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Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska

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3.47  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Northern Exposure meets Air America in this exposé of the daily life and death insanity of commercial flying in Alaska.
ebook, 256 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Lyons Press (first published November 22nd 2011)
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Melki
May 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure, memoir
"Get God or get drunk, either way you're still flying tomorrow."

When Alaska Senator Ted Stevens died in an airplane crash in 2010, I remember an NPR commentator citing a statistic about the absurdly high number of plane crashes that occur in that state each year. I was blown away by the figure, but wouldn't you know - I can't find it. (Curse you, Google! You've never let me down before!)

I did find this:

During 1990-2009 there were 1,615 commuter and air taxi crashes in the United States. Commute
...more
Savannah
Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living as I do in a village accessible only by air and water and in a winter of weather as vicious as this, I am finding a deep desire to also add to this review the tag "horror." Or maybe "thriller." Because this is the world we here live in, dependent upon these pilots and companies, and it's damned scary. Don't believe for a moment that the author is exaggerating. Anything. Because just as the pilots make a (sometimes unfounded) leap of faith that they'll complete any given trip, so do we as ...more
ExLibris_Kate
Aug 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I live in a world that revolves around aviation, so I was very excited to read this memoir. Piloting a charter plane in Alaska means you are flying in what can be harsh conditions. It also means flying by sight, unusual cargo (everything from dogs to dead bodies) and it can mean some pretty risky situations for the pilot and the crew. I was immediately drawn into the book by Colleen Mondor's writing style; it is straightforward but the feelings she had for the people and the place really came th
...more
Virginia
I don’t remember where I heard about this book – maybe from Goodreads? Maybe from an article somewhere else on the internet. But I am so glad I read this because it really resonated with me – it’s about aviation in Alaska, superficially, but more importantly it’s about life. I, for one, am not familiar with aviation in the slightest, but it didn’t matter, reading this.

I loved the writing in this book. I think the essay format was perfect for telling these stories.

I also loved the stories – the
...more
Maureen E
I've been reading Colleen Mondor's blog for awhile and her book sounded interesting. Then I saw that one of my libraries had bought it, so I put it on hold. And here we are.

The Map of My Dead Pilots is an account of the author's years working at an Alaskan aviation company. It's a fascinating book, lying somewhere between a nonfiction essay--which is to say an fact-based narrative about Alaskan flying--and a memoir. Mondor places herself in the middle of the group, but she herself worked in Ops,
...more
Michael
I wanted to read this book because my father had been a bush pilot in Alaska during the late-1940s and early-1950s. The book is not a blow by blow history of aviation in Alaska, and in some ways that was a bit of a disappointment. However, I found myself drawn in chapter by chapter to what really amounts to a sort of The Things We Carried for Alaskan bush pilots. Instead of a straight-forward narrative, the book is more a memoir of the author's time spent working in the operations office for an ...more
Susan Paxton
Very episodic - the author is primarily an essayist and it shows. Often moving, sometimes irritating - Alaska is a giant welfare state supported by our taxes and special lax regulations. Pilots and those interested in aviation will find it a good if spotty read.
Elisabeth
Absolutely fascinating! I just wanted more and more of the stories of the dangers and strangeness these pilots and Colleen faced, working for "the Company". I did have trouble remembering who was who, but I don't think it mattered. I more or less substituted "this guy I knew" for Sam and Tony and Bryce et al. Because it was less about the people and more about the experience.

I really like what another reviewer wrote about this being about telling stories. It is. Stories, memories... What do we
...more
Brooks
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I could not put down this book. It reminded me of the book, "The Things they carried" in that it has many of the same themes. But instead of war, this was bush flying in Alaska. Like war, there was the death of too many friends. And the death was always close at hand and almost random. It is also how tragic experiences still victimize those that had no physical wounds. But it also celebrates the friendships and black comedy from those experiences. I thought back to a time when I worked over ...more
Richard
As a pilot, the book reads like the accident reports we review to remind us what not to do. Flying is an unforgiving thing and the conditions in Alaska offer more challenges than many pilots would ever want. My reservation with this memoir is on it's persistent litany of death caused by pilots making a series of bad decisions. The reality of flying is that most pilots make good decisions. Otherwise the crash numbers would be huge-- and they're not. Even in Alaska, most pilots make good choices. ...more
Alison Gresik
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This memoir is deceptively simple at first, but through a lyrical, searching voice, circling at various heights over the same themes and events, Mondor builds to a powerful impact. You think this book is about the dangers of Alaskan flying when it's actually about story-telling and the elusive nature of truth and memories. The structure and tone of the book feel refreshingly original, and I'm grateful for Mondor's reverent observation of herself and the world of the pilots she came to know. ...more
Jess
Jun 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an oddly constructed memoir/essay collection. The author seems to assume the reader knows the people she's writing about before she introduces them, and knows the basics of the bush airline industry in Alaska in the mid 90s before giving any dates or context - it kind of starts in the middle. Most of the essays are litanies of various accidents or pilot errors, or laundry lists of how "the Company" exploited the pilots. The chapter on sled dogs is particularly depressing and harsh. All v ...more
James
Mar 01, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a pilot, I like reading books about flying, but this book is 99% BS from start to finish. ...more
John Dorcey
Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some copy editor miscues when read by a pilot but overall a great story.
Jenny Brown
This book started off really well, but I wouldn't have missed anything if I'd stopped reading halfway through, because so much of the rest of the book just droned on repeting information we'd already learned in the first half.

The actual subject matter of this book is important and of great interest. And the author's voice in the first half of the story is well-crafted and appropriate.

But she ruined things as the story went on by adopting an affected literary style that she couldn't pull off. T
...more
Deborah
This is very interesting, maybe a little scary if you have to fly in Alaska.

When we were in Alaska we flew in a small plane from Talkeetna and landed on a glacier. It was lots of fun. We almost didn't get to go because of the weather. They kept saying maybe, and keep checking back.

It snowed a foot of snow on the mountain the night before and they said we couldn't land because if it was too soft we might not be able to take off from the glacier. They were so sure we weren't going to land that t
...more
Kelsey Burnette
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alaska
Haven't finished this most excellent memoir yet, but I just came across the quote that so far captures the book for me: "Was he just crazy and that's why he liked flying in Alaska, or was it flying in Alaska that made him that way?"

If you are a pilot or if you are interested in flying or if you live in or otherwise have a thing for Alaska or if you just like a thought-provoking, amusing, and well-written memoir...this book is for you!

The chapter called "The Dead Body Contract" is also one that w
...more
Jan Krehel
It was obvious by the 2nd chapter that this book was a compilation of articles the author had written for various magazines, and newspapers. She repeated the same stories over and over. Although her sentiments were admirable, her writing was awkward--dialogue where narrative would have been better. Contrived attempt to close each chapter with a catchy sentence. Interesting for a quick look into the world of bush air service and the pilots who fly for them in Alaska.
Nick
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The Map of My Dead Pilots was a very good book. It was a little shocking how nonchalant the auther is about death, but once you start reading you understand why. Mondor paints a very engaging picture of Alaskan flying that really illustrates that flying in Alaska is not what TV paints it to be. It will leave you burnt out, hating humanity or dead. Or all three. It's one of the bleaker books I've ever read, but there's an undercurrent of camaraderie that sweeps you away. ...more
Jeanne
Mar 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a dangerous job and it attracts people who thrive on danger. Pilots in Alaska fight weather, strange cargo and unpredictable conditions. They don't always make it to their destination. The book was very interesting. It was written in a non-linear style, with the story jumping through the years forward and backward. ...more
Kenneth
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Received book last month as a Christmas gift from my daughter who lives in Ketchikan. It is written episodically and is basically the author's memoirs of her time working for a bush airlines company in the mid-1990's. I found it totally fascinating in its descriptions of the day-to-day operations, the dangers, the cameraderie of the people that worked and flew. ...more
Noah
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book doesn't have much binding it all together, and the attempt to do so at the end fell flat for me, but it's still a great read. It's basically like spending an evening at a dive bar with a bunch of bush pilots in Alaska, hearing all of their wildest stories. If that sounds interesting to you (and it should), this book is worth a read. ...more
Deborah
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This reminded me of "The Things They Carried" (which I love) in a lot of ways - looking at the same story or event from multiple perspectives, recognizing that there can be multiple "truths" for everything that happens, showing that even the people involved can have multiple truths about themselves. ...more
Philip Hollenback
Excellent collection of essays about pilots in Alaska. Somewhat stream-of-consciousness, which generally works fine. Don't read this if you want an overall cohesive narrative, though. Well, other than the fact that being a pilot in Alaska is really, really dangerous. ...more
Mary Williams
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting! Lives of pilots in Alaska = independent spirits and ability to take huge risks! Author writes in a very informal style, which matches the lifestyle of people in the bush pilot profession.
Leah
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i'm not sure why this book worked for me, the story is all dis-jointed, a bunch of anecdotes and recollections about a bunch of pilots in alaska...... not one cohesive story.........but i really enjoyed it ...more
Kate
An intensely personal memoir that drives at how difficult it can be to access the stories of other people as well as our own history.
Jim
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is not just about flying or pilots, but also about life, death, and memories. It is a quick read but very deep at the same time.
Lindig
Aug 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed it but the elliptical nature of her writing began to be repetitious after a while. Maybe a more straightforward narrative, with an occasional aside, would have been better.
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