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On Extended Wings

PDF Ackerman is truly a delight, an eclectic personality who exults in sampling nature from all perspectives as a participant. On Extended Wings is her personal attempt to learn how to fly. "The pilot's seat is one of the few places on earth where one's life is truly one's own; there are no hideouts, compromises, misgivings, victims, benefactors. In a cavalcade of minute, urgent decisions, you must choose your fate."
She decided to learn how to pilot a plane not because it may or may not be dangerous or because she's afraid, but in spite of her fear, "because there are things you can learn about the world only from 5,000 feet above it."

Along the way she muses about nature and life in the most charming prose. She has a terrible time learning to land and her descriptions of the process can be quite harrowing. (What do you expect from one who rides on the back of alligators — more in an upcoming issue.)
Our changing attitude toward flying is reflected in the change of aircraft names. Just getting a hunk of metal into the sky no longer carries with it the sense of exploit and risk that it used to; so no longer are planes given docile names like Sopwith Camels, Cubs, Fledglings and Pups. Now they are called Stallions, Vikings, Vampires and Shrikes to reinforce the sense of adventure.

The book also articulates a great deal about teaching and the process of learning. It can be sad, too. Her last flight instructor, who had successfully coaxed her into solo flight, was killed in a light plane crash. This is a beautiful memoir, written by a poet who lovingly uses language to create haunting images.

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