Looking Bach at the Joy of Simple Flight

By Scott Spangler on December 19th, 2011

An old-school reader, annually I must winnow my collected ink-on-paper titles to make shelf room for Christmas newcomers. As they have for decades, the works of Richard Bach survive every purge.

Bach-BooksLike many others, I met Richard through the pages of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a Christmas present from my parents in 1972. He articulated a kindred outlook on life I was then struggling to define. We met again in his other works and in subsequent titles that now wait on my shelf for our next reunion.

It’s been awhile since Richard and I met on new pages, so I sought out his digital being. He’s sharing his philosophy and love of flight through a blog born this December. It’s a home “for short little bits of ideas, funny things that happen, a place to show the pasts and futures of what I care about, dear reader, if you should happen to be interested.”

As aviation—especially GA, the portal for flight’s newcomers—seeks its way in the 21st century, it should be of interest to all concerned about  the future. The critical message is the theme that unites all of Bach’s aeronautical prose, that aviation’s sustaining joy and rewards are found in the adventure of simple flight.

Isn’t that what first drew us into the sky? For Richard, the simple act of looking up at a passing airplane led him skyward in the mid-1950s. And the joy of simple stick & rudder flight sustains him still, a point well made in A Different Family. Its final paragraph offers aviators this poignant observation:

“We come together, we meet because we share common interests, common values, we laugh at common joys, cringe at common dangers.

“Not blood, that runs this deep.

“Only child, last survivor, orphan, black-sheep outcast from your clan?

“You want to find your family, first you find your love.”

As we seek our way forward, perhaps the successful solution is to remember when we were newcomers enthralled with the sky. Instead of the technology and procedures that now define the maturity of our flying lives we should focus on the compelling and attractive challenges and rewards of simple flight.  – Scott Spangler

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3 Responses to “Looking Bach at the Joy of Simple Flight”

  1. Turb Coriolis Says:

    Thanks for putting me on to Richard’s blog. I’ve always loved his writing… well, at least since the time a friend told me that “Jonothan” was actually about aviation and I discovered he was right. I had read it as a wee kid and found the book to be about seagulls, but a few years down the track the same words were about the purity of flight. Magic.

    I also loved “Bridge Across Forever” and “One”, despite what other more hardened hearts say. The timeless exploration of love is, I am sure, more important than other more worldly pursuits — and he threw in a few planes too.

    And who can forget his biplane adventures… FLY $3 FLY… barnstorming in an era when barnstorming should no longer exist. Brilliant and inspiring.

    “Illusions” is the book I gave a Goddaughter, as words of inspiration and wonderment for the future; permission to open our hearts and minds to greater stories and truths than we have been fed by the conventional sources.

    The essence of Richard’s writing is magic. Like you, for me Bach’s books will never be consigned to the waste bin, and I delight in being able to read more.

    FLY $3 FLY!

    (Didn’t much like the seafaring squirrels though! :-) )

  2. Robert Mark Says:


    What a truly great resource you are to our readers … even those who don’t know Richard Bach’s work.

    I reread your piece and traveled over to Bach’s blog myself and it took me back 40 years. He’s not just a great aviation writer, he’s a spirit voice I can’t quite put a name to.

    I hope people wander over to his blog too — and of course I hope they come back — while Richard is here to talk.

    I never did enough of that with Gordon Baxter before he got sick. And then one morning he was gone. I still treasure the time he stayed with us overnight. We offered him the guest bedroom, but he said the couch was fine. We stayed up talking til he finally told me to go to bed so he could get some sleep.

    Merry Christmas all … and go find that darn seagull book.


  3. Bill Kempthorne Says:

    Thanks for this Scott.. and the pointer to Richards ‘revived’ site. I have a immediate desire to re-read the engineering calculation of how he should have it the trees from Illusions..

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