‘The Airmen Who Would Not Die’

Book Reviews

A review by Madhuri of John G Fuller’s book, published in 1979; “Highly recommended.”

The Airmen Who Would Not DieThe Airmen Who Would Not Die
by John G Fuller
1979, G P Putnam’s Sons, NY
360 pages

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During the 1920’s, it seems there was no shortage of British heiresses with their own planes, looking for a pilot to fly with them in order to set some record – for example, first east-to-west transatlantic flight. These ventures did not always end well.

At the same time, great amounts of public money, colossal amounts of manpower, and the concerted attention of numerous His Lordships were being brought to bear on attempts to raise a fleet of behemoth luxury dirigibles with which to knit the Empire together.

Then there was the Spiritualist movement – where clairvoyants and mediums who channelled the dead, as well as contacting wise Ascended Souls, were in great fashion. Certain scientists took it upon themselves to conduct rigorous testing, using an impressive battery of instruments, to try to discover how the mediums did it – and which ones were genuine, and which charlatans. A few really gifted ones shone above the rest… and their words were recorded by ace shorthand secretaries; later to be transcribed.

And so. We have a downed hero airman, Capt Hinchliffe (this is a true story by the way, very precisely researched and documented), his downed heiress employer, a bobbing dirigible with wires wearing through the thin skin of its hydrogen balloons (with no plastics yet, the envelopes were made of ox gut membranes {‘goldbeater skin’} and canvas), and a truly accurate medium, the cultured, well-spoken Eileen Garrett. We have Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and a champion of Lady Garrett and mediums in general. We have the just-dead pilot desperately trying to contact mediums, friends, other airmen – both to try and arrange the financial security of his much-loved wife and daughters, and to warn of impending disaster with one of the new dirigibles…

This vast floating object – at 777 feet, the world’s largest airship – was setting out on a maiden voyage to India, and no detail had been overlooked. I quote: “Large quantities of pressed cheese had been prepared. A cheese blender worked aboard the ship, carefully blending twenty different varieties chosen for flavour, texture, body and colour. He had to taste as much as two pounds of cheese a day from the various samples, and complained that he wasn’t able to fancy his dinner on those days.

“In the lounge, lush carpets of staggering value were laid down to prepare for greeting the High Commissioner for Egypt when the ship was safely moored at the Ismaila mast. They added weight.”

Unfortunately, dirigibles are very vulnerable to vagaries in the weather…

It’s a riveting read, steady, factual, detailed. We end up hearing from several dead pilots – a restless lot it seems – and what they have to say about the Afterlife is fascinating. Hint: It’s better to clean up your act while you are still in this body. You can’t just count on things magically transforming “over there;” angelic beings doing your work for you.

And, if you can, get your work and your stuff sorted before you go – or else you might hover around watching helplessly while your heirs struggle with your unfinished business.

And, try not to die in an aviation accident. Apparently such a death creates all sorts of shock and turmoil, difficult to deal with.

I found this book on one of those free-book shelves in Corfu, and a serendipitous find it was, even in its scruffy old hardback incarnation with the dust-jacket gone. I was completely absorbed in it, and when I was done, set about looking for anything else by that author. Highly recommended.

Review by Madhuri

John G FullerJohn G. Fuller (1913 – 1990) was a New England-based American author of several non-fiction books and newspaper articles, mainly focusing on the theme of extra-terrestrials and the supernatural. For many years he wrote a regular column for the Saturday Review magazine, called Trade Winds. Further books are We Almost Lost Detroit, The Ghost of Flight 401, Incident at Exeter, and The Interrupted Journey.

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