Ernest K. Gann Quotes
“Those ever more frequent nights when his loneliness became unbearable and he took solace in wine he would sometimes stand outside his tent holding his cup toward the great mass as if it lived and was then only slumbering beneath the stars. Drunk and bemused at its enormous dimensions he would mumble words at it, reaching out as if he could touch it. “Hail, you sleeping elephant—what would happen if you farted? Roll over, mighty carbuncle on the face of the earth, and dump the Jews in the sea of salt. I will live to crown you, Masada, with a wreath of my urine.”
“As the years go by, he returns to this invisible world rather than to earth for peace and solace. There also he finds a profound enchantment, although he can seldom describe it. He can discuss it with others of his kind, and because they too know and feel its power they understand. But his attempts to communicate his feelings to his wife or other earthly confidants invariably end in failure. Flying is hypnotic and all pilots are willing victims to the spell. Their world is like a magic island in which the factors of life and death assume their proper values. Thinking becomes clear because there are no earthly foibles or embellishments to confuse it. Professional pilots are, of necessity, uncomplicated, simple men. Their thinking must remain straightforward, or they die—violently.”
“I sit far back in my seat, my right foot braced comfortably against the instrument panel, listening to the steady thrumming of the engines, content to reflect that I have at least come a long way since my barnstorming days. Not so long ago, in a rock-fenced field nearby, a young man named Blauvelt stepped away from a sputtering biplane and first sent me into the sky alone.”
“You are supposed to know how to fly or you would not be here. You will now learn to fly all over again. Our way. I have examined your logbooks. They contain some interesting and clever lies. If you are lucky and work a good solid eighteen hours a day in this school, it is barely possible that a few of you may succeed in actually going out on the line-that is, if the company is still in such desperate need of pilots that it will hire anybody who wears his wings in his lapel and walks slowly past the front door.”
“When he climbed into the Penelope or any other airplane, the same change always came over him and the character of the change was so strong that even Stutz himself was aware of it. He exchanged his earthly freedom of thinking for what had to be a series of disciplined facts. To absorb and segregate these facts, all in their right and proper order, was his duty, a$ it was of any professional pilot. Not only was it his duty but it was his sole defense against dependency on luck, and although he was aware of the power of luck, it was indicative that Stutz never considered it as a means to an end as long as he was flying.”
Ernest K. Gann
- Date of birth: October 13, 1910
- Died: December 19, 1991
- Born: in Lincoln (Nebraska), The United States.
- Description: Ernest K Gann was an aviator, author, filmmaker, sailor, fisherman and conservationist.
After earning his pilot license, Gann spent his much of his free time aloft, flying for pleasure. The continuing Great Depression soon cost him his job and he was unable to find another position in the movie business. In search of work, he decided to move his family to California. Gann was able to find odd jobs at Burbank Airport, and also began to write short stories. A friend managed to get him a part-time job as a co-pilot with a local airline company and it was there that he flew his first trips as a professional aviator. In the late 1930s many airlines were hiring as many pilots as they could find; after hearing of these opportunities, Gann and his family returned to New York where he managed to get hired by American Airlines to fly the Douglas DC-2 and Douglas DC-3.
For several years Gann enjoyed flying routes in the northeast for American. In 1942, many U.S. airlines' pilots and aircraft were absorbed into the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army Air Forces to assist in the War Effort. Gann and many of his co-workers at American volunteered to join the group. He flew DC-3s, Douglas DC-4s and Consolidated C-87 Liberator Express transports (the cargo version of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber). His wartime trips took him across the North Atlantic to Europe, and then on to Africa, South America, India, and other exotic places. Some of his most harrowing experiences came while flying The Hump airlift across the Himalayas into China. In the years to come Gann's worldwide travels and various adventures would become the inspiration for many of his novels and screenplays.
At the end of World War II, the Air Transport Command released the civilian pilots and aircraft back to their airlines. Gann decided to leave American Airlines in search of new adventures. He was quickly hired as a pilot with a new company called Matson Airlines that was a venture of the Matson steamship line. He flew from the U.S. West Coast across the Pacific to Honolulu. This experience spawned ideas that were developed into one of his best-known works, 'The High and the Mighty.' Matson ultimately soon fell prey to the politically well-connected Pan American Airlines and failed. After a few more short-lived flying jobs, Gann became discouraged with aviation and he turned to writing as a full-time occupation.
Gann's major works include the novel The High and the Mighty and his aviation focused, near-autobiography Fate Is the Hunter. Notes and short stories scribbled down during long layovers on his pioneering trips across the North Atlantic became the source for his first serious fiction novel, Island in the Sky (1944), which was inspired by an actual Arctic rescue mission. It became an immediate best-seller as did Blaze of Noon (1946), a story about early air mail operations. In 1978, he published his comprehensive autobiography, entitled A Hostage to Fortune.
Although many of his 21 best-selling novels show Gann’s devotion to aviation, others, including Twilight for the Gods, and Fiddler's Green reflect his love of the sea. His experiences as a fisherman, skipper and sailor, all contributed storylines and depth to his nautical fiction. He later wrote an autobiography of his sailing life called Song of the Sirens.
Gann wrote, or adapted from his books, the stories and screenplays for several movies and television shows. For some of these productions he also served as a consultant and technical adviser during filming. Although it received positive reviews, Gann was displeased with the film version of Fate Is the Hunter, and removed his name from the credits. (He later lamented that this decision cost him a "fortune" in royalties, as the film played repeatedly on television for years afterward.) He wrote the story for the television miniseries Masada, based on 'The Antagonists.'