HIGH FLIGHT


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr



Impressions of a Pilot

Flight is freedom in its purest form,
To dance with the clouds which follow a storm;

To roll and glide, to wheel and spin,
To feel the joy that swells within;

To leave the earth with its troubles and fly,
And know the warmth of a clear spring sky;

Then back to earth at the end of a day,
Released from the tensions which melted away.

Should my end come while I am in flight,
Whether brightest day or darkest night;

Spare me your pity and shrug off the pain,
Secure in the knowledge that I'd do it again;

For each of us is created to die,
And within me I know,
I was born to fly.

— Gary Claud Stokor



The Copilot

I am the copilot. I sit on the right.
It's up to me to be quick and bright;
I never talk back for I have regrets,
But I have to remember what the Captain forgets.

I make out the Flight Plan and study the weather,
Pull up the gear, stand by to feather;
Make out the mail forms and do the reporting,
And fly the old crate while the Captain is courting.

I take the readings, adjust the power,
Put on the heaters when we're in a shower;
Tell him where we are on the darkest night,
And do all the bookwork without any light.

I call for my Captain and buy him cokes;
I always laugh at his corny jokes,
And once in awhile when his landings are rusty
I always come through with, "By gosh it's gusty!"

All in all I'm a general stooge,
As I sit on the right of the man I call "Scrooge";
I guess you think that is past understanding,
But maybe some day he will give me a landing.

— Keith Murray



Because I Fly

Because I fly
I laugh more than other men
I look up an see more than they,
I know how the clouds feel,
What it's like to have the blue in my lap,
to look down on birds,
to feel freedom in a thing called the stick...

who but I can slice between God's billowed legs,
and feel then laugh and crash with His step
Who else has seen the unclimbed peaks?
The rainbow's secret?
The real reason birds sing?
Because I Fly,
I envy no man on earth.

— Brian Shul USAF SR-71 Blackbird Pilot 



An Airman Grace

Lord of thunderhead and sky
Who place in man the will to fly
Who taught his hand speed, skill and grace
To soar beyond man's dwelling place
You shared with him the Eagle's view
The right to soar, as Eagles do
The right to call the clouds his home
And grateful, through your heavens roam
May all assembled here tonight
And all who love the thrill of flight
Recall with twofold gratitude
Your gift of Wings, Your gift of Food.

— Father John MacGillivary, Royal Canadian Air Force



An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

— William Butler Yeats, 1919



I searched along the changing edge
Where, sky-pierced now the cloud had broken.
I saw no bird, no blade of wing,
No song was spoken.
I stood, my eyes turned upward still
And drank the air and breathed the light.
Then, like a hawk upon the wind,
I climbed the sky, I made the flight.

— Elizabeth J. Buchtenkirk



Alone, yet never lonely,
Serene, beyond mischance,
The world was his, his only,
When Lindbergh flew to France.

— Aline Michaelis



And now 'tis man who dares assault the sky . . .
And as we come to claim our promised place,
Aim only to repay the good you gave,
And warm with human love the chill of space.

— Prof. Thomas G. Bergin



The True and Beautiful—The Sky

Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes awful, never the same for two months together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost Divine in its infinity.

—Bayard Ruskin



Unseen Fire

This is a damned unnatural sort of war;
The pilot sits among the clouds, quite sure
About the values he is fighting for;
He cannot hear beyond his veil of sound,
He cannot see the people on the ground;
he only knows that on the sloping map
Of sea-fringed town and country people creep
Like ants — and who cares if ants laugh or weep?

— R. N. Currey




Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.
How can life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare The soul's dominion?
Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the restless day,
And count it fair.

— Amelia Earhart



The Aeroplane

I sweep the skies with fire and steel
My highway is the cloud
I swoop, I soar, aloft I wheel
My engine laughing loud
I fight with gleaming blades the wind
That dares dispute my path
I leave the howling storm behind
I ride upon it's wrath.

I laugh to see your tiny world
Your toys of ships, your cars
I rove an endless road unfurled
Where the mile stones are the stars
And far below, men wait and peer
For what my coming brings
I fill their quaking hearts with fear
For death...is in my wings.

— Gordon Boshell, written after watching Battle of Britain dogfights from the streets of London.


If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.

Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.

Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.

And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind.

Major Michael Davis O'Donnell
1 January 1970
Dak To, Vietnam

Michael Davis O'Donnell is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Panel 12W Line 040.


One More Roll

We toast our hearty comrades who have fallen from the skies, and were gently caught by God's own hand to be with him on High.

To dwell among the soaring clouds they've known so well before. From victory roll to tail chase, at heaven's very door.

As we fly among them there, we're sure to head their plea. To take care my friend, watch your six, and do one more roll for me.

— Commander Jerry Coffee, Hanoi, 1968.



Death is a Matter of Mathematics

Death is a matter of mathematics.
It screeches down at you from dirty white nothingness
And your life is a question of velocity and altitude,
With allowances for wind and the quick, relentless pull
Of gravity

Or else it lies concealed
In that fleecy, peaceful puff of cloud ahead.
A streamlined, muttering vulture, waiting
To swoop upon you with a rush of steel.
And then your chances vary as the curves
Of your parabolas, your banks, your dives,
The scientific soundness of your choice
Of what to push or pull, and how, and when.

— Barry Conrad Amiel



Night Plane

The midnight plane with its flying lights
looks like an unloosed star
wandering west through blue-black night
to where the mountains are,
a star that's come so close to earth
to tell each quiet farm and little town,
'Put out your lights, children of earth. Sleep warm.'

— Frances Frost, a children's lullaby



The Bombers

Whenever I see them ride on high
Gleaming and proud in the morning sky
Or lying awake in bed at night
I hear them pass on their outward flight
I feel the mass of metal and guns
Delicate instruments, deadweight tons
Awkward, slow, bomb racks full
Straining away from downward pull
Straining away from home and base
And try to see the pilot's face
I imagine a boy who's just left school
On whose quick-learned skill and courage cool
Depend the lives of the men in his crew
And success of the job they have to do.
And something happens to me inside
That is deeper than grief, greater than pride
And though there is nothing I can say
I always look up as they go their way
And care and pray for every one,
And steel my heart to say,
"Thy will be done."

— Sarah Churchill, daughter of Sir Winston.




The "airport" was a tan stripe
in a field of grass;

I remember pilot that trip
when you flew low for me
so I could see how the cornfields
were laid out -

Do you remember pilot my friend
how we skimmed the yellow miles
on the wings of an afternoon,

You shouting to me in the sun
—isn't it peaceful here
—isn't it peaceful here?

— E. F. Weisslitz



The War in the Air

For a saving grace, we didn't see our dead, Who rarely bothered coming
home to die
But simply stayed away out there
In the clean war, the war in the air.

Seldom the ghosts came back bearing their tales Of hitting the earth,
the incompressible sea, But stayed up there in the relative wind,
Shades fading in the mind,

Who had no graves but only epitaphs
Where never so many spoke for never so few: 'Per ardua,' said the
partisans of Mars,
'Per aspera,' to the stars.

That was the good war, the war we won
As if there were no death, for goodness' sake, With the help of the
losers we left out there In the air, in the empty air.

— Howard Nemerov




In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school —
Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
The people we had killed and never seen.
When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
When we died they said , 'Our casualties were low.'

— Randall Jarrell, 1963.



The Angel

Come now and now my love,
And leave your dying desert to the rain.
Give up your treasured wounds
Let go the tempting memory of the pain.
Give up the vows you've taken
And you will live
And you will learn to fly again
And you will fly.

And you will live my love,
And see the stars regain your starless night.
And you will find your sun
And know the magic meaning of its light.
All souls will be yours to cherish
Rising, falling in their earthly flight
And you will fly.

And I would love my love,
And she would seek a refuge in my eyes.
But no resource of love
Could keep her from the fire
Where loving dies.
And I would reach out my hand as she was
Falling, falling to her home on high
And she would fly.

— Ed Freeman.


U.S. Air Force Song

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun! (Give 'er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

Additional verses:

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew! (God only knew then!)
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

Bridge: "A Toast to the Host"

Here's a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force!


Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true;
If you'd live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue! (Out of the blue, boy!)
Flying men, guarding the nation's border,
We'll be there, followed by more!
In echelon we carry on. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

— Robert Crawford

Flying Crooked

The butterfly, the cabbage white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has — who knows so well as I? —
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.

— Robert Graves, 1938


Life/Flying Balance

In a hangar at the airport, Where a brooding pilot blinks,
Deeply graven is the message -- It is later than you think.
The clock of life is wound but once, And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour.
Now is the time you own; The past's a golden link.
Go flying now, my brother -- It's later than you think.

Cas Wolan



Give me the wings, magician! So their tune
Mix with the silver trumpets of the Moon,
And, beyond music mounting, clean outrun
The golden diapason of the sun.
There is a secret that the birds are learning
Where the long lanes in heaven have a turning
And no man yet has followed: therefore these
Laugh hauntingly across our usual seas.
I'll not be mocked by curlews in the sky;
Give me the wings, magician, or I die.

— Humbert Wolfe



First Things First

The boundary lamps were yellow blurs
Against the winter night
And I had checked the last ship in
And snapped the office light,
And paused a while to let the ghosts
Of bygone days and men
Roam down the skies of auld lang syne
As one will now and then ...
When fancy set me company
A red checked lad to stand
With questions gleaming in his eyes,
A model in his hand.

He may have been your boy or mine,
I could not clearly see,
But there was no mistaking how
His eyes were questing me
For answers which all sons must have
Who builds their toys in play
But pow'r them in valiant dreams
And fly them far away;
So down I sat with him beside
There in the dim lit shed
And with the ghost of better men
To check on me, I said:

"I cannot tell you, sonny boy,
The future of this art,
But one thing I can show you, lad,
An old time pilot's heart;
And you may judge what flight may give
Or hold in store for you
By knowing how true pilots feel
About the work they do;
And only he who dedicates
His life to some ideal
Becomes as one with he dreams
His future will reveal

Not one of whose wings are dust
Would call his bargain in,
Not one of us would welsh his part
To save his bloomin' skin,
Not one would wish to walk again
Unless allowed to throw
His heart into the thing he loved
And go as he would go:
Not one would change for gold or pow'r
Nor fun nor love nor fame
The part he played and price he paid
In making the good game.

And of the living ... none, not one
Regrets the scars he bears,
The sheer uncertainty of plans,
The poverty he shares,
Remitted price for one mistake
That checks a bright career,
The shattered hopes, the scant rewards,
The future never clear:
And of the living ... none, not one
Who truly loves the sky
Would trade a hundred earth bound hours
For one that he could fly.

If that sleek model in your hand
Which you have brought to me
Most represents the thing you love,
The thing you want to be,
Then you will fill your curly head
With knowledge, fact and lore,
For there is no short cut which leads
To aviation's door;
And only those whose zeal is proved
By patient toil and will
Shall ever have a part to play
Or have a place to fill."

And suddenly the lad was gone
On wings I could not hear,
But from afar off came his voice
In studied tones and clear,
A prophet's message simply told
For this is what he said
And why his hand will someday lead
Formations overhead,
"Who wants to fly has got to know:
Now two times two is four:
I've got to learn the first things first!
.. I closed the hangar door."

— Gill Robb Wilson.



 The Wish

Up in the sky, a bird does soar,
High and swift
Asking no more
Its wings lift
And then fall
With majestic beauty
It sings a call
It is so free
And I am not
I wish I were he
and he were not.

— Major Stephen Morrell. Steve died in a skydiving accident in 1996.



The earth is a depot where wingless angels pass the time,
Waiting for the long journey home
Seeing a small boy, smiling in the corner, I ask him ;
‘You must be anxious to get home ?’
‘I am home’ he replied ‘ I just come here to play the games’

— Oliver Makin


Oh controller, who sits in tower
Hallowed be thy sector.
Thy traffic come, thy instructions be done
On the ground as they are in the air.
Give us this day our radar vectors,
And forgive us our TCA incursions
As we forgive those who cut us off on final.
And lead us not into adverse weather,
But deliver us our clearances.


Sky Fever

I must to up to the skies again, to the white clouds and the grey,
And all I ask is a high launch, and the chance to ‘get away’;
And the wing’s surge, and the wind’s song, and the quiet clouds’ drifting,
And a heat-haze on the land’s face, and the warm air’s lifting

I must go up to the skies again, for the call to soar and glide,
Is a free call, and a clear call, that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a sunlit day, and the bright height’s gaining,
‘Neath the ‘new-cu’ that towers above, and it’s lift maintaining

I must go up to the skies again, to the peace of silent flight,
To the gull’s way, and the hawk’s way, and the free wings’ delight;
And all I ask is a friendly joke with a laughing fellow rover,
And a large beer, and a deep sleep, when the long flight’s over

— Robbie, RAE Gliding Club, ‘Sailplane & Gliding’ magazine



The Pilot

Someday we will know, where the pilots go
When their work on earth is through.
Where the air is clean, and the engines gleam,
And the skies are always blue.
They have flown alone, with the engine's moan,
As they sweat the great beyond,
And they take delight, at the awesome sight
of the world spread far and yon.

Yet not alone, for above the moan, when the earth is
out of sight,
As they make their stand, He takes their hand,
and guides them through the night.
How near to God are these men of sod,
Who step near death's last door?
Oh, these men are real, not made of steel,
But He knows who goes before,

And how they live, and love and are beloved,
But their love is most for air.
And with death about, they will still fly out,
And leave their troubles there.
He knows these things, of men with wings,
And He knows they are surely true.
And He will give a hand, to such a man
'Cause He's a pilot too.

— Leo Hymas.



Flyer's Prayer

When this life I'm in is done,
And at the gates I stand,
My hope is that I answer all
His questions on command.

I doubt He'll ask me of my fame,
Or all the things I knew, Instead,
He'll ask of rainbows sent
On rainy days I flew.

The hours logged, the status reached,
The ratings will not matter.
He'll ask me if I saw the rays
And how He made them scatter.

Or what about the droplets clear,
I spread across your screen?
And did you see the twinkling eyes.
If student pilots keen?

The way your heart jumped in your chest,
That special solo day-
Did you take time to thank the one
Who fell along the way?

Remember how the runway lights
Looked one night long ago
When you were lost and found your way,
And how-you still dont know?

How fast, how far, how much, how high?
He'll ask me not these things
But did I take the time to watch
The Moonbeams wash my wings?

And did you see the patchwork fields
And moutains I did mould;
The mirrored lakes and velvet hills,
Of these did I behold?

The wind he flung along my wings,
On final almost stalled.
And did I know I it was His name,
That I so fearfully called?

And when the goals are reached at last,
When all the flyings done,
I'll answer Him with no regret-
Indeed, I had some fun.

So when these things are asked of me,
And I can reach no higher,
My prayer this day - His hand extends
To welcome home a Flyer.

— Patrick J. Phillips



Flying West

I hope there's a place, way up in the sky
Where pilots can go when they have to die.
A place where a guy could buy a cold beer
For a friend and a comrade whose memory is dear.
A place where no doctor or lawyer could tread,
Nor a management-type would e'ler be caught dead!
Just a quaint little place, kind of dark, full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke.
The kind of a place that a lady could go
And feel safe and secure by the men she would know.

There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their wings become heavy, when their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And songs about flying and dying are sung.
Where you'd see all the fellows who'd 'flown west' before,
And they'd call out your name, as you came through the door,
Who would buy you a drink, if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, "He was quite a good lad!"

And there, through the mist, you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen in years, though he'd taught you to fly.
He'd nod his old head, and grin ear to ear
And say, "Welcome, my Son, I'm proud that you're here!
For this is the place where true flyers come
When the battles are over, and the wars have been won.
They've come here at last, to be safe and alone,
>From the government clerk, and the management clone;
Politicians and lawyers, the Feds, and the noise,
Where all hours are happy, and these good ol' boys
Can relax with a cool one, and a well deserved rest!
This is Heaven, my Son. You've passed your last test!"

— Captain Michael J. Larkin, TWA (Ret.), 'Air Line Pilot' magazine


In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school —
Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
The people we had killed and never seen.
When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
When we died they said , 'Our casualties were low.'

— Randall Jarrell, 1963.



Air Thoughts Grounded

There is a world I deeply love,
And thither would I roam,
Where I can find true solitude
And be at peace alone.
And feel the living pulses
Of the thing they call “my kite”,
The feeling of belonging
As part of it in flight.
Up where the air is clear as ice
In the realm of living light;
Where the silence is eternal,
Save for the song of flight.
There shimmering mountain masses rear
Their rounded heads in space;
And I would soar above them, turn
And dive upon them. Race
Along their clear cut canyons
With speeding, weaving ease,
Then bore into the hillside
Where swirling vapours freeze,
Blanketing the senses.
For I can spin the Earth before my eyes,
and throw it o’er my shoulder,
Because I love the skies!


These fancies flit before me
As I watch the patch of blue,
Framed by the ward’s white window
Which is my prison view.
And I think of those I flew with,
Of those who fly no more,
Patrols and sweeps and “doggers-ho”
Above the fields of war.
The never-ending searching
Around the glaring skies:
The hunter or the hunted
Its he who has the eyes,
The skill, the nerve, the quickness,
And Lady Luck’s sweet kiss,
It’s he who lives to shoot the line
And claim his pretty miss!
But there is heart ache to it,
There’s tragedy and fear!


But who recalls the horrors
When there’s singing, and there’s beer?
Yet when the songs are ended,
And there isn’t any beer,
Come the shadows of the heart ache
And agony and fear,
Blanketing the glamour.
But I can spin the Earth before my eyes,
And toss it o’er my shoulder,
And still I love the skies.

Written by Sqn Ldr Raymond Baxter (1922 – 2006)
WWII Spitfire pilot


For all Bomber Command crews

Lie in the dark and listen. It's clear tonight so they're flying high,
Hundreds of them, thousands perhaps, riding the icy, moonlit sky.
Men, machinery, bombs and maps, altimeters and guns and charts,
Coffee, sandwiches, fleece-lined boots, bones and muscles and minds and hearts,
English saplings with English roots deep in the earth they've left below.
Lie in the dark and let them go; Lie in the dark and listen.

Lie in the dark and listen. They're going over in waves and waves
High above villages, hills and streams, country churches and little graves
And little citizen's worried dreams; very soon they'll have reached the sea.
Lie in the dark and let them go, theirs is a world we'll never know.
Lie in the dark and listen. And far below them will lie the bays
And cliffs and sands where they used to be taken for summer holidays.
Lie in the dark and let them go. Theirs is a world we'll never know.
Lie in the dark and listen.

Lie in the dark and listen. City magnates and steel contractors,
Factory workers and politicians, soft hysterical little actors,
Ballet dancers, reserved musicians, safe in your warm civilian beds.
Count your profits and count your sheep, life is passing above your heads,
Just turn over and try to sleep. Lie in the dark and let them go;
There's one debt you'll forever owe,

Lie in the dark and listen.

Spirits in Flight
I saw them return, seven spirits in flight,
Engines fired by the sparks of the night,
Lumbering, throbbing like a battered ghost,
So thankful for a friendly coast.

Glowing and gliding, a Lanc without sound,
The rubber screams as it kisses the ground,
Perfect touchdown on a deserted plain;
Now a cornfield, a field with no name.

Night after night, mission after mission;
Helmets, goggles, masks and ammunition,
The seven Sky Warriors from long past,
All knowing tonight could be their last.

I hear the field alive with noise,
Filled with brave men; some of them just boys,
I see them walk in their suits of leather,
Slowly and proudly they walk together.

Where their Lancs rose to meet the foe,
Now the larks rise, from their nests below,
Down the runway only peace is heard,
Save for the wind and the song of a bird.

Time passes, January to December,
From spring to winter the years drift on,
Every April, every Easter, I will remember
Cliff, Al, Pete and John -- Nick, Stan and Skipper Don.

By Eddy Coward dedicated to his brother Cliff and the crew of Lancaster LL899 of 49 Sqdn lost 12 April 1944.


What did we earth-bound make of it? A tangle
Of vapour trails, a vertiginously high
Swarming of midges, at most a fiery angel
Hurled out of heaven, was all we could descry.

How could we know the agony and pride
That scrawled those fading signatures up there,
And the cool expertise of them who died
Or lived through that delirium of the air

Grounded on history now, we re-enact
Such lives, such deaths. Time, laughing out of court
The newspaper heroics and the faked
Statistics, leaves us only to record.

What was, what might have been fighter and bomber
The tilting sky, tense moves and counterings;
Those who outlived that legendary summer;
Those who went down, it's sunlight on their wings.

And you, unborn then, what will you make of it-
This shadow-play of battles long ago?
Be sure of this: they pushed to the uttermost limit
Their luck, skill, nerve....

And they were young like you.

- Cecil Day Lewis