Friday, February 13, 2009

High Flight

The dangers of flying through clouds without ATC clearance can be illustrated by a story from the early days of World War II. Almost every pilot is familiar with the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., but few are familiar with the story behind the poem.

John Magee was one of the young men who wanted to get into action against Hitler before the U.S. entered the war, so he crossed the border into Canada and enlisted in the RCAF. After training, he was sent to a combat assignment in England.

The inspiration for “High Flight” came on a high altitude test flight in a Spitfire. In a letter home to his parents, he described how the poem was begun at 30,000 feet and finished shortly after landing. He jotted the verse on the back of the letter. About three months later, his Spitfire collided with a training airplane inside a cloud over England, and he was killed at the age of 19.

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