Hard Air


Hard Air

Adventures from the Edge of Flying

W. Scott Olsen

246 pages
41 photographs


April 2008


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Hard Air is a book about extraordinary flying—flying under conditions that keep fighters on the carrier deck and rockets on the launch pad—a book about rescue missions and long, lonely flights to gather urgently needed information, about flights to places where no one should be flying: into hurricanes, firestorms, and deep, engine-killing cold. As a pilot himself, W. Scott Olsen brings to these tales a sense of wonder and adventure as well as a genuine, firsthand understanding of the dangers and rigors of such flying.
In prose that deftly conveys the grit and grace of his subjects, Olsen transports us into the air with hurricane hunters who fly into the planet’s fiercest storms, with helicopter pilots racing emergency patients to clinics, with Canadian pilots who fly supplies to the Arctic, and with heavy air tanker pilots who drop water and slurry on remote wildfires. Their stories afford a rare look into the working lives of pilots whose methods are extreme and missions are simple: get there, do the job, and get out alive.

Author Bio

W. Scott Olsen is a professor of English at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He is editor of the literary journal Ascent and author of several books, including At Speed: Traveling the Long Road between Two Points (Nebraska 2006) and Gravity: The Allure of Distance.


Hard Air is an exceptional read, and a rare piece of work, as much sheer artistry as deep exploration of flight. Olsen is a skillful writer, and it shows here, start to stop.”—William Langewiesche, author of Inside the Sky

“His narrative is reminiscent in tone of Beryl Markham’s early African aviation adventures chronicled in West with the Night. . . . Olsen . . . does a good job of capturing, in a journalistic interview style, the experiences of the men and women who routinely fly these adventurous missions. The stories are good enough to inspire future pilots.”—Sara Tompson, Library Journal

“It’s hard to imagine a more gripping book for aviation buffs than Olsen’s depiction of some of the hairier aspects of service networks usually taken for granted and seldom properly noticed by the media.”—Roland Green, Booklist

“Never exploiting danger and natural drama for their own sakes, [Scott Olsen] writes in an appreciative and matter-of-fact style that will leave an unforgettable impression upon ground-bound readers and veteran pilates alike.”—Raymond Puffer, Kliatt

Table of Contents

The Air in Resolute
Chasing Ivan
SEATS and Heavies

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