Turning Final: A Life Complete

by Jim Reed Lt. Col. USAF (Ret)
Trafford Publishing

" I pointed out that the Russians (at that time) were the enemy and if a frozen turkey were to hit a crewmember or damage a critical piece of equipment, it could cause an international incident."

This autobiography is by a man who has flown all shapes of sizes of aircraft, from huge, four propeller Boeing KC-97 "Stratotankers" to sleek jet fighters like the F-86. An almost lifelong member of the U.S. Air Force, his anecdotal retelling of his flights, near mishaps and ideas make for a dense series of interesting stories. From his early childhood in the thirties, through training, commission as an officer, and assignments from Toul-Rosieres Air Base in France to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, his recounting of personalities, events, and behavior are both enthralling and romantic. What comes through is an intense love of flying and a wish to share that experience. A dizzying array of aircraft are described, with black and white photographs of each to help the uninitiated visualize. The long span of his career unavoidably adds a historical element to the narrative, opening the appeal of the book to historians of aircraft as well as simple air buffs. A love of sailboats is also in evidence, with tales of squalls and tragedy on the seas .

The style of language is simple and straightforward, though it necessarily evolves into some pretty technical descriptions of navigation systems, maneuvers, and airplane structure. A pretty good glossary explains most of the terminology, and he provides diagrams of complicated concepts like a "Chinese Immelman." At no time does it feel like the matter is being unnecessarily complicated. His concern is accuracy and truth-telling; he does not sugarcoat the gruesome deaths and disfigurements he has witnessed in his career. Some delightful poetry and colorful descriptions attempt to communicate the wonder and joy involved in the freedom of flight. While human language may not be able to achieve this goal completely, this is a noble attempt.

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