back in the real world

   no headlines please
Ahead of me Steve's plane glistens like a gold nugget in the morning sunlight, and I smile to myself as I picture him at this moment: the way he always looks when he is flying: slouched carelessly behind the stick, eyes half shut and his empty pipe dangling from his jaw, seeming indifferent and even bored but ready to react like a cat to any emergency. He is aloof and closemouthed, and his sardonic manner repels any talk of himself; but bit by bit in the long hours we have spent together I have dug out something of his past. He was a World War I pilot, and was shot down in France; his leg was injured in the crash, and he still walks with a slight limp. It was not from Steve but from Rod Ross that I learned he was one of Canada's greatest aces, holder of the Victoria Cross.

What makes a man choose this life? Why did this famous wartime flier come here to lose himself in the anonymity of the Canadian wilderness? There is no public acclaim for the bush pilot, no headlines, no parades or ticker tape or banquets. He flies alone in an open cockpit at sixty or seventy below zero, and his bed at night is a sleeping bag on the floor of the unheated fuselage, or a lean-to in the shelter of a snowbank. He flies by feel and instict alone. There is no more cruel existence, and there are no finer pilots than these quiet heroes who fly the northern bush.

Bernt Balchen, Come north with me (1959)

Captain F.J. Stevenson, DFC (!), no apparent ace, was wounded in France and flew in Russia in 1919; crashed in 1927, a few months after the above.
back in the real world

   sic transit gloria
He rarely, if ever, wears his uniform now. Once he did, at a Battle of Britain Day at North Weald in 1949 with other famous pilots. Richard Dimbleby, noted BBC commentator, held a microphone in front of their faces and they spoke a few self-conscious words. A boy of about twelve who could hardly have remembered the battle slipped through the police barrier and walked up to them with an autograph book. He gave it to Dimbleby who signed it and the boy took the book again, innocently turned away from the pilots and walked back to the barrier. The war was really over.

Paul Brickhill, Reach for the sky, the story of Douglas Bader (1954)

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