This is more literate and thoughtful than most of its kind, as you might expect from the author of two acclaimed collections of short stories (Bubble Gum and Kipling, 1964 and The Weary Falcon, 1971). Mayer pilots a single-engine Beechcraft Staggerwing left over from ""aviation's Bronze Age"" -- a machine he knows intimately and loves as passionately as a collector of old cars might love a 1929 Mercedes. The exhilaration and freedom of flying, the mastery he feels at the controls, makes this more than a hobby; he is rapturous about this ""way to tranquility,"" this ""vehicle for self-discovery"" that calms the nerves and clears the mind. To hell with modern-day aviation with its airborne mammoths and myriad instruments and regulations, he gets off on the special challenge felt by the heirs of Lindbergh -- the intrepid cranks and romantics who take up ancient, carefully restored antiques: a Mexican bush pilot, a Colorado man who refurbished a superannuated Vultee V-1A. Between the joyous runs over Mexico and the Southwest Mayer includes a section on helicopter combat in Vietnam where he was a reporter -- ""art as nightmare"" -- even here the killing becomes secondary to the aesthetics of flight. A graceful and effortless pirouette through the skies.