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Fate Is the Hunter

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,544 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
Ernest K. Gann’s classic memoir is an up-close and thrilling account of the treacherous early days of commercial aviation. In his inimitable style, Gann brings you right into the cockpit, recounting both the triumphs and terrors of pilots who flew when flying was anything but routine.
Paperback, A Touchstone Book (US/CAN), 416 pages
Published 1986 by Simon Schuster (first published 1961)
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Description: Ernest K. Gann’s classic memoir is an up-close and thrilling account of the treacherous early days of commercial aviation. In his inimitable style, Gann brings you right into the cockpit, recounting both the triumphs and terrors of pilots who flew when flying was anything but routine.

Fate and destiny are bottom line answers to every precarious situation in Gann's near-autobiography and philosophically speaking, that really ain't my bag. Apart
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
For aviators, this is the ultimate, classic memoir. Ernest Gann started flying in the late thirties, flew transport planes all over the world during WWII, and continued flying for airlines thereafter. This book is part chronicle of his many adventures and misadventures, part collection of thoughts on life and flying.

Even a pilot with my limited experience can immediately discern the fundamental authenticity in the erudite voice of this true aviator. The book is episodic, with sequential periods
Matt Lavine
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone Interested in Aviaition
Recommended to Matt by: I found it at the library by myself =D
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anybody that loves flying
Recommended to Jeff by: Brad
Really good book, written in 1961, about the early days of flying. Starts out in DC2s and DC3s, flying mail routes and other similar tasks, then moved to doing flights for the military as WWII began to unfold. He doesn't make a real big deal about it, but the author really lost a LOT of friends to airplanes over the years, and he had some close calls but was able to out-distance "fate" at each juncture. I can especially relate to his speaking of the insatiable appetite of a pilot to look skyward ...more
Michael Flanagan
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book returns the reader back to the golden pioneering days of Commercial airlines and all the danger and adventure that of the period. Fate is a game of numbers and luck and the author takes us on his ride with fate with all it's ups and downs. Anyone with a passing interest in flying needs to read this book you will not be disappointed.
Ally Ports
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing tales of one of the first commercial pilots. As a pilot myself I was spellbound but I am pretty sure even a novice would fall head first into the exhilaration adventures as time passes across World War II and the first people of the sky open up the world and discover new frontiers.
Laura JC
This book and Gann's "A Hostage to Fortune" were among those on my late father's bookshelf for decades. I kept them to read myself, to see the kind of book he enjoyed. Dad was a pilot, beginning before WWII, flying transport in Europe-Africa-India during the war, later bush-piloting along the BC coast and Canadian Arctic (his favourite years), then as senior pilot with an international company, moving from Otters, Beavers and a DC-3 to a Hawker Siddeley 125 business jet. These books by Ernest Ga ...more
Mar 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
Actual rating: 3.5 stars.

A fascinating near-autobiography by an airline pilot who flew from the late 1930s into the 1950s, the era of DC-2s, DC-3s, C-87s, and DC-4s. Gann has some great stories to share, many quite frightening, and some of will have you gripping the edges of the book like a control yoke, your knuckles white. My god, those were dangerous days, and the early airline pilots took risks that would be inconceivable today, letting down through solid weather with inaccurate altimeter se
Nov 04, 2013 added it
"I'll teach you how to escape death.
...there is a raven in the eastern sea which is called Yitai ("dull-head"). This dull-head cannot fly very high and seems very stupid. It hops only a short distance and nestles close with others of its kind. In going forward, it dare not lag behind. At the time of feeding, it takes what is left over by the other birds. Therefore, the ranks of this bird are never depleted and nobody can do them any harm. A tree with a straight trunk is the first to be chopped d
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I enjoyed reading Fate is the Hunter and would recommend it to aviation enthusiasts. Its appeal, however, may be limited to that group which has a strong interest in a niche of aviation history from the viewpoint of a personal memoir. It was published in 1961 and now reads like a period piece. The author's viewpoint and rich vocabulary are highly reflective of a different generation. For me, that was part of the appeal, reading about those times of an earlier era of air transport from a man who ...more
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-books
A piece of literature, in disguise as a aviation book

Who'd of ever thought that a pilot and the overall field of aviation could be written about with such eloquence, beauty and vividness. Since I was a child, I've been an aviation enthusiast so Gann's book which spans both pre and post-WWII aviation is exactly the kind of novel I love.

For me, a couple of lessons were particularly poignant from Gann's descriptions of early commercial aviation. His descriptions of being a terrified and bullied co-
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow! As I sat, rapidly thumbing through the pages in my spare time, I was awestruck from the first to the last page. I love historical books and, as a pilot, historical aviation books are especially delightful. Capt Gann paints a masterful picture of the dangerous days of early aviation and of the mysterious force, fate, that keeps excellent young aviators from long careers, while older, equally capable men live on by staying a fingernails length away from death's grasp. The recounted events are ...more
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps, as an amateur pilot, I'm biased towards this sort of thing, but my appreciation of this goes well beyond enthusiasm about the genre. Not only is this the finest aviation memoir I've run across, it's literature masquerading as a memoir. I've read this a few times now, and every time reading it through is different: the first time, I was enthralled by the narrative of the stories, and was so anxious to find out what happened that I blew through the beautifully constructed sentences and th ...more
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book helped me decide to become an airline pilot. Any professional pilot will feel right at home with Gann in the cockpit. He starts out as a new hire First Officer for American Airlines, learning the ropes on the DC2 and DC3. It is fascinating to experience the working conditions of that era, and make us realize how much we owe to those pioneers, and how much technology has made air travel so safe and reliable today. And while so much has changed, there are still human elements that remain ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely my most favorite book.
John Behle
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: life adventure realization
Recommended to John by: My father in 1967
1967. I had just turned 11 and my dad dared me to read this book. He tossed me the paperback edition stating I was ready for grown up books. I found out I liked it, even understanding the theme of luck and fatalism. I turned it into an A+ book report in front of class.

Now, just 50 years later, I bought the hardcover first edition at a used book store--hey, I was going to to this up right. I delved into the still remembered pages and the wonder came flooding back. While being an aviation enthusia
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: flying
Wow, Gann is a master storyteller! What a pleasure to be swept up by his words. He spins out several stories from his experiences as an airline pilot, from trainee to captain. He was also involved in some civilian pilot work during WWII (I had no idea we had this particular program! Greenland?!). It seems that most good pilot stories are also detective stories, and it is entrancing to watch Gann encounter challenges, sort through the possible problems, deduce explanations, find solutions, and sc ...more
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A book given to me as a gift from a pilot :) This book allowed me to dive into what it was like in the early days of flying, learn a lot of new technical terms and experience the thrill of adventure that must fuel the spirits and love of so many pilots for the art of flying.

This book is a collection of adventure stories and thoughts about life and the people you get to know in the realm of aviation. Gann offers many thoughtful reflections about the variety of pilots- their character and skills
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wandering account of the early days of commercial aviation, starting out in the interbellum with barnstorming techniques to complete a flight, proceeding through a series of mishaps that could have proved fatal. A fine accounting of how safety was not exactly the highest priority, through the Second World War flying freighters and troop transports before settling into the 1950s and a more reflective attitude.

A worthwhile read, pitched at a level accessible to the layman and the professional al
Boyd Davis
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is Ernest K Gann's memoir of his professional life as a commercial pilot from the 1920s through 1961. Gann was also a novelist who wrote many aviation/adventure novels, some of which were made into movies in the '50s & '60s (including "The High and the Mighty"starring John Wayne,"Soldier of Fortune" starring Clark Gable, & "Island in the Sky" starring John Wayne).
If I had a friend or customer who only wanted to read one book on aviation, "Fate Is the Hunter" is my top choice
Guy Felder
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A classic read amongst pilots, Ernest K. Gann's memoir of his participation in the early days of flying is full of interesting insights and anecdotes. While he often talks of the near misses of his aviation career the greater story here is the rise of the aviation industry through three wars and into the "glory days" of Pan Am. Low on technical details and high on heroics this is sort of a Homer's Odyssey in the air. The chapters generally form their own episodes so the book is easy to pick-up a ...more
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read Fate is he Hunter when I was about 12 maybe 13 years old after seeing the film. Our father worked at Curtis Wright Aircraft Company Buffalo N.Y. In WW 2 building airplanes for the war effort so I too have the Airplane Mechanical gene encoded somewhere in my psyche. Oh I love mechanical things and the amazing ones ha can fly could easily seduce me if were not so afraid of falling out o the sky....But that hasn't kept me from reading about the exploits of fearless men and women who take wi ...more
D. E.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The first fliers had to be brave to a point of insanity. They flew with no parachutes. They delivered the mail in all types of weather. They flew across country by read reckoning because there were no radio stations to run into. The airports were, generally, pastures with farm animals in them. The first plane to fly in combat was flown by an American during the war with Mexico. This is an excellent read for the genre.....DEHS
Paul Belanger
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book started out difficult to read; I felt it was long winded. After I got used to his style of writing, I found his stories extremely interesting. I didn't want to put the book down. It's quite the tale of the birth of the airline industry from a pilot's perspective. Well worth reading, especially if you're a pilot.
Eric Chandler
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My second time through it. So far, my favorite book about flying. When I first read it about 15 years ago, I thought it was about flying, and liked it enough. This time, after four more trips downrange, I realized the book is about trying to understand luck. A pilot filter on the question we're all trying to answer.
Ed Connors
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a must-read for anyone interested in aviation. The book follows Gann’s career as a commercial pilot. He recounts events from the 30s through the early 60s that for a simple twist of fate would have joined him to the long roll of the names of fellow pilots who died in aviation mishaps.
Richard Ames
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a terrific view into the era of early commercial aviation. Each chapter is a short adventure marking the progression of a pilot's career in the 30's, 40's and 50's.

Definitely the best book I've enjoyed this year. Pick it up.
Shaun H
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. A must-read for aviation enthusiasts.
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
great reading for those who love aviation. the wonder and fear of leaving the earth are vividly described by one impressive and "lucky" pilot. I think fate smiled on him more often than not.
Rob Taylor
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The author has such a descriptive way of writing that you easily inhabit the various cockpits and join his crew. i haven't read such immersive writing in a long time.
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Ernest K Gann was an aviator, author, filmmaker, sailor, fisherman and conservationist.

After earning his pilot license, Gann spent his much of his free time aloft, flying for pleasure. The continuing Great Depression soon cost him his job and he was unable to find another position in the movie business. In search of work, he decided to move his family to California. Gann was able to find odd jobs
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“In referance to flying through thunderstorms; "A pilot may earn his full pay for that year in less than two minutes. At the time of incident he would gladly return the entire amount for the privilege of being elsewhere.” 7 likes
“The only characteristic all airliners share is that upon proper urging they are normally capable of leaving the earth's surface.” 1 likes
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