I was a kid who was terrified by high places, yet loved what I could see from my roof, from the water tower, if I weren’t so scared.
My older brother built models of airplanes. The answer! I could pretend being a pilot of the models, a little tiny me in the cockpit, at the safe altitudes of our bedroom. I loved airplanes.
Later I forgot about being frightened (since there were no tall buildings where I lived) and at 18 I quit college to take flying lessons and told the Navy I wanted to be a Navy pilot. Took the test, failed it, twice. Crossed the street and told the Air Force I wanted to be an Air Force pilot. Took the test, passed it. My subconscious knew that landing on an aircraft carrier is really difficult, but landing on a two mile runway, I could do that.
It didn’t mention that I might not like being an officer or doing every officer-like duty except flying airplanes.
How to be someone who loved airplanes, but not an officer: how does one live? I found, after I failed the airline personality test, that one could fly civilian airplanes and write about flying! Took years, a few jobs (golf ball picker, deliverer of phone books, residential letter carrier, marine draftsman, writer for airline pilot handbooks, writer for aviation magazines, aircraft mechanic’s assistant, flight instructor, hopping passenger rides from pastures, a barnstormer with my biplane) but it worked! I’ve been flying and writing ever since.
The one who told me never to quit was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. After the eighteenth rejection, he said it once more, "Try again."
I'm still learning. The crash that sent me near death…what a blessing of high education it's been, through the day when Puff, my light seaplane and I were each of us rebuilt and we flew together again. Lots of adventures, lots of fictions, one fact we live.
The one reality in all our lives, I think, it's called Love. The fictions, the dramas we act, teach us quietly the power of Love.
My writing has changed, since I discovered that flying tells us about living, too. A gradual shift, over my life, from learning flying machines to the magic of flight, from the miracles of coincidence to the screenplay parts we play.
Teachers come to meet me as they come to you too, I'll bet. Sometimes beautiful women, other times wise men, sometimes fact, sometimes fiction, sometimes animals with the highest code of living. These are the friends who follow me from life to death and back again. They teach me of love, in all its many faces. I learn. I fail. Yet they stay with me always, they never quit. They hand me new challenges to learn.
I'm glad, through it all, to find this one place where our family from around the world, can meet again at last, and say hello.
Do you have questions for Richard?
We want to hear them!