Title True Course - Lessons From a Life Aloft
Author Brigid Johnson
Genre Memoir/Young Adult
Publisher Outskirts Press
From award-winning, Amazon #1 best-selling author Brigid Johnson comes the tale of how one woman's life in the sky forged an unforgettable destiny. Growing up in a small factory town in the 1960's when aviation was predominantly a male profession, with parents who didn't support her ambitions, Brigid nevertheless learned to fly as a teenager. Hers was a busy life of setting limits and learning philosophies of growth and risk well beyond her years, even as she juggled two jobs, college, and a rescue Siberian husky whose wandering spirit put her own to shame. From first solo to an airline career, and finally a decision to hang up her wings for another profession when her elderly father needed her care, Brigid captures with understanding, humor, and grace the moments that change the path of our lives as we come of age. With lyrical expression of her love for flight, she writes old and new stories of family, adventure, and the thrill of taking to the sky. True Course is more than a memoir or a story of the lure of aviation-it's a story of learning to let the spirit soar and unfurling the wings of personal freedom, an inspiration to adventurers everywhere.
Pilots talk of many things aloft when settled into a long cruise on autopilot, and the adage is true, when with the opposite sex, pilots talk about airplanes and in an airplane, pilots talk about the opposite sex. We talk of the spiritual and we talk of the mundane. We talk about families and jobs, spouses, children, food, pranks played, food again and surprise—we talk more about airplanes. Then on descent, the time of “sterile cockpit” with no non-duty talking allowed, we would work in conjoined silence, only the callouts from the checklist heard on the air.
There were nights where we got in a long enough layover to play tourist or simply catch up on relaxation and sleep, carrying the cockpit conversation over to a bar or a little restaurant. Such were the nights where on a very long layover we'd have a spot of whiskey, telling tales of adventure of some pilot, who could have been any of us, or none of us, a story that was not boasting but simply a telling, stories that had been lived or inherited, those stories that have been told over whiskey since time began. There was just something comforting in the voices, the words, the recognition of sound in the air, the clink of ice, and if you were in a really low-rent part of the world, the cluck of the basket of live chickens hanging from the ceiling.
Then, there were the days where sleep was hard to find, the day grinding into the night, when the only words spoken outside of flaps and slats and EPR's were, with a quick look at your ‘dinner,’ “Hey, I bet this would taste good warm.” On such days we simply continued on in silence, surrendering our misfortunes and our joys to God and Pratt and Whitney, which sang to us outside like a Mockingbird in the moonlight.
I think of a flight back before I hung up my professional wings, one long flight over foreign lands. Up at altitude, across that vast stretch of blue, we laughed and we shared. Much of it was happy, but occasionally a story would come back from a compatriot Gone West, and through the laughter, tears stung our eyes as a familiar awe-filled sadness enveloped our little space and we grew silent, remembering him, sounds of mourning and respect. Airmen and soldiers are a small community of thousands, and we never forget our dead.
It was still dark as we flew over the Prime Meridian after stopping for fuel in Greenland. The Prime Meridian is the common zero for longitude and time reckoning throughout the globe. The one place where we are all at one point and the moment stands still, an infinate place where for a second, time and motion is tethered to our aircraft like a careless rope.
As we crossed over, I synchronized my watch with my copilot’s and attempted to capture that time, to somehow gather it to us. Only then does it hit—all we have experienced from this cockpit. Different languages and sights, smells, and sounds; the roar of a turbine engine, as it started with that artistic endeavor of curse words and meditation, the underlying scent of jet fuel, oily and dark, that hung in the mist on an early morning ramp.
This morning’s air had burned with cold as we traced the soft scratches in the panel with gloved hands, trying to keep them warm while we waited for orders—the red “remove before flight” tags on the gear pins lying like frozen icicles against the landing gear as the crew chiefs finished their tasks. Yet such thoughts disappear as the sound of the engines brought us back to our tasks; we're still at the Prime Meridian where there was precision and accord, spoken with the deep anesthetic hush of sameness.
We sat in that quiet hush, veins flowing with need, the nourishment of salt that comes from flesh and our eyes, that old blood that has explored new lands and ancient skies, the hardships of separation and the circumstances that lurk, to hurl us into wonder, or to snatch us from that blue,
100% of book sales go to Animal Rescue and Search Dog Foundation.
Brigid Johnson is a former airline pilot who hung up her professional wings for a mid-life career change and care for an elderly parent. The author of both best-selling non-fiction and Christian fiction, she is a two times winner (silver/gold) of the Reader's Favorite International Book Award. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two incorrigible rescue dogs.
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