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Flight to Destiny

Bookcover: Flight to Destiny

In Flight to Destiny, fictional heroines Annie, Clare and Midge bring their stories to the mix of women pilots who qualify for Nancy Love’s WAFS in the fall of 1942. Nancy Love and the WAFS are real – part of the history of World War II.

Annie Gwynn joins fellow Tennessean Cornelia Fort flight instructing over Oahu the morning of December 7, 1941. Both are chased from the sky by the marauding Japanese Zeroes that arrive to wreak havoc on Pearl Harbor.

Thrust into a battle for survival for which it was largely unprepared, the U.S. pushes to get its aircraft factories humming – building war planes. Col. William H. Tunner, commander of the Army’s Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command, is tasked with the job of moving all those new aircraft to training fields or ports of debarkation to be shipped abroad. He is desperate for pilots. He decides to try a small number of highly skilled women flyers and hires Nancy Love to find, recruit, and lead those women.

Cornelia, the third woman to join Nancy Love’s WAFS, sends word to Annie to apply.

Former stunt pilot, now flight instructor Clare Varsky accepts her friend Nancy Love’s invitation to join the history-making squadron.

Jacqueline Cochran readies her administrative assistant/copilot, Midge Culpepper, to qualify for the WAFS, where she can observe and make periodic reports.

The three women pilots meet, form friendships, begin to share their joys, sorrows, loves, and lives, and ultimately come to rely on each other. Each, in turn, encounters her personal flight to destiny.

If you would like to purchase a softcover copy of Flight to Destiny signed by the author,
email Sarah to request information on how to order one directly from her!

An excerpt from Flight to Destiny, Chapter 30:

Clare and Annie took a minute to look down and eyeball where they were headed. There they saw several inlets, the beginnings of the many fjords leading inland. Only one would take them to Bluie One.

“Wow!” Annie repeated.

“Yeah!” said Clare as she made one more 360-degree descending turn to lose the rest of the altitude. Then, making the final turn at 1,000 feet to start the run up the fjord, she and Annie glanced at each other. “Here we go…” they said together, both knowing it was to be the flight and the landing of their lives; their last flight at the controls of a B-17; their flight to destiny. And no one would ever know about it but the ten people onboard.

In minutes they were flying in a magnificent canyon of mammoth icy crags. At a thousand feet, the surface of the fjord appeared to be but a few feet beneath their wings. The water was a deep, vibrant azure and reflections of the northern springtime sun bouncing off it nearly blinded them. And just as they were warned, at points the icy walls closed in on them, but the wingtips passed with ease as Clare wove the big airplane through the narrows. She caught herself holding her breath. “My Gawd, it is so beautiful,” she said as the full impact of the arctic splendor unfolded before her eyes.

“I never dreamed I’d ever see anything this magnificent,” said Annie.

Finally, the shipwreck appeared in front of them. As advised, they looked right and there it was. The runway. Clare put the airplane into a 30-degree right turn to a heading of 070. The 5,000-foot-long, 145-foot-wide runway glinted in the sun and stretched away from them, running slightly uphill. It was no more than a mat of pierced-steel planking atop a base of pea-sized gravel and it ended abruptly at the foot of a very large snow bank. The glacier.

Clare lined the bomber up with the centerline and allowed the plane to sink, bleeding off airspeed.

“Full flaps.”

Annie lowered the flaps. “Full flaps.”

“Gear down.”

Annie hit the switch. “Gear down and locked.”

Moments later they passed over the water’s edge marking the end of the runway. Just past the end of the runway, Clare set the big airplane down in a perfect three-point landing and, her feet deftly working the rudders, let it roll out straight and true down the runway.

The B-17, a taildragger airplane with the little wheel in the back and the main gear in front, landed just like the little Travel Air OX-5 taildragger Clare had first soloed eleven years earlier. When it had slowed sufficiently, again working the rudders, Clare put the bomber into a gentle left turn that led to the taxiway. Moments later, she parked it where she was directed by the ground crew. Then she cut the switches and shut the airplane down.

“We did it, Annie.”

Praise for Flight to Destiny

“I was one of Nancy Love’s ferry pilots, flying those lovely P-51s out of Long Beach. No one but a WASP ferry pilot understands what it was like, but Sarah’s book gets down to the grass roots and rings true with me.”

WASP Jean Landis, Class 43-4
stationed with the 6th Ferrying Group
Air Transport Command, Long Beach, CA, 1944

“Sarah, you got it right. In Flight to Destiny, your description of the approach and entrance to Bluie West One (BW-1) and the flight up the fjord is not only accurate, it is exactly as I remember it. [pages 223-5] — The weather station at Bluie Three at the mouth of the fjord, flying between all those mountains. I was scared to death we were going to hit one of them.

“We started looking for the sunken German freighter, spotted it, and then the runway off to the right — beginning at the water’s edge and running uphill ending at the icecap.
You called it ‘the glacier,’ we called it the icecap. By 1954, the runway was concrete rather than the pierced steel planking over pea gravel that you describe. Otherwise, everything was the same.”

George O’Brien, retired USAF
who served in Greenland at BW-1 in 1954-55

“Flight to Destiny is the fifth of Sarah Rickman’s books in the Museum Store. She captures the dedication, patriotism and love of flying of the Women Airforce Service Pilots – the first women to fly America’s military aircraft. Her interpretation of the power struggle between the two strong women who founded the WASP program is enlightening. If you like history or love to fly, this is a great read.”

Carol Cain, Administrator
National WASP WWII Museum at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas

“Felt like I was in the right seat of adventure with these remarkable women ferry pilots. Flight to Destiny vividly brings to life the human story — lives caught up in WWII. WAFS/WASP historian Sarah Rickman brings the depth of her research to this historical fiction. You’ll keep turning the pages. Compelling and informative.”

Betty Darst, Enshrinement Chair
National Aviation Hall of Fame, Dayton, Ohio

“Enjoyed Flight to Destiny very much. I liked the way you incorporated the history along with the politics of the time and the dedication that the women showed to the flying and to their respective leaders. Glad to see Nancy Love get well-deserved ‘airtime.’ Really liked the Mayday flight sequences. Thought the lingo and description were well done. They kept my attention. And of course, I was happy to see how the Farmingdale gals were featured — but then I’m a bit prejudiced in that regard!”

Julia Lauria-Blum, Curator
American Airpower Museum
(formerly Republic Aircraft, home of the mighty P-47 Thunderbolt)
Farmingdale, Long Island

If you would like to purchase a softcover copy of Flight to Destiny signed by the author,
email Sarah to request information on how to order one directly from her!

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