Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Category: Books

Lost in Shangri La – Book Review

I admit it, I’m a sucker for a book with an airplane on the cover – especially if it’s an antique or WWII vintage airplane. I can’t remember where I first saw this particular book, but do I remember making a mental note to buy it. Last week I had breakfast with a friend and he handed me a copy saying I’d probably enjoy the read. He had bought it, finished it and was passing it along. It’s nice to have friends like that…

Mitchell Zuckoff, the author, is a professor of journalism at Boston University. In this book he has produced a work of narrative nonfiction that is fast-paced, easy to read and an amazing story that takes place near the end of WWII in Dutch New Guinea.

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s best-selling novel Lost Horizon, this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesman, warriors rumored to be cannibals.

The flight was made in a C-47 named the Gremlin Special. It wasn’t a difficult flight but enroute to the valley it was necessary pass over a mountain range or two with peaks reaching as high as 15,000 feet. At that time the inner portion of New Guinea was uncharted – a blank area of jungles and mountains on maps, populated by island natives and pockets of Japanese soldiers still remaining after American forces recaptured the island. The valley that had become known as Shangri-La with its large population of natives had been only recently discovered by air and there appeared to be no navigable land routes in or out.

The sightseeing flight was, unfortunately, a short one that ended abruptly against the side of a mountain at the edge of the valley. Lost in Shangri-La is the story of the survivors of the crash and their efforts to remain alive long enough to be rescued. Zuckoff used interviews, personal photos and mementos, survivor’s diaries and journals and declassified U.S.Army documents to recount the amazing adventure.

This book is well worth reading, it’s a great story. It is available at Amazon.com through the affiliate link shown here.

Zero 3 Bravo – Book Review

I’m always looking for books and videos about aviation and flying. they’re a good way to spend ‘down time’ when I’m not in the mood to actually study a manual or take an online course. When I find something that I think you might like, I’ll pass it along in the Review section of my site.

I signed up as a volunteer with the EAA to test products and write reviews for their Sport Aviation magazine. So far I have received a DVD from them to review. The agreement with EAA restricts me from publishing any information on the product that they send me until their review appears in Sport Aviation.  Other than that agreement, all the reviews that I publish are of  items that I have purchased for my personal use.

The full title of this book is Zero 3 Bravo, Solo Across America in a Small Plane, written by Mariana Gosnell.

This book, first published in 1993, is the story of the author taking a 3-month leave of absence from her job and flying her 1950 Luscombe 8F around the United States. Her starting (and ending) point is her home airport in Spring Valley, New York, about 35 miles north of New York City.

She traveled down the east coast, across the southern states to Santa Paula, CA, up the west coast to the San Francisco Bay area and then east along the route taken by Interstate 80. Her flight then continued to the Black Hills and then turned southeast to Kansas City and St Louis. She took side trips along the way to visit friends and see places that she had heard about or which had been recommended by the people she met during her fuel and overnight stops.

Her writing style is easy to read and draws vivid pictures in your mind’s eye as she describes the sights (and smells) that she encounters on her flights.

For a pilot, this is a very easy book to read – but beware, you will find yourself dreaming of and planning a similar adventure before you are finished.

I have no recollection where I found the book, but I’m glad I took the effort to buy it. I have the hardback version, but the paperback printing is available through the Amazon affiliate link I have included above.

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