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Turning Final



By Jim Reed Lt. Col. USAF (ret)



A Pilot’s Autobiography

A Review

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Jim has reworked his novel because he was once military and certain sections of the book needed approval due to security, he published the first version without those sections. The military like commercial operations often times work very slow. Jim got his clearances and proceeded to rework his famous novel. I was asked to review it once more. I say it was a pleasure and honor.

First off, it is a page-turner, very well written and full of interesting stories. I enjoyed the first part where he outlined his origins before joining the ranks of aviation. In today’s fast paced world it is good for those who can remember to look back at a time where the world was once more at peace with itself, a slower pace, a time to inhale the essence of life and consider the future, Jim has done this exceedingly well, again the book is filled with detail and the energy of life, the basis for a solid aviator.

Jim, like so many young men entered the military to earn his wings, America in an age so long ago had an Air Force that offered the best pilot training in the world, free with money in your pocket. What’s so wonderful about joining the aviator ranks was the underlying positive energy; this is reflected in his book.

However one had to be of a special breed to enter military aviation, Jim either had an insane desire to fly or no pocket money to pay an instructor. The time period in which this book takes place is exactly that as it was before, during and after the Second World War. Magnificent men and their flying machines, this phrase was also part of the enticement, just belonging to the society of people that court high risk gave a buzz. Also bringing the special commeradie that military aviation breeds.

Not everything turns out the way one plans, especially when you sign up with the military. To be a Top Gun provides plenty of fantasy and introduces one to the elusive butterfly. The smell and roar of burning kerosene is often replaced by the fumes of high-octane aviation exhaust and the flutter of simple propellers instead.

Jim’s book has all this and a chunk more. He describes well his desire and how he was first introduced to the contagious lifelong malady called flying. He too marched with many young men to help defend their country and at the same time satisfy a passion exceeding that of the earthly kind. Initially wanting badly to fly kerosene, he was directed to the cockpit of a modest but dangerous bird. He did however come well equipped with the right attitude. Attitude is a key word in flying, its double meaning is constantly reminding you to be watchful yet optimistic.

The book reveals how exciting life as a military aviator can be. One needs to remember that the Air Force has its requirements and needs people to fly its myriad fleet of planes. Often having just got to feeling comfortable with one type of aircraft, you suddenly moved to another unfamiliar rig. With the right attitude you gained hours and ratings in a relatively short period. In the commercial side of life this would normally take almost a lifetime. An aviator however, a good one, can plump himself in the cockpit and become quickly familiar with his new desk. Once you have some core idioms in mind, you can safely fly nearly any plane, the rest comes while doing the job. The in-built safety factor is to never over-reach yourself. There are times however where you have no choice. The book details some of those incidents and has you at the edge of your seat.

I enjoyed Jim’s fine observations of the craft as he became a master. The book contains some excellent messages to today’s younger more reckless generation. If you are interested in how it could be in the military while flying, then this is the book for you. Jim has been around and met some important and interesting people. He maintained a relationship to these people because he didn’t come across to them as the bus driver. Here again we have attitude at the core. He also outlines how survived after retiring from the Air Force, a time that can be for some listless.

Careers change, for military professionals this can be traumatic, especially those that fly. No more will you have access to some of the world’s more interesting aircraft; you will also leave an association of solid human beings and friends, not often found in civilian life. The double whammy does require quick action to avoid depression. Jim did this well, with attitude again the core driving force.

He never left flying, most don’t, he just marched to the tune of a new drummer. Quickly adjusting to new equipment and situations kept him on his feet. A positive outlook with intelligent management, a backbone few have these days, provided Jim with plenty of excitement to replace what was left behind in the military. Jim showed that using the resource you have built up over life combined with thinking on your feet, an attribute that all good pilots have, he was able to sustain a good life.

Turning Final is a phrase all pilots know, for the benefit of those that don’t, it is the last turn in an approach to the final leg of your flight as you line up to the runway. Using this in context with this book, it is reflecting an aviator’s life as he approaches that ultimate last threshold crossing that which we all will one day line-up for. The book is a fine read and probably will be difficult to put down once started. Full of surprises therefore my avoiding outlining anything specific. Down to earth, inspiring and human, a book that should be in every aviator’s collection. It’s in mine twice now, sadly I just turned final, read the last page. Thanks Jim.


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