Jill: Mom, there’s snow on Mt. Tom!
Mom: It’ll still be there on the weekend.
Jill: Don’t make me go to school today. It’s the first day of snow. There’s snow on Mt. Tom!

– The Other Side of the Mountain, Universal Pictures, 1975

The snow has not yet come to Mt. Tom.

It is one more thing in the year 2020, our annus horriblis.

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The Eastern Sierra, with a 13,658-foot, snow-crested Mt. Tom as its showpiece, towers above the Owens Valley community of Bishop, CA. (Photo: Gary Young.)

And as the days march into November, the residents of Bishop, CA, where I was raised, look with an increasing sense of dread toward the great pyramidic peak that dominates the nearly 14,000-foot Eastern Sierra escarpment that towers above the northern reach of Owens Valley. …


Yes, says a man who did it. But it’s not the fall that’ll kill you.

Is it possible to parachute into a category 5 hurricane — or any hurricane for that matter — and survive?

The very premise seems ludicrous and untestable. Intuitively, our intrepid parachutist would surely be tossed, twisted and torn assunder by one of the greatest forces in nature. It would be madness to try. And impossible to survive.

Right?

Not so, says my uncle, Maj. Don Harten, who is likely one of only four people to have ever plunged into a Cat 5 storm — Super Typhoon Dinah — and lived to tell the tale. (The other three were his U.S. …


Midair (Lyons Press) is available in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Read Midair: Foreword | Read Midair: Chapter One | Read Midair: Chapter Two |Read Midair: Chapter Twenty-Eight

The annals of aviation are replete with near-miraculous stories of survival.

There is, of course, Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, who flew into a flock of geese in 2009 and through quick thinking, years of experience and nerves of steel, managed to safely ditch his dead-engine Airbus A320 into the Hudson River, saving all aboard.

And there is Juliane Koepcke, who in 1971, at age 17, fell 10,000 feet to earth after her plane was struck by lightening and then ripped asunder by a particularly violent storm over Peru. Strapped to a row of chairs, she “helicoptered” into the Amazon rainforest, the jungle canopy breaking her fall, after which she walked for ten days before encountering some lumbermen who canoed her back to civilization. …


Pilot’s 1968 selfie shows Soviet missile skimming just under his F-105 in the skies above Hanoi

Excerpted from Midair by Craig K. Collins (Lyons Press)
Available here in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Read Midair: Foreword|Read Midair: Chapter One|Read Midair: Chapter Two

Whenever Billy Sparks was hungover, which was often, his fellow pilots would yell out, “Hey, Sparky, let me see that aerial map of Hanoi.”

Sparks would then oblige. He had the ability to pull down on one of his lower eyelids, flex a combination of facial muscles, and force his eyeball to bulge gruesomely from its socket. Though Billy’s bulging, bloodshot eye the morning after a long night at Takhli’s Stag Bar was unnerving, pilots viewed it as something of a good-luck talisman. …


Epic True Story of Pilot who Ejects from Fiery B-52 Collision and Parachutes into a Cat 5 Super Typhoon with 185 mph Winds and 70-Foot Waves

Excerpted from Midair by Craig K. Collins (Lyons Press)
Available here in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Read Midair: Foreword | Read Midair: Chapter One | Read Midair: Chapter Twenty-Eight

The Milky Way stretched in a glimmering band against theblack-ink darkness that pressed against Don’s cockpit window at forty-five thousand feet above the South China Sea. Above, a waning moon, nearly full, gleamed icy white. Below, Super Typhoon Dinah, a category 5 storm with winds of 185 mph, spun in a massive counterclockwise spiral, denuding tropical islands and churning mountainous waves. Its thunderheads pulsed ominously with flashes of light.

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Midair (Lyons Press) is a true account of one of the most remarkable tales of survival in the history of aviation — a midair collision at 30,000 feet by two bomb-laden B-52s over a category 5 super typhoon above the South China Sea during the outset of the Vietnam War.

From his copilot’s seat, Don scanned the night sky and marveled at what he could see of the great storm below. Though the view was otherworldly, Don found that flying B-52s for long distances was an exercise in boredom. He may as well have been driving a bus. Nothing ever happened for hours on end. …


America’s Greatest Military Blunder Explained in Kamps’ Foreword to Midair

Excerpted from Midair by Craig K. Collins (Lyons Press)
Available here in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Read Midair: Chapter One | Read Midair: Chapter Two | Read Midair: Chapter Twenty-Eight

Don Harten’s name is not common knowledge in America, even within the service to which he dedicated his adult life. This, to be sure, has something to do with the fact that Don’s war — Vietnam — is not normally revered in heroic terms in US military history. But, just as surely, his name is what the term “unsung hero” is all about.

Image for post
Midair (Lyons Press) is a true account of one of the most remarkable tales of survival in the history of aviation — a midair collision at 30,000 feet by two bomb-laden B-52s over a category 5 super typhoon above the South China Sea during the outset of the Vietnam War.

Above all, Don was a warrior who could be mistaken for someone who would feel more comfortable in the age of medieval knights except for one thing: flying jets. His driving ambition was to be the very best at his profession. While his comrades-in-arms received accolades for shooting down enemy MiGs or, less fortunately, for showing great leadership among fellow POWs at the Hanoi Hilton, Don’s goal was to be the absolute best at precisely delivering high explosive ordnance on enemy targets and bringing his flight mates home to talk about it. …


America’s Workhorse in Vietnam Takes to the Skies in Ch. 1 of Midair

Excerpted from Midair by Craig K. Collins (Lyons Press)
Available here in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Read Midair: Foreword | Read Midair: Chapter Two | Read Midair: Chapter Twenty-Eight

The B-52 is a great beast of a plane. It was designed by men with the end of the world on their minds — conceived amid the fallout of Alamogordo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. It was built for destruction — a destroyer of nations packed with a nuclear arsenal — always aloft, always alert. …


History sleuthing turns up origin of one of baseball’s oldest terms

“You know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. Twenty-five hits in 500 at-bats is 50 points, OK? There’s six months in a season. That’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week, just one, a gork, a ground ball — a ground ball with eyes! — you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week and you’re in Yankee Stadium.” – Crash Davis, Bull Durham

On May 21, 1892, in a season-opening Texas League game that pitted the visiting Fort Worth Panthers against the Houston Mudcats, a 22-year-old Northerner, newly arrived that morning — bleary-eyed, rumpled and unshaven after a multi-day boxcar trip from Illinois — made baseball history. …

About

Craig K. Collins

Author of Midair (Lyons Press, 2016) and Thunder in the Mountains (Lyons Press, 2014). At work on a novel, as well as a book of historical non-fiction.

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