On Extended Wings hardcover















In this remarkable paean to flying, award-winning poet Diane Ackerman invites us to ride jump seat as she takes — literally and figuratively — to the sky. On Extended Wings tells the story of how she gained mastery over the mysteries of flight and earned her private pilot's license, of her frustration and exhilaration during hours of lessons and seemingly endless touch-and-gos, of her first solo and her first cross-country flights, of the teachers and pilots and aviation enthusiasts she befriended and flew with. We learn with her the special language of aviation  the meaning of terms like "lift" and "windsock" and "True Virgins Make Dull Company" (the flyer's acronym for computing one's heading).  And we follow her through an eclectic exploration of the culture and history of flight from the dimensions of wind to what laws govern who has the right of way in the sky, from why birds fly to what the litany of lights that flash from control towers means, from the Wright Brothers to St. Exupéry and World War I flying aces.

But most of all, On Extended Wings is about challenges, taking chances, and stretching one's limits. As voluptuous in its imagery as it is meticulous in its observation, this is a book for anyone who has ever flown a plane or dreamed of it. 



"From the moment you get your wheels up over Sapsucker Woods until you touch down in Williamsburg, this beautiful book will sustain your flight, and you will thereby learn what flying is  a union of thought, observation, and feeling that is like the prose of this book.  This is writing that gives you a continuous clear view of the ground at the same time it soars. — William Gass


"I can't imagine a more fruitful combination than a poet and flying, and I can't imagine a story being pulled off much better than this, by a bright and perceptive intelligence learning to fly. On Extended Wings is a very rich treat." —   John Jerome

"Diane Ackerman is a woman of letters, not numbers. When she gets her hands on the throttle, flying exceeds metaphor;  it is the whole world;  and yet nothing is mundane.  This isn't simply a chronicle about learning how to fly; it 's a poet's notebook with wings, a book about paradox. It's a thoughtfully considered, deftly constructed series of essays, a peculiar mixture of heart-stopping excitement and calm poetic observation. It's as clear-eyed and honest a self-portrait as I've ever encountered, a good story with a trick ending, and it will make a lot of readers cry. It's also a layman's introduction to aviation,  complete with an enchanting glossary. Ackerman's largest achievement in this book is the emotional landscape she's created. It's as detailed as the sectional map which she frantically deciphers from the cockpit, and as lovely as the real world passing, far below. The result is exquisite:  she's created a character as interesting as any fiction, a maverick of a story which reads better than most novels do."— St. Louis Post-Dispatch


"She has redefined flying as a sport for all of us who walk the earth, gaze up at the birds and wonder. Wings is indeed a treat, the reader is irresistibly engaged. This is a special interest book that deserves a far wider audience. Wings abounds with brief essays,  musings and journalistic accounts on many other subjects."  — Sports Illustrated


"No one has written of the trials, tribulations and exultations of a student pilot as has  Diane Ackerman. Her literary contribution to that endeavor will leave you soaring." — The Chattanooga Times


"On Extended Wings is about learning to fly, but it is also about the impulse for flight, the air that becomes a palpable, sensual delight, and the exploration of  new metaphors. On Extended Wings is not a little moral tale about normal life decisions. It is a concrete account of what it is like to learn to fly; and also how knowledge makes the world not less fabulous but more." — San Francisco Chronicle