Jill Tallman

Five things you didn’t know about Rinker Buck and ‘Flight of Passage’

May 31, 2013 by Jill W. Tallman, Associate Editor

Rinker Buck and his brother Kernahan flew from New Jersey to California in a Piper Cub in 1966. Kernahan, the pilot in command, was 17 and Rinker was 15—and the trip was done with their parents’ full consent. (And flown solely by pilotage and dead reckoning—Rinker’s job was to be the navigator.) Rinker Buck’s memoir, Flight of Passage, has become available in eBook format. I talked with him yesterday for an interview that will appear in the August issue of Flight Training magazine, but here are some extras from that very interesting conversation:

  • He doesn’t consider Flight of Passage an aviation book. “I consider it a memoir in the truer sense. It’s about life.”
  • He was surprised when people wrote to tell him the book inspired them. “The biggest surprise of the book was getting emails from people saying ‘I’m so inspired by this, I’m going to learn to fly, I’m going to go take a flight.'” Many current pilots told him the book inspired them to make a coast-to-coast trip–and several did, including a pilot from Rhode Island who conducted the trip in an L-19.
  • He and his brother are still flying, but not as much. Buck has been busy working on his latest book, which chronicles a trip by horse-drawn wagon over the Oregon Trail, but says that he still enjoys flying with friends. Kernahan is an attorney whose Boston practice keeps him busy.
  • When researching Flight of Passage, he re-flew most of the routes in a Cessna 182. “It was amazing that I just remembered our old routes, that’s why the book could be so accurate in terms of landscapes.” The brothers landed at 30 airports. “Twenty-seven of them are still there and they look exactly the same.”
  • He thinks you need to read Stick and Rudder, if you haven’t already. “The principles have not changed. You might be flying along in a Cirrus with a glass cockpit but it’s all still subject to all the same laws that [Wolfgang] Langewiesche wrote about.”


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13 Responses to “Five things you didn’t know about Rinker Buck and ‘Flight of Passage’”

  1. John Hughes Says:

    Thanks, Jill. Interesting info. Ironic that iconic flying-tale author isn’t an aviation writer.

  2. RogCable Says:

    I really enjoyed reading about their adventure flying across the country. It reminded me of a similar trip I took when I was about their age in a Cessna 120. It has inspired me to write a couple of books when I retire this year at 75 years young.

  3. Maynard Wright Says:

    “Flight of Passage” was a great read and reminded me of a trip I made from Northern California to South Dakota and back in a J3 Cub when I was 17. Another 17 year old and I began the trip the day after we graduated from high school in 1960. While in South Dakota I met the girl next door to the family with whom we stayed: we celebrated our 50th anniversary last year.

  4. Ed Winter Says:

    Read the book Flight of Passage. Any chance I have it signed by both?

  5. Robert Cunningham Says:

    Flight of Passage is one of my favorite books. What an adventure! I have recommended this book to many people.

  6. Bern Heimos Says:

    I too was intrigued by the book. In 2004 I purchased a 1939 J3 Cub and have flown it coast to coast most every year since.

  7. Marcus Staloff Says:

    Thanks for the reminder of a favorite tale.
    I got back to flying in ’98 after a five year lull and “Flight of Passage” was a great read and was a big factor in scratching the itch.
    I always enjoyed Rinker’s wry sense of humor as in: “Barclay’s strip that day was so far beyond any known crosswind component that it was an FAA violation just looking at it.”
    This was the preamble to the famous Barclay’s landing scene.
    I and my Citabria do, however, take exception to their rant against the Champ versus the Cub.
    Heartily agree about “Stick and Rudder” though.

  8. Hunter Heath Says:

    Rinker Buck’s fine book, “Flight of Passage,” and the film “One-Six Right” were major factors in getting me back into the air and aircraft ownership after a long, career-induced layoff. Reading the book and seeing the film should be on the short-term to-do list of any current or prospective airman: if those don’t get you jazzed up about flying, have a doctor check your EKG!

  9. Al Powers Says:

    I think “Stick and Rudder” is the best book written for new student pilots.
    I have given copies to my friends when they start flying lessons.

    Interesting that the Bucks seem to have the same opinion.


  10. Charlie Branch Says:

    As the former steward of a 1946 Champ, I merely chalk up favoritism for the Piper product to lack of familiarity. As the F-18 pilot said (of those F-14, A-7 and other pilots), “There are those who fly the Hornet, and those who want to.” Fly anything!

    A future B-24 or B-17 passenger, I had a Super DC-3 flight in 2008 for the Cordova, Alaska Centennial. You make your own history; write it down.

  11. Larry Coleman Says:

    “The principles have not changed. You might be flying along in a Cirrus with a glass cockpit but it’s all still subject to all the same laws that [Wolfgang] Langewiesche wrote about.”

    Amen to that. Stick and Rudder is such a good and timeless book that I named my aviation blog after it. Over the years I’ve been flying, I’ve read it four times and every time I still learn a little something from it. I also teach aviation classes at Lorain County Community College and once a week I bring in a book to talk about to the class. The first week it’s Stick and Rudder, and the second week is Flight of Passage. Later on I bring in a book by a different Buck, North Star Over My Shoulder. The first one teaches the art of flying, and the other two teach the joy of flying.

  12. Debbie Sierchio Says:

    I was surprised to find that “Flight of Passage” by Rinker Buck had a copyright of 1997. However, I just found the book at Barnes & Noble in 2014 and can identify with their cross country trip that I experienced with my family in a 1950s Red & White Cadillac. My dad was an Eastern Airlines pilot and wanted to drive towing a 26-ft. Airstream trailer around the US. It took us all of April in 1966, three months before the Buck brother’s flight. In fact, I’m writing a book that includes the memorable landscapes driving south, west, north and then back east along with coming to terms with relationships growing up in New Jersey. I just wanted to say thank you to Rinker. His book has brought me closer to my dad’s life experiences before, during and after my childhood. Sadly my dad doesn’t remember too much and it has been difficult asking him questions regarding stories that I remember growing up. Again thanks, Debbie

  13. Robert Johnson Says:

    Once at a party I am chatting with a man whose profession was used books. He asked me if I had read any good books lately and I mentioned a book “Flight of Passage”. Before I get the sentence he cuts me off. “Ah… Flight of Passage”. I bet I have sold over 120 copies. Whenever a distraught Mom comes in pleading for any book that might get her boy toread, he slaps down a copy of FOP. He has received over 20 thank you notes from various Moms ecstatic that the book did the trick.

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