The Air Up There by Dave English

Pros: Funny, Insightful, short, super gift

Cons: Probably has a fairly small audience

I feel I’m ‘going long’ on this review as there are lots of people  who have never been in a small plane – and never intend to – in fact, the idea might be rather nightmarish. Then there are others, myself included, who have experienced the pure felicity of flying, and have found few pastimes to better it.

I have only been at the controls of a plane for about three minutes – long enough to know that was long enough. I’m a much better co-pilot, with duties ranging from Thermos-Bottle Controller  to Official Chewing-Gum Dispenser.

I’m speculating that The Air Up There was primarily written for flying enthusiasts.  In fact, it was pretty much written by  flight enthusiasts. The author, Dave English states in his introduction that after his first book Slipping the Surly Bonds: Great Quotations on Flight, he was overwhelmed.

“No one was guessing in 1997 that a book on aviation quotations would sell 30,000 copies or that 200 pages would not be nearly enough to cover all the material.”

The book is divided into seventeen very short, snappy chapters quoting on subjects such as Cliches, Space Flight, Combat, Birds, Piloting and Safety.

A small sample. . .

Chapter: Cliches

The average pilot , despite the sometimes swaggering exterior, is very much capable of feelings such as love, affection, intimacy and caring. These feelings just don’t involve anyone else. “

” If God wanted me to fly, he would have made me flush riveted.”

Chapter: Space Flight

I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four sunsets.” ( John Glenn).

Why don’t you fix your little problem, and light this candle.”  ( Alan B. Shepard, Jr. to Mission Control during his four-hour sit atop the 10-story, 33-ton Redstone rocket).

Chapter:  Combat

My pilot pointed to his left and above, and looking in the direction he pointed, I saw a long dark brown form fairly streaking across the sky. We could see it was a German machine, and when it got above and behind our middle machine, it dived on it for all the world like a huge hawk on a hapless sparrow.” ( James McCudden, VC RFC)

I belong to a group of men who fly alone. . .I do everything myself, from engine start to engine shutdown. In a war, I will face alone the missiles and the flak and the small arms over the  front lines. If I die, I will die alone.” ( Richard Bach  1963)

Chapter: Piloting

A pilot lives in a world of perfection, or not at all.”   ( Richard Drury 1979)

Chapter: Safety

Remember one thing: the Pk ( Probability of kill) of the ground is always 100%.”  ( Origin unknown)

Chapter: Humor

Motor cut. Forced landing. Hit cow. Scared me.”  ( Dean Smith telegraph to his Chief)

I enjoyed this book immensely, not only because I could personally relate to some of the lingo and  scenarios, but I also learned so much. Like. . .

Engine failure:  A condition which occurs when all fuel tanks mysteriously become filled with air.”

“Roger” : Used when you’re not sure what else to say.”


  • Try to stay in the middle of the air.
  • Do not go near the edges of it.
  • The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees, and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.

Final thoughts. . .

I did,  eventually, get used to my friend stalling the engine on purpose – aiming toward the sun as high as the single – engine Cessna 174 could take us, then, turning downward, and in a lesson on anti-gravity, floating a pencil inside the cockpit. But I never got totally used to seeing pine cones two hundred-feet off the ground but yet, eye-level, hopping over creeks on final descent (Red’s Horse Ranch in the Wallowa Mountain range)) or coming up out of a canyon at a 45° angle. Nor was I ever comfortable hearing him say ” Well babe, cheated death again” – but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Author  Dave English

Published by McGraw-Hill 2003

182 pages

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