Ode to a California Airline

Twenty years from now, when my grandchildren ask me what it was like to fly on Virgin America, I will show them this video.

Virgin America will join PSA, AirCal, and Western Airlines as a piece of California aviation history when they are absorbed into Alaska Airlines.

Goodbye, all, and thank you for some of the best economy class experiences I have had in a lifetime of flying.

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Designing California: Paul Williams

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A true California original, first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects. The number of his buildings that still stand remain the best testament to his greatness.

I grew up in one of the homes he designed, and as a result his aesthetic was a major influence on my own.

A Hard Rain

I am a longtime fan of noir pulps, and reading this is like a hardcore sci-fi fan picking up Hitchhikers Guide: a complete pisstake on the genre, but fun because of that.

Not to mention it was written by Dean Wesley Smith, who was kind enough to spend an hour last Spring in Boise coaching me on the finer points of the writing life.

Living in the Age of Airplanes

Living in the Age of Airplanes.

In the new National Geographic film “Living in the Age of Airplanes,” narrator Harrison Ford says that aviation has changed our world permanently.

With respect to the creators of this wonderful film, may I offer some moderation: perhaps aviation has not changed our world. It has, however, changed our species and the way we relate to our world.

More than perhaps any other single factor, the perspective afforded by aviation and its offspring, space exploration, have made us aware of how tiny, how fragile, how isolated, and how precious this planet is for all of us.

Like no other place in the world – whether Kitty Hawk, Seattle, or Toulouse – California is the cradle of aviation and aerospace. True, most of the great, cavernous airplane factories and their satellite subcontractors no longer punctuate the California landscape the way they used to. But flight runs deep in the bones of this state, and if you know where to look, you can still see how aviation formed California, how California formed aviation, and how the quest for the sky and the stars is a core part of our future.

To understand how, though, we must begin by exploring the past. In the coming weeks, we will be posting a series of pieces examining California and aerospace.

We welcome your thoughts.

Enjoy.

The Range of Light

Looking eastward from the summit of Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositae. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city…. Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light.
– John Muir, The Yosemite (1912) chapter 1.

Over the past year I have had the great good fortune to drive the length of this state – or at least the bits between Ventura and San Francisco – no less than seven times. That each trip was made for business hardly mattered. Having been back home a year after two decades abroad, I have yet to tire of the vistas – even those afforded by Interstate 5, which is admittedly less picturesque than State Highway 1, US 101, or even State Highway 99.

A Californian Hero Passes

 
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As you have probably heard by now, we lost a great Californian this week. USC graduate, Olympian, airman, POW, and inspirational speaker Louis Zamperini passed away, aged 97.

Zamperini spent his life serving others. He represented the United States on the track in the 1936 Olympics, delivering a performance that even impressed Hitler. In the air as a naval aviator in the Pacific in World War II, he put himself into sufficient peril that his bomber was shot down, and he survived nearly two months on an open boat in the Pacific, only to be taken prisoner by the Japanese when reaching land. As a POW he worked to sustain the spirits of his fellow prisoners – including Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington – by devising elaborate italian recipes. And on his return home, despite a lifelong battle with post traumatic stress, he spent his life as speaker who inspired others to master the adversity in their lives.

Zamperini was scheduled to be the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade this year.

A list of great Californians would be long indeed, but the passing of this particular Californian has been something of an inspiration. He will be the first in our list of Heroes of the Golden West.

Rest in Peace, Louis. May you and your story continue to inspire us all.