Midwest Book Review on WHEELS UP Captain Steve Taylor Joggling Board Press 9780991491100 $22.95 www.stevetaylorbooks.com
Wheels Up: Sky Jinks in the Jet Age is an unexpected treat: unexpected because of its humor. But when you look at the cover art (which shows a pilot poking up through a little hole in his aircraft's roof to wave at the camera) and read the book's subtitle, these are definitely clues that the contents of Wheels Up holds more than just a story of flying big planes.
Oh, this piece is there, of course: but the purpose here isn't to provide a serious account of exploits and air encounters: it's to chronicle the true-life antics of a pilot who is an ex-boxer, an air force pilot, and more. So expect a blend of autobiography along with hearty accounts of mishaps, ironies, and close encounters with strange passengers that included his 23-year-old daughter who, ironically, harbors an intense fear of flying.
Captain Taylor’s ex-wife, as well as his daughter, experienced a condition the author calls ‘FREUD’ (Flying Represents Early Ugly Death). You’d think an experienced pilot could allay this fear. But no: to some, flying is a dangerous endeavor. And the difference between irrational fear and ordinary apprehension creates a fine line between astute worry and sheer panic.
In the course of exploring his family's fears, Captain Taylor provides much insight into phobias and the real dangers of airplane operations; so the story becomes more than a narrative about one woman's fear but documents the very real phenomenon of 'fear of flying' and the realities involved in adapting to plane flight.
Because this is an autobiography, there are digressions, so readers seeking JUST airplane-oriented tales will find some chapters document other aspects of Taylor's life, such as hunting with a big-egoed but inexperienced hunter, or shooting out the tires of a garbage-dumper who invades his property.
The sky jinks are only a part of a bigger picture which translates to life encounters that hold more than a touch of irony and lessons to be learned. It's a pleasure, however, to see an autobiography that pairs comic relief (as in the hilarious story of Captain French Bread and his flight attendant) with serious reflection, adding a dose of pilot's experiences to supplement other outrageous pranks and fun moments: "Bob Norris did not get his reputation by not finalizing his jokes. He had left the airplane soon after we arrived at the gate and went to operations to secure paper with an official letterhead. When Pidd arrived at the bulletin board there was the phony safety memo about the fire hazard from faulty coffee makers."
It's this attention to humor and lessons learned from flying and life that makes Wheels Up an uplifting, memorable and fun read recommended for airplane enthusiasts and general autobiography readers alike.
—D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review
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