The Book of the Week is “Winging It!” by Jack Jefford, published in 1981.
Born in 1910, Jefford knew he wanted to be a pilot when he was six years old. By his late teens, he was taking flying lessons with money earned doing odd jobs. During the Depression Era, he lived on the cheap in Denver’s red-light district, renting a room for $3 a week and paying tens of cents for his meals at restaurants.
In May of 1931, Jefford got his first pilot’s private license issued by the Department of Commerce. He was allowed to fly anywhere in the United States and take on passengers, but only for free. The regions where aviation evolved early on included Nebraska, eastern Colorado, eastern Wyoming and Alaska.
Jefford worked for the Goodall Electric Manufacturing Company. His boss attempted to execute a new concept: audio advertising from an airplane, via “…a microphone, two powerful amplifiers energized by a wind-driven AC generator, and large horn-shaped airborne speakers.” However, it worked too well, and proved to be not only a nuisance to people below, but a safety hazard. So urban areas outlawed that sort of thing.
Anyhow, autumn 1938 saw Alaskan planes get (Morse-code) radios installed. “Prior to the use of radio, no one knew you were in trouble unless you’d been missing for four or five days.” As various industries progressed thanks to aviation, the author helped collect data for weather forecasters in Oklahoma and helped deliver mail in Arkansas. He even saved some lives by rescuing people with medical emergencies.
It wasn’t always smooth soaring, though. In June 1939, Jefford flew an all-wood Lockheed aircraft from Nome to Seattle into a thunderstorm with noise, turbulence, lightning and hail. His boss– owner of Mirow Air Service, an Alaskan air carrier– died in an air crash that was searching for a downed plane. The charter service employed an operations manager, a mechanic, a radio operator and pilots. The planes in Alaska had skis on the bottom to land in snow. Otherwise, the planes might roll over, sustaining damage to their three propellers, or their cowlings.
Read the book to learn how the author handled an emergency in dense ice-fog on a C-123 plane that had lost use of its elevators, jet power and one of its two engines; plus, learn about many more of his piloting adventures from the 1930’s through the 1970’s.