To Live is to Fly: Memoirs of an Executive Pilot by Doris Daily is a short, swift peek inside the lifestyle of an executive corporate pilot. Early on Doris had no great ambitions to be a pilot. Pilot needed to be good at mathematics and physics and that simply wasn’t Doris’ thing. She was more interested in the Arts and so, when a friend suggested she take a radio course, it ignited a passion inside her to learn to fly, which most of the other students were doing the course for, and to ultimately become a commercial pilot, during a period when female commercial pilots were still a real rarity. Living in Europe meant that Doris’ professional career was always going to offer unusual and exciting destinations with lots of variations. In this story she documents the journey she took in a “man’s world” and how flying became as critical to her life, as breathing. Along the way she gives advice on how to avoid some of the pitfalls she encountered especially as she makes the comparison of the pros and cons between commercial piloting for an airline and the corporate executive flying which she preferred to do.
This is a short book about a life that no doubt had its fair share of adventure. To Live is to Fly: Memoirs of an Executive Pilot really was the story of one woman’s passion and love of aviation. Her sheer pleasure in her job shone through on every page. Author Doris Daily’s writing style is simple and uncomplicated which possibly doesn’t convey the excitement of what she does, as well as she may have wished but I found the anecdotes both funny and interesting. Of special interest was her dealings with airport officials in Soviet Bloc countries both before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was fascinating to view the differences between the two Germany’s that still clearly existed even after reunification. As someone who has a deep fascination also, with air travel and has never pursued it, Daily’s story allowed me to vicariously live the life of a commercial pilot and understand that it is not always about glamour and glitz but it is the love of flying that commands pilots to stick at it. I thought her comparisons between the life of an airline pilot and that of an executive corporate pilot were very telling and it was clear she felt she had made the right choice of career path in aviation. This is a fascinating read and I’m sure the author could easily have written double the length without any trouble at all. I can definitely recommend this read.