speech’, quoted in the 1965 book Billion Dollar Battle: The Story Behind the “Impossible” 727 Project.

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.

Attributed to Captain Ned Wilson, Pan Am. In for example America By Air, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2007.

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.

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).

Herb Morrison

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, The 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, 1979.

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.

The spirit of St. Louis book

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

Wendell Phillips Stafford, regards Lindbergh. Circular, Illinois, issue 226, 1928.


Charles Lindburgh, Western Union telegram to Ryan Airlines, signed from ROBERTSON AIRCRAFT CORP to “get more consideration” after being turned down by Travel Air. 3 February 1927. Quoted in his 1953 book The Spirit of St. Louis.


Donald Hall, Chief engineer, Ryan Airlines, next day reply to Charles Lindbergh’s request for feasibility of the airplane later known as The Spirit of St. Louis. M refers to their Model M. Westerrn Union telegram from San Diego, California, 4 February 1927.

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 twelve years old.

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

Lord Darlington, in Oscar Wilde'a play Lady Windermere's Fan, A Play About a Good Woman, first performed on 20 February 1892, St. James Theatre, London.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers

Emily Dickinson, first line of her poem Hope, 1861. Published postumously in 1891.

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

Edgar Schmued, Chief Designer North American Aviation. Quoted in a letter by Elenor Cree Edwards to Air & Space Smithsonian magazine, Volume 11 Number 5, 1996.

It's most probable the flying car concept will remain just that. Not vaporware, but still unobtanium.

Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief, AOPA Pilot magazine, April 2021.

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.

Robert Carroll, Pratt & Whitney spokesperson, explaining why the company charged the Air Force $999 for an ordinary pair of pliers, 1990. Newsweek magazine, 2 July 1990.

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

Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, May 1917. Quoted in Gunning for the Red Baron, 2006.

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

Marcel Dassault, attributed in ads by Dassault Aviation.

MArcel Dassault

Oh no, ’twasn’t the aviators. It was Beauty killed the Beast.

Carl Denham, played by Robert Armstrong, final words of the 1933 movie King Kong. Screenplay by James Creelman and Ruth Rose.

King Kong poster

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, played by Slim Pickens, in the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George.

B52 cockpit Dr Strangelove

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, played by Slim Pickens, in the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George.

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, fighter pilot's toast.

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

Colonel Ralph Albertazzie, USAF, 39,000 feet over Missouri after being informed that passenger Richard Nixon was no longer president since Gerald Ford had been sworn into office. 9 Aug 1974.

They were heading from Washington D.C. to Nixon’s home, La Casa Pacifica in San Clemente, California.

SAM 27000 was the second of two Boeing VC-137C United States Air Force aircraft that were specifically configured and maintained for the use of the President of the United States. SAM 27000 comes from 'Special Air Mission' and its serial number 72-7000. It's on display now at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

SAM 27000

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

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.

Orville Wright, How We Made The First Flight, Flying magazine, December 1918.

How We Made The First Flight, Flying magazine

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, in 1928. My granddad, William English, saw The Flyer there and told me about it.

The Flyer in London

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.

The Flyer at Smithsonian

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.

Daily Mail newspaper, 17 August 1908.

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.

And seeing ignorance is the curse of God, knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.

William Shakespeare, Saye, scene vii, act IV, Henry VI, Part 2, written cira. 1590-91.

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

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, regards Leonardo Da Vinci. Widely cited, including Jean Renoir’s intimate biography Renior, My Father, 1962.


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