If you enjoy a good non-fiction story of people who live fascinating lives or have always dreamt of flying into the deep blue yonder, “Tales of the Cessna 195” by Michael D. Larson, narrated by Roland Sickenberger, is a book you will not want to pick up. The book is much more than just an airplane story. It is a wonderfully woven tale from the author’s life told in a way that will keep you grounded in your seat the entire way.
Let me start by saying that my wife and I are both private pilots having our single-engine land licenses and are experienced in both the Cessna 152 and 172 aircraft. I also have knowledge of the Phoenix, AZ area including Falcon field where my brother to this day flies his aircraft out of. Many of the author’s early experiences in the book take place in this same area (including South Mountain and Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix). This aspect of the book personally brought back many memories from my childhood. However, this is not the only reason I enjoyed the book as so much more of it takes place at locations I have never been.
I want to be clear, this book is one that will be greatly enjoyed by those in the aviation field or anyone who likes aviation, however it is not just about the Cessna 195 aircraft. The title is a bit misleading as it is really about one man’s life journey in the aviation business and his love for the 195. I liked that he included both his and his wife’s desires of flying, and that they both enjoyed the many aspects of doing just that. It was something that I found helped me to succeed in getting my license; having another that was going through the process and we always had so much to talk about. It was good to hear of their support and freedom that only flying can bring someone. With that said, I would have liked the author to have defined a few of the terms to help make the book easier to read for a non-pilot.
As much fun as flying is, those who have been involved in the industry understand that often things wrong, and this usually happens at the worse times. How one reacts to such events can mean the difference between life and death; of you, your crew, or your passengers. Often one cannot see how close death is until the event is over; and the author does not spare telling the reader the many struggles and frustrations he experienced while flying; some very close. It is not all about the fun and excitement, but often requires one to improvise to get out of sticky situations. I also like that he included details around how friendly people are in the industry, I also experienced this while flying. Most people will go out of their way to accommodate and assist where they can. It is often a field where ‘paying it forward’ is often rewarded at a later time. If you can ever assist in fixing a “Check Engine” light on a loaner car, please do.
Although it is a true life story, I’m sure the author is glad for the statute of limitations in the US. Over the years he faced a few incidents in which he was able to get out of or never told anyone; but it is now published in this book. Nothing overtly illegal, mostly obstruction, but a few incidents that could have resulted in his licenses being taken or the FAA making his life more difficult. Once again, it shows the fine line one sometimes needs to walk to be a part of the aviation field. I had to openly laugh when he spoke of a watermelon field adjacent to one airstrip and when the fruit was ripe, people would fly in, run out of an active aircraft and grab a watermelon, and depart. All in one quick stop and go. Again, I laughed then the author said that one does not know how good a fresh watermelon tastes on a hot AL day. Not that he ever admitted to doing this himself.
Let me say a few words regarding the audiobook’s narration. At the time of this review, Roland has eight Audible books he has narrated. His performances by others are all rated four stars or higher; and I would agree with their assessment. I enjoyed his reading pace and richness of his voice. He was able to enhance the story by adding inflection bringing the tale to life. I will say that I did notice a few volume places of inconstancies with the recording. Nothing that would take away from the book, but noticeable if one listens closely. No other audio artifacts were detected while I listened. I look forward to hearing more from this narrator in the future.
Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.