An Airman's Odyssey: Walt Braznell and the Pilots He Led Into the Jet Age

William Braznell, Author University of Missouri Press $39.95 (248p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1306-8
A former air force pilot, author Braznell states from the outset that he himself does not know quite what to make of this hybrid work. Parts memoir, biography and history, the book traces the career of Braznell's pioneer aviator father, Walt, as he progresses from airmail pilot to vice-president of American Airlines. Along the way, Walt participates in the evolution of commercial air transport and hobnobs with the likes of legendary pilot Charles Lindbergh, National Air Races champion Benny Howard and aviation novelist Ernie Gann. As the story unfolds, the author breaks up the narrative with snippets of aviation lore and with minitutorials on such matters as dead reckoning and the anatomy of a thunderstorm. On one level, the book will be of great interest to aviation enthusiasts enthralled with the process by which commercial air travel progressed from exotic adventure to everyday occurrence. On another, the lore is simply delicious for anyone. Pilots for American, for example, were routinely fed cold fried chicken in flight; they would dispense of the bones by holding them near an open window and allowing them to be sucked into the slipstream. Walt (who died before the book was completed) recalls: ""We left a trail... from Newark to Chicago."" Air buffs will love this book, but it doesn't quite have the focus or breadth to break out of its niche--though it is all the more charming for it. Period photos of dashing Walt and cohorts, with a surprise trove of thoroughly charming sketches by Braznell family friend Dick Clark. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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