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Book Review – Flights of No Return

By Steven A. Ruffin; Hardcover, 256 Pages; 43 color & 46 b/w photos; Quarto/Zenith Press

 

There is an old aviation saw about keeping the number of one’s landings equal to the number of takeoffs. Aviation writer Steven A. Ruffin’s Flights of No Return is all about that simple equation becoming one that does not compute. The question of why the number of takeoffs is not equal to the number of landings comprises the heart of this book, with answers, or possible answers, ranging from tragic errors, to the sinister, to the downright eerie.What makes Flights of No Return such an important book on these subjects is that, while it is well-written and engaging, it is also thoroughly researched and above all objective and even-handed, never ranging into the wild speculation and misinformation that most books exhibit when covering this type of subject matter.

Flights of No Return should become a handy first reference for anyone interested in these enduring mysteries of aviation, but the quality of the storytelling is guaranteed to keep you reading whether you have a lifelong fascination with the subject or are approaching it for the first time.

Ruffin breaks these last flights down into four sections within Flights of No Return: “When Luck Runs Out;” “Lapses in Judgment;” “Criminal and Other Politically Incorrect Behavior;” and “Into the Twilight Zone.” Each of the several stories within each section is a product of Ruffin mining and distilling all the available evidence to tell the story as completely as possible, and then including various theories as to what might have happened, when that isn’t definitively known.

Flights of No Return-cover

Flights of No Return; By Steven A. Ruffin; Hardcover, 256 Pages; 43 color & 46 b/w photos; Quarto/Zenith Press

With each account, Ruffin has investigated primary sources, studied the available secondary sources, and drilled down past layers of misinformation and sensationalism to the verifiable facts.

Many of the classic aviation mysteries are included here, from Nungesser and Coli’s final flight to the Lady Be Good, Amelia Earhart to the ghosts of Flight 401, the disappearance of Flight 19 to D.B. Cooper’s hijacking and skydive from a 727, and the more modern day September 11 terrorist attacks, the Challenger explosion, crash of Steve Fossett, and many more, right up to the relatively recent disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. With each account, Ruffin has investigated primary sources, studied the available secondary sources, and drilled down past layers of misinformation and sensationalism to the verifiable facts. As such, Flights of No Return should become a handy first reference for anyone interested in these enduring mysteries of aviation, but the quality of the storytelling is guaranteed to keep you reading whether you have a lifelong fascination with the subject or are approaching it for the first time.