Have you ever wondered what it's like to fly the world's fastest plane--the X-15--or the Goodyear blimp; the space shuttle or a medivac copter in Vietnam; or a B-17 Flying Fortress, under attack by a dozen German fighters, running out of gas and throwing everything not bolted down out of the plane, trying to make it across the English Channel? Here, amateur pilot Neely flies a squadron of airmen's stories, complete with loving evocations of their planes--and scores big. Neely's answer to the question many readers will ask first: No, you are not safe on commercial airliners. For example, in the Avianca crash of January 25, 1989, three pilots just ``forgot'' to check the fuel gauges. A veteran commercial pilot says safety statistics are a crock because many pilots don't report mechanical failures or near-misses: ``...the paperwork will be up to your ass.'' Most of the airmen Neely talked to were considerably more intrepid. A WW II bomber pilot, forced to ditch on a Greenland icecap, hopelessly mired in snow with the crew facing death from subzero temperatures, awaited rescue. When a plane parachuted supplies, which included cigarettes and whiskey, he radioed: ``Send us a couple of blondes and leave us alone.'' Barnstormers (so named because a few pioneers of the mania flew through barns open at each end) talk of the ubiquitous Curtiss JN-4D--the flying Jenny- -thousands of which were cheaply available at surplus. The Jennys were so temperamental, broke so often--the thin wings braced with scores of turnbuckled wires and the engine spewing hot oil and hot fumes--that pilots in the Great War called them ``a battalion of parts flying in formation.'' ``Air racing may not be better than your wedding night, but it's better than the second night,'' says one of Neely's pilots. Exciting reading for your honeymoon or any other time.