ZERO THREE BRAVO is Mariana Gosnell’s song in praise of flying, and the romance of flight. In its pages, the former NEWSWEEK reporter describes her odyssey across the United States and back, one thousand feet above the earth. The book casually and warmly describes small airports across the country, where the locals swap stories and information with the writer and offer her old- fashioned hospitality and home-cooked meals. Gosnell’s armchair travel book is like William Least Heat Moon’s BLUE HIGHWAYS (1983), an exhilarated and humble look at America from the backroads point of view; in Gosnell’s account, the people she meets at her homely wayside stopovers are the dreamers, loners, and everyday folk who love small planes and fly them for pleasure and for a living.
Gosnell’s book begins on a hot summer day in Manhattan, where from her office window she spies a ribbon of blue sky and decides she will leave the sweltering city and fly her small plane solo across country. Her plane, Zero Three Bravo, is a Luscombe Silvaire Model 8F, built in 1950, with two seats, high wings, and a ninety-five-horsepower engine. Her memoir takes the reader south to Rehobeth Beach, deep into Georgia, west to Oklahoma City, Carlsbad, Santa Fe, all the way to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and finally through Big Sky country before returning via the Midwest (Lexington and Columbus) to her home at Spring Valley, New York. Gosnell’s book is dedicated to the habitues of small airports across the country. It offers an enlightening encounter with them, and with the mechanics and romance of flying, a cherished part of America’s heritage.