Burien resident Jack Burke, 89, a retired pilot, recently wrote a memoir about his exploits, called “A Life Aloft: From Montana Roots to Pan Am Wings.“
A native of Montana, Jack began his aviation career at a young age. His new book spans his nearly eight-decade career, which he calls a “hobby.” He flew nearly every new plane to “fly the line,” and crossed paths with dozens of memorable characters who became close friends who shaped his career. From the majestic Big Sky country of Montana to the remote, unrelenting wilds of Alaska, from wartime Europe to war torn Southeast Asia, from the boundless South Pacific to the eerily desolate north Pole – and nearly all points in between – Jack Burke shares a lot of stories from his 75-years of flying.
“Ride along with him, share first-hand the thrills, chills and occasional near-spills of a unique and remarkable life aloft,” reads a press release.
Here’s more info on his book:
Burke transferred to New York to fly the majestic flying boats across wartime North Atlantic, finished his service in World War Two in the Aleutians, and would return to serve in both the Air Force and Navy in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Amazingly, Jack’s ? “best day ever” with Pan Am was January 31, 1968, the first day of the gruesome Tet Offensive, when he made a daring landing with his 707 into besieged Saigon Airport and delivered more than 200 trapped civiliansâ€”many of them childrenâ€”to safety. “All those little kids,” he recalls with a smile. And surely they have never forgotten him.
Retired from Pan Am in 1982, Jack had a 40-year career as an instructor, check pilot and even Chief Pilotâ€”although he always preferred to ?fly the line.? But it was never a job to him. “I got paid for my hobby,” he says. Everyone should be so lucky.
Home base was in Seattle, where he remains today and still logs air time. In the book, he regales readers with some of his fondest memories including the chance to meet with many interesting people up in the air, such as the time he flew the Beatles at the height of their career, and forgetting to get their autographs for his daughter. She forgave him.
Sadly, the love of Jack’s life and his wife of 65 years, “Scotty,” succumbed to cancer in 2007. But her bright memory lives on, in many of the stories and photographs represented in this historical and loving tale of his journey in the air. A Life Aloft is a love story of many dimensions.
Listen to a recent interview with Jack produced by KUOW here.
Jack’s book can be purchased online here:
A Life Aloft (From Montana Roots to Pan Am Wings)
I met Jack, Mr. Burke, recently at the Seattle Museum of Flight, where he autographed his book for me. I have not been able to put it down. It’s like living his experiences through his book. One of the most incredible books I have ever read. A must read for anybody, especially anyone interested in aviation! All my best Mr. Burke, it was an honor meeting you.
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