CROSSWINDS: An Airman's Memoir by Najeeb E. Halaby

CROSSWINDS: An Airman's Memoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Jeeb"" Halaby is the former head of the Federal Aviation Agency and exchairman of Pan Am whose daughter recently married Jordan's King Hussein--a union that must have given him some quiet satisfaction, coming after a childhood of ""jibes at my Arab [Lebanese] ancestry"" and the painful experience, for a man at the peak of his profession, of being ousted from Pan Am (""one wonders if there's a ripcord to pull""). The combination of assurance, vulnerability, relative candor, and a degree of introspection, uncommon in the memoirs of businessman or bureaucrat, gives the story of Halaby's public life an attractive personal inflection. He's also one of a known breed of intelligent, independent-minded airman--Stanford, Yale Law, key naval test pilot--and he has interesting things to say about the vital matters he was involved in: postwar, in implementing the unpopular policy of service integration; as a Rockefeller Brothers aide privy to the uses of venture capital; and, most significantly, with the FAA during the heady Kennedy years and the letdown with LBJ. Halaby's account of ""the crisis-to-crisis life of a federal regulator"" takes in the Electra controversy (to restore confidence in the modified plane, he test-flew one--thus putting his own reputation on the line); the engineer-on-the-flight-deck flap (unlike pressurized aircraft, jets didn't need one; but the engineeers' union balked); the air traffic controllers' slowdowns; the constant fear of accidents; the first hijackings; and, in illuminating detail, the SST. ""The airman regarded swifter transportation as a logical goal; economics and politics perceived it as merely complex, costly, and difficult."" Halaby's expectation: a spacious and comfortable American SST after ""a new, cheaper, quieter fuel/engine cycle is developed."" After this, the Pan Am debacle is bound to be something of a letdown except for fans of corporate infighting. But--for the semi-general reader--there's also a good deal of Pan Am history, indistinguishable in its Flying Clipper years from the extension of civil aviation worldwide; and, for the business news-hawk, all those reasons why the airline lost its once preeminent place. Behind-the-scenes with a minimum of evasiveness.

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday