During his 30 years in the Air Force and Air National Guard, Fleming made a career of descending from the sky to pluck disaster victims from the jaws of floods, storms, sharks and polar white-outs. His gripping memoir vividly illustrates how tenuous the life of a deus ex machina can be. Fleming recalls the tragic and sometimes gruesome deaths of unlucky colleagues who succumbed to the elements and recounts hair-raising missions that often took place at night, flown through hazardous weather (including the vicious nor'easter Sebastian Junger made famous in The Perfect Storm) in fragile helicopters prone to mechanical breakdown. Avoiding gung-ho special-ops bluster, he probes the human flaws and lapses--incompetent, panicky pilots, abusive officers, penny-pinching bureaucrats who refuse to pay for much-needed equipment--that bedevil even elite outposts of the military. Fleming's sober, straightforward, well-paced style lucidly conveys the lore of helicopter flight and the practical difficulties of rescue missions while letting the heroics speak for themselves. Photos.