William W. Whitson


Born for Flight Series

Against the backdrop of dramatic political and social crises a hundred years ago, the series follows the story of a young pilot who:

  • Observes his father compete with the Wright brothers for first flight (Book I: SOMETHING GLORIOUS: 1895-1905);
  • Helps Glenn Curtiss defeat the Wright brothers in the first era of international air races (Book II:THE FLEDGLING: 1905-1912);
  • Attends West Point (Class of 1916) and, together with the airplane during the first two years of WW I, begins to grow up (Book III: APPRENTICE WARRIOR: 1912-1916);
  • Joins the Royal Flying Corps in time to fly the Nieuport 17 with 60 Squadron in the first Somme Campaign (Book IV: TEST OF BATTLE: 1916);
  • Spends a year flying the S.E.5 with 56 Squadron on the Western Front (Book V: THE WARRIOR HEART: 1917); and
  • Becomes a Squadron Commander in the American Air Service until the Armistice (Book VI: SQUADRON COMMANDER : 1918).
The first four books of the series are available as shown below. The final two books  are in process.

Something Glorious The Fledgling
Apprentice Warrior
Test of Battle

Overview
Reviews
Author's Note
Sample Chapter

Overview
Reviews
Author's Note
Sample Chapter

Overview
Reviews
Author's Note
Sample Chapter
Planes & Photos

Overview
Reviews
Author's Note
Sample Chapter
Planes & Photos

(Purchase books through Amazon.com by clicking on cover)


Born for Flight Series Overview

A better title for the Born For Flight Series might be “Destiny’s Child.” A story about self-discovery, the tale begins at a time when a confident, boisterous nation wants to do something glorious, even daring to compete for first flight. Against that background, David Harrison’s parents, Maggie and John, compete for their son’s soul while trying to exorcise or vindicate their own demons. Gifted-- or cursed-- with extraordinary intuition, David spends the first ten years of his life in Carmel, California, searching among his parents’ flaws and strengths for his own identity and his own sense of destiny.

In 1905 the family moves to Hammondsport, New York, where John Harrison agrees to design engines for Glenn Curtiss and tries to capture his son’s allegiance with aircraft design, sports and military history. In the summer of 1908 Curtiss reinforces John’s efforts by letting David fly June Bug, the first machine to win the first leg of the new Scientific American Trophy. Three years later at the age of thirteen David becomes a Curtiss test pilot and Maggie fears she has lost her son to the air age. However, after his mentor and idol, Lieutenant Selfridge, Class of 1903 at West Point, dies in September, 1908, while flying with Orville Wright at Ft. Myer, David must face a growing inner conflict between his obsession with flying (outer flight) and his maturing appreciation for his spiritual path (inner flight), inspired by his mother and by his ability to communicate with Selfridge’s spirit. Over the next four years that inner conflict splits his mind. On the one hand, a professor of physics guides and tests his mysterious psychism. On the other hand, by the time he is seventeen, he fulfills his ambition to fly professionally, participating in the first great era of air races when newspaper barons offer fortunes to the daredevils of exhibition flying.

From 1912 to1916 David’s inner conflict continues at West Point where his passion for flight, his extraordinary intuition, the ideals of the United States Military Academy and his friendships conspire to shift his ambition from flying well to flying in combat. The development of the airplane is a secondary theme of the story and seems to echo the pace by which David reaches for maturity. During the summer of 1915, one year before his graduation, the two themes become entangled when Major Billy Mitchell sends him to London to learn what is happening in the air war. All his illusions about war, battle, Great Captains and himself are challenged one July afternoon in the skies of France when he faces death for the first time and begins to doubt his qualification for a military career, especially his capacity to kill another human being in battle. His mentors advise him to let combat test his character.

After graduating from West Point in1916, David receives a special assignment to a British combat squadron in France. For the next thirty months aerial combat teaches him lessons about life that he had never anticipated, lessons that profoundly alter his sense of himself and his chosen profession. By November, 1918, he discovers what it takes to be a competent, professional military leader. But the experience imbues him with such battle-weary stoicism and alienation from polite society that, returned from the Western Front, he must wage one final battle with himself for redemption.