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TEST PILOT

JIMMY COLLINS

[Illustration]

THE SUN DIAL PRESS

Garden City — New York

PRINTED AT THE Country Life Press , GARDEN CITY, N. Y., U. S. A.

COPYRIGHT, 1935 BY DELORES LACY COLLINS

COPYRIGHT, 1935 BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

HAPPY LANDINGS TO

CAPTAIN JOSEPH MEDILL PATTERSON ( The News ) GEORGE HORACE LORIMER ( Saturday Evening Post ) J. DAVID STERN ( New York Post )

for permissions to reprint such parts of this book as appeared serially in their newspapers and periodicals.

—THE PUBLISHERS.

FOREWORD

Jimmy Collins used periodically to try to change his name to Jim Collins, but he never could make it stick. There was something about him that made everybody call him Jimmy. He did sign his wonderful article in the Saturday Evening Post about dive testing “Jim Collins,” but his friends kidded him so much about wanting to be a “he man” that he went back to Jimmy in his articles for the New York Daily News .

The article from the Saturday Evening Post , “Return to Earth,” which is printed in this book, is the most extraordinary flying story I have ever read, and as a newspaper and former magazine editor I have read hundreds of them, from The Red Knight of Germany down.

Jimmy wrote his own stuff—every word of it. Not one line has been added to or taken from any of the stories that appeared in the Daily News . If a story had any unkindness in it, or reflected on any other pilot’s ability, Jimmy omitted or changed the name of the person under reproach.

Jimmy graduated from the army training schools of Brooks and Kelly fields, in the same class as Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh. Collins and Lindbergh were two of the four selected for the pursuit group, which means they were considered to have the greatest ability in their class. Jimmy afterwards became the youngest instructor at Kelly Field.

I was privileged to receive some instruction from Jimmy. He was a fine teacher, making you know precisely what he wanted and why. He told me promptly that I lacked coördination. He said, “Every student lacks coördination, but you lack more of it than any student I ever saw.” In driving a car, you can go forward or backward, left or right. An airplane cannot go backward. It can go forward, right, left, up, down. The coördination that Collins kept talking about meant that when, for instance, you were going up and to the right, you should do it in one perfect arc between the two desired points, not in a wavering line that sometimes bulged and sometimes flattened itself out.

Pretty near any dub can be taught to fly some if he has patience enough and can afford to pay for two or three times as much instruction as the ordinary man gets. But nobody not born for it can learn to fly like Collins. His rhythm and reflexes were like a good orchestra. He was just a natural aviator. He had the wings of an angel all right, and he was more at home, more comfortable, more at peace with himself and the world in the air than he was on the ground, where he sometimes thought himself to be a misfit.

Jimmy talked as well as he wrote, drank less than most aviators, and that’s not so much, and smoked a considerable number of cigarettes.

Until the last couple of years, when the depression and his trade had deepened the lines in his face, he might almost have been called “pretty,” though it would have been better not to say that to him. He had light wavy hair, blue eyes, fine white teeth, smiled a good deal, and as far as his appearance went he could have been a romantic hero in Hollywood.

He was the most fearless man I ever knew. No, I take that back. I have known other aviators whom I considered to be without fear... Continue reading book >>




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