INSIDE THE SKY: A MEDITATION ON FLIGHT begins with a general description of the human world as seen from the air. William Langewiesche, who was introduced to flight as a child and worked as a cargo pilot and air taxi operator in his college years, describes the sensations of those operating small planes, hang gliders, and balloons.
The second chapter describes the work of J.B. Jackson, who wrote about the “geography of humanity.” Langewiesche describes him as a pioneer of the “aerial view,” despite the fact that Jackson did his exploring at ground level.
There follows a discussion of the history of human flight, with emphasis on navigational methods, especially the development of gyroscopes and related devices. Also included is a fascinating discussion of how birds and insects may navigate without obvious visual clues.
Chapter four is a long discussion of the disastrous crash of an Air India jet near Bombay, and speculation as to the causes. The fifth chapter returns to a more personal viewpoint, discussing the author’s own experiences flying in difficult weather, in small propeller planes.
The book ends with two chapters involving the political aspects of commercial flight, again drawing on the author’s own experiences. Chapter six deals with the operations of flight control operators. The final chapter describes the crash of a Valujet plane in the Florida Everglades, with considerable discussion of the many mistakes made by various people involved in the flight.
INSIDE THE SKY is a mixture of philosophy, science, and political thought, told from the point of view of a man who has had extensive experience both in airplane cockpits and as a reporter investigating the flights of others. In general, the personal memoirs of his own experiences in flight are more interesting than his political statements, which are often somewhat tedious.