In Dancing Through the Maze, William Leonardi takes us on his lifelong goal to become an airline pilot, beginning with his boyhood in Brooklyn to his career with Continental Airlines. Along the way, he shares his experiences as a combat pilot in Vietnam, a commuter airline captain flying propellor and jet planes, and a survivor of bureacratic battles that threatened to destroy his dream. Early on, the path to flight was detoured by a childhood accident that nearly cost him the sight in his left eye. Fearing the loss of ...
In Dancing Through the Maze, William Leonardi takes us on his lifelong goal to become an airline pilot, beginning with his boyhood in Brooklyn to his career with Continental Airlines. Along the way, he shares his experiences as a combat pilot in Vietnam, a commuter airline captain flying propellor and jet planes, and a survivor of bureacratic battles that threatened to destroy his dream. Early on, the path to flight was detoured by a childhood accident that nearly cost him the sight in his left eye. Fearing the loss of his dream, he took another road for a while: studying to become a doctor. Fate stepped in, however, with the Vietnam War: he could go on to study medicine at the University of Bologna, be drafted into the armed service, or, enlist in flight school with the Navy. He chose the last course, which ironically, sent him back on the road to realizing his dream: "Flight school was not to be an easy journey. It had its loves and it had its sorrows...this middleclass Brooklyn boy was taught to fight?to dogfight?and rid an enemy from his tail. I was forced to become a boxer, a slugger, a contender; to think, then punish my plane to the point of insanity because what appeared in front of my eyes was no less dangerous than what was closing in on my back. I entered a brotherhood, learning the choreography of the battle?of engagement and disengagement ? maneuvers...the situation was reduced down in simplicity to: Kill or be killed. It's him or me!" Leonardi writes about his four years in the Navy, his first attempts at landing on an aircraft carrier, the rigors of formation flying, his stint flying spy planes, the night flights near Hanoi and Da Nang, the propaganda threats from Hanoi Hanna. "What the hell am I doing here? I just want to be an airline pilot, sip wine, fly to exotic places, make love. In Dancing Through the Maze, we learn that those next steps were not so easily accomplished. First came years flying up and down the Hudson river and throughout the Northast corridor for Command Airlines, which marked his final move from his Brooklyn home, to a bachelor apartment in Poughkeepsie, New York. There he met his future and current wife, Lucinda, and the two embarked on his next post, as a captain flying small planes for South Pacific Island Airways, with flights in Eastern Samoa, the island of Ofu, and the Kingdom of Tonga. The exotic part of his dream certainly materialized. But fate again intervened?his mother's death?and he returned to reality and New York state to pursue his goal: fly for a major airline. After many tries?including special training on new jet equipment?Leonardi is finally granted an interview with an upstart and exciting new carrier, People's Express. He writes: "There comes a time of times...perhaps today. Maybe this very moment, when a long ago vision and a childhood dream is realized." And it was. In the last half of Dancing Through the Maze, the author takes us with him on his 727, and then 757 flights for People's Express and then Continental Airlines....flights all over the United States and Europe, with special emphasis on South America where he served not only as Captain, but as a Line Check Airman training Captains and First Officers. Leonardi retired in 2002, having realized his boyhood dream and ready to explore new dances through the maze. In the last chapter, "Reflections," he writes: Each page that I turned brought history and wealth into my life. A more crafted vision of who I am, what I am, materializing like phosphorescence from mist. The momentum increased as I came to accept my place in time and in space. That physical arena we occupy here on Earth for such a brief time."
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