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A fighter pilot tells us what the real Top Guns drive to work
John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force flying in a Spitfire squadron in Britain during the Second World War, wrote eloquently of having “[S]lipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; … wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence” and “flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.” Though he was tragically killed in a midair collision at the tender age of 19, Magee's poem “High Flight” remains a favorite of pilots the world over. What his moving prose fails to adequately describe is the stark brutality of aerial combat. It’s akin to a knife fight in a phone booth, only with the combatants’ knives worth multitudinous millions of dollars.