Semi-profound but generally enjoyable reflections by all English teacher turned pilot/flight instructor. Bauer has a bold thesis--that flying can change the pilot's (not the airline passenger's) relationship ""to the earth, to society, and even to his own past""; but when it comes to spelling it out, he lapses into vagueness or pleasant commonplaces. Thus, he repeatedly claims that flight is a liberating experience because it reveals the arbitrary, factitious (as Satire might say) nature of society. But isn't flying, with its various philosophical, economic, and technological underpinnings, just another social structure? Bauer loves the sort of ecstatic individualism flying makes possible: he notes that pilots as a group are ambitious, adventurous, and highly sexed; that flying reduces the pilot's need of other people to validate his existence. Perhaps, but he celebrates this ruggedly masculine ""mystique"" without criticizing the perils and ambiguities of such mythic consciousness. Still, within his limits he writes cleanly, gracefully, with an epigrammatic flair. ""The airplane,"" he observes, ""does not 'conquer' the sky any more than the igloo 'conquers' the Arctic."" He handles the essay form skillfully, blending information and meditation. Though he's not forthcoming about his private life even when it seems to be called for (what exactly were the ""real and imaginary. . . traumas"" that flying helped him escape?), he does tell at least one gripping anecdote: on Bauer's first professional flight, he took a passenger out over the Pacific to drop the ashes of his wife, a recent suicide. A trendy book in some ways (given the proliferation of Zen-ish treatments of running, skiing, tennis, etc.), but a deft and intelligent one.