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Flight of Passage: A True Story

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,449 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Writer Rinker Buck looks back more than 30 years to a summer when he and his brother, at ages 15 and 17 respectively, became the youngest duo to fly across America, from New Jersey to California. Having grown up in an aviation family, the two boys bought an old Piper Cub, restored it themselves, and set out on the grand journey. Buck is a great storyteller, and once you ge ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 14th 1998 by Hachette Books (first published 1997)
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Russ Roberts One of the greatest conflicts is the the classic battles of sons and father. Buck's father is difficult, but he still supports his sons and advances t…moreOne of the greatest conflicts is the the classic battles of sons and father. Buck's father is difficult, but he still supports his sons and advances their maturation when he "kicks them out of the nest." In mythology, "the search for the father" is a classic theme. Buck flies in that pursuit, looking for his father's love amid a conflicting relationship.(less)

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Average rating 4.36  · 
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 ·  1,449 ratings  ·  169 reviews

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Mar 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: coming-of-age, memoir
I never would have read this one if we had not chosen it for my book club. What a great find, though. Rinker Buck and his brother take a cross-country trip in a Piper Cub. Doesn't sound like much, I know, but their adventures, along with some unforgettable characters they meet along the way, make for a memorable read. Their dad is quite a guy and I really enjoyed looking at their family photos. Even if you don't care about aviation, give this one a try. ...more
William Liggett
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you read a book of nonfiction that is as exciting as any thriller. This is such a book. Imagine flying from coast to coast of the United States in a single engine airplane with all the effects of weather, terrain, and pilot fatigue. Then imagine you did this at age 15 and 16 as Rinker Buck and his brother did. Even though, or maybe because, I'm a private pilot, some of the experiences they describe made me nervous. Their successful flight revealed their courage, skill, and youthful bra ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well boys I got one hell of a humdinger of a book for you. A book about a cross-country trip in a Piper Cub, about brothers, about father & son relationships, about a time when America was fighting to maintain innocent exuberant optimism in the face of challenges only a mature nation would be able to handle well... paralleling the lives of these two teens over the course of a critical few months in 1966.

It's got thrilling adventure, larger-than-life characters, laugh out loud humor, sex & alcoho
Hermann Gucinski
Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Rinker Buck's memoir tells the story of growing up and breaking free from a strong Dad in a large catholic family in the early sixties, using a unique approach--he and his then 17-year old brother Kern totally re-build a plane, a Piper Cub bought for $300, and then fly it across the US from New Jersey to California and back--no radio, seat-of-the-pants flying. This could be a serious story for a specialized audience, but it is not--the humor--page after page of it--, the adventures, the timeless ...more
Bill Riddell
Terrific read, depicting the small details of this exciting trip and the preperation for it.

For pilots of small airplanes it is especially fun to feel the experience of past trips and the nuances of flight.
Courtney Crane
Oct 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is a great coming of age book for anyone interested in aviation. I savored each new challenge the young aviators faced and conquered. Highly recommend!
Christian D.  Orr
"FLIGHT OF PASSAGE" by Rinker Buck

Very engaging. A wonderful aviation adventure and coming-of-age story (a real-life Bildungsroman if you will) and family bonding tale all rolled into one.

--pp. 30-32: "'moon my ass to traffic'" story...."highly individualistic statement of my own"...."Fuck up, be a hero"....hilarious

--pp. 42-44: The author's dad's ballsy, daredevil landing reminds me of two proverbs of the aviation community: 1. "A good landi
Suzanne Hamilton
Feb 05, 2021 rated it liked it
I picked this up at a used book shop because someone had recommended it -- wish I could remember who! It's a straight-up true adventure story: in 1966 Rink, 15, and his 17-year-old brother, avid amateur pilots, hatched a plan to fly a Piper Cub (a TINY plane!) from New Jersey to California. I have no particular interest in flying, but this was quite an expedition. I most enjoyed Buck's depiction of his relationship with his brother and his descriptions of the landscapes they passed over and the ...more
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would give this book five stars because I love it, but the language... Avoid this book if you don't like swearing and bad language, whole conversations would have to be crossed out. But if you don't mind the language and can stand the 1960's actions, this book it great.
Whether they are getting bruises from the turbulence, or throwing things out the window, the two boys are busy having the time of their lives.
May 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was given to me by a friend who knew that my daughter had soloed on her 16th birthday and is just marking time until she is 17 to get her private pilot's license! While those interested in aviation may find this a good read for that information alone, it is a great book on another level as well. As the author heads west, his relationship with his father is explored and that makes for interesting reading even for those of us who are timid flyers! ...more
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was hilarious! If you like flying, or just like a good real-life coming-of-age adventure story (2 teen/young-adults fly cross country in a small plane), this is a great book!
Jay Schutt
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very enjoyable read for me. The author, who was one of the participants in the actual true account story, wrote the book with a great flow that made it a fun and easy read.
Nov 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Not too technical and a great story! Crossing the country with these guys was a lot of fun! Not quite a 5 rating but would go a solid 4.5
Feb 15, 2015 rated it liked it
I started out loving the narrative of Rinker Buck, until he and his brother, Kern, reach Texas on their cross-country odyssey in a small Cub plane. The story lost its authenticity for me at that point. The reason is because earlier in the memoir, Rinker, emphasized the summers spent with the family on vacations riding in a converted school bus and other odd adventures their father made for the family of 11 children. But he never mentioned a corral their father built for them to learn to handle c ...more
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyable book. Originally, I expected only flying story, but the book offerd much more to me -- view into psychology of different types of relationships, i.e. between siblings, son and father or person and general public. Amazingly written description of terrific journey with lots of funny and dead-serious anecdotes. Highly recommended for every aviation fan or anybody who likes good memoires
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
I don't usually do autobiographical stuff--but I really liked this book. It's the story of Rinker Buck and his brother Kernahan (P.S. love the names) and their flight across the country in a Piper Cub airplane. They were the youngest people to ever do so and this story is heartwarming and hilarious. ...more
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a rare find of character driven non-fiction that grips you from the very first pages. The rich detailed descriptions of the plane, it's pilot's, flying, maintenance, mechanics and restoration had me riveted.I highly recommend it to anyone interested in aviation and/or a coming of age adventure. ...more
Feb 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved thus book. I hated the swearing and bad language, but I still give this book a 5. It is written well and is adventurous. It is a page turner. It had some really funny stories in it too.
Aug 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
A book I never would have read without it being put on our Book Club's reading list for the year. Very glad it was. Found it immensely entertaining and informative. What an amazing story! ...more
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
a great read about 2 brothers flying coast-to-coast in a small Cessna. I (along with the other 6 people who read this book) STRONGLY recommend it!
Feb 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The young at heart
Recommended to Laneburritt by: My husband
This is a nice read. The story about two teenage boys flying across the country seems to elicit the dreamer in me. When i was a teenager I wanted to fly so much.
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The dreams we dream as boys and live out as boys or men are all-powerful. A wonderful memoir about flying and the relationship with an older brother and an overbearing father...
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great coming of age in the earl 1960's book. Great flying book. Heartily recommended. ...more
Sep 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Pilots, read it. People, read it. The message is broader than aviation (though I am a pilot).
Majd Bostani
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Flight of Passage,” by Rinker Buck is probably the most thrilling nonfiction book that I’ve read. It’s a coming of age tale that defies all cliches that come with this style. This book features two brothers, who are 17 and 15 years old that decided to build an airplane in their garage and fly it from New Jersey to California. It is daring of them to plan a trip like this, considering their young age, as well as the terrain of the country.

When Rinker’s parents first heard of him and his brother’
Emily A. Clifford
Jun 30, 2018 rated it liked it
I love aviation memoirs--I definitely get it from my dad!!! FLIGHT OF PASSAGE was an uneven book in many ways, but it reinforced what I love about these books and it even gave me about 3 more titles to look up!

Basically, two boys from New Jersey fly across the country in a Piper Cub to live and/or surpass their dad's flying adventures. Especially in the first half of the book, I was roaring with laughter at the Kern-isms. The book got less interesting in the second half, and then the adult refle
Jaclyn Knight
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Well written & interesting coming of age story. The author is very good at explaining the feelings & attitudes he felt as a teen & knowing why & how the relationships he had with other people changed or grew. It’s a very thought provoking book about how family shapes you.

One of the reviews on the back of the book calls it a “cocky gem of a book.” And I think that’s a dead on assessment. I would love to recommend this book for most teens I know but I would NOT simply because of the immense amount
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had been waiting to read this book by Rinker Buck because I really liked his book about his travel along the Oregon Trail with his mule team and authentically designed wagon. I was not disappointed. The book details the cross-country flight he and his brother as teenagers took across the United States thirty years earlier. They rebuilt a Piper Cub over the winter and then started out. I may not have been able to visualize the aircraft details, but I enjoyed the trip. This becomes a sort of com ...more
Alan Livingston
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m not sure when I’ve enjoyed a book so much. This memoir is as much about two teenage boys learning to manage their father while they mature as it is the bonding between two brothers in a large family.

But the flying-oh, the flying. When these two were flying from New Jersey to California without a radio, I was nervously trying to get around a pattern in Fort Worth. In a plane they rebuilt themselves similar to one I’d pasture-hopped in Tarrant County, they had an experience to last a lifetime.
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Buck’s book the Oregon Trail was an excellent 5-star book. I was so sad when it ended. So I thought I would try this one. Not so great. Flight descriptions were often over the top especially the episode through Guadeloupe pass. Probably because it never happened. Why wouldn’t you just fly around Guadeloupe Mt? It’s the last peak in the southern Rockies. Also, I would have been embarrassed to write about some of the childish stunts he and his brother pulled. This was definitely a disappointment a ...more
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Rinker Buck began his career in journalism at the Berkshire Eagle and was a longtime staff writer for the Hartford Courant. He has written for Vanity Fair, New York, Life, and many other publications, and his stories have won the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award. He is the author of The Oregon Trail as well as the ...more

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  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
7 likes · 2 comments
“All the heroes had crew cuts, platinum-blond wives and drove Corvettes. The media was devoted to this cult of innocence.” 2 likes
“Until I read about it nearly twenty years later, in a book about instrument flying, I didn’t realize that I suffered throughout our flight from something called copilot vertigo. The phenomenon is especially severe in tandem-seat designs like Cubs, where visibility over the pilot in front is limited.” 0 likes
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