Have you ever glanced at the open cockpit door of one of those giant passenger jets and wondered how on earth the pilot can find his way around that maze of dials and instruments? In his new book, The Albatross, author Gerry Hawes answers that question. He takes us deep into the character of Jack Rheinstrom, an airline pilot, and an ordinary man. But he is much more than your usual nice guy.
He has a deep appreciation of the value of life and the beauty of the world around him. He can look at the stars in the sky or the earth stretched out below him and see the design of the universe. And he knows how lucky he is to be able to view the world from his cockpit. Even when it looks as if his life is about to end in a fiery crash, he can look back on his flying career and say, along with one of his crew members, “Lucky me. Lucky, lucky me.”
He has an abiding love for his fellow human beings, whether they be his crew members, his passengers, the ground personnel who support him, or the strangers waiting for him to deliver their loved ones. He cares about their needs and their safety. His compassion even extends to those his life does not touch. In one incident, he sees, but only from the back, a little girl staring longingly at a worn-out stuffed rabbit in a pawn shop window. He never sees her face, but he returns to the shop, pays for the rabbit, and asks the shopkeeper to give it to the little girl the next time she comes to visit.
He has an encyclopedic, almost photographic memory of every training manual he has read. He knows every inch of his plane. He has read the reports of dangerous incidents these planes have experienced so that he knows what to do in almost any emergency.
And last, he has an almost super-human ability to remain calm and detached in a disastrous event, even when everyone around him has given up or succumbed to fear. He is the voice of reason, the one who can access, from somewhere deep in his memory bank, the single detail that can save the lives of everyone involved.
But such compelling character traits come at an enormous personal cost. His love for everyone around him keeps him from recognizing that one special person whom he could love more than all the rest. His ability to control his emotions keeps him from expressing what he feels. His gratitude for what he already has stops him for wishing for something more. Because he tries to protect the lives of everyone around him, he is in danger of losing his personal life.
Mr. Hawes is, himself, such a pilot, and it shows. His vast knowledge and his attention to detail sometimes add so much information that his story slows. The voices in the cockpit ring absolutely true because they are word-for-word transcripts of what happens. The story is realistic because it is real. You’ll believe the story because the author makes you trust him. Read this book and be prepared to have your emotions wrenched. But don’t take it with you to pass the time on a long over-water flight.
Review by Carolyn Schriber, MWSA Reviewer
Jack Rheinstrom was the kind of guy that everyone liked. His graduating yearbook read like a Who's Who of high school students--leader, scholar, athlete. He was a special kid that shunned personal attention and cared passionately for others. He never appeared to be in a bad mood; just being around him made you feel good inside. But there are no guarantees in life. There were two special events that occurred in his life, both having dramatic effects. You can be agile and you can be tough but sometimes that is just not enough. Jack Rheinstrom was an airline pilot. He was an ordinary man -- his life was not.
ISBN/ASIN: 13: 978-1-940244-73-0
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 285