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Synopsis

Ever since man has taken to the air, flight has exerted a strong, almost irresistible, appeal to follow a life of flying--not only to allow it to be a hobby, but to make it one's avocation. Many who have followed this call have written of this journey and how they pursued the various forms of flying - their first flight, their first job flying for hire, and a look back at their career.

In The Outer Whorl, Essays by an Airline Pilot, Neal Schier takes a different tact in recounting his pursuit of flying, because paradoxically, flight itself was just one of the attractions that led him to follow the call that so many before him had heeded. His path was not the simple, almost linear progression, which has marked many aviators' careers for Neal, in a continuum of twenty related essays, examines the unease of a quotidian life in a sterile office and the desire that set in at a young age to pursue something outside of a normal career path. To see the world and learn of one's strengths and weaknesses while forging a profound appreciation for his fellow crew members.

Through this pursuit came a deep appreciation for the allure inherent in aviation and a respect for the uncertainty that flits and flickers behind the mask that flight wears. Neal speaks of his appreciation of flying extends to the admiration of strength and resolve that he finds in his fellow pilots, flight attendants, and other airline employees after the horrors of 9/11-an admiration won by the close work in an airliner's cockpit during hours of fatigue, stress, and challenge.

Through the essays, Neal traces his development first as a military aviator and then as a commercial airline pilot. His nontechnical writing puts the reader alongside him in the cockpit as a witness to the mind-set of a pilot as he charts a course around the world-a course that often leads to self-examination and what one learns about self and others through the travel itself. His narrative details what it was like to lose nearly twenty years of work as his airline struggled with bankruptcy and near liquidation. He raises the question if the turbulence of the career was worth the years of sacrifice and dedication and thus, touches on a question that thousands within the world of aviation continue to ask. His surprising answer is one that is framed by the timeless beauty and allure of flight.

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