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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.


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Excellent article.  Seems to me the challenge shared for airplanes, cars, and motorcycles isn't speed.  Its pressing the envelope.  No flight experience, but I imagine the adrenalin really pumps when you're able to make an airplane do things outside its envelope - to push it to the point it begins to protest and then stuff it back in the envelope.  Same for driving or riding on the ground.  A tenth of the speed, but getting that car or bike outside its envelope and then consistently getting it back in may be equally exciting.