Monday, December 15, 2008

REVIEW: Prop Wash: For the Love of Flying

Title: Prop Wash: For the Love of Flying
Author: Betty Kaseman
Genre: Biography
Price: $14.95
Publisher: Black Forest Press
ISBN: 978-1-58275-135-8
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Prop Wash, for the Love of Flying, is the biography of Potty Porter Ross. In 1926, young Polly Porter, then aged 15, got her private pilot’s license in Portland, Oregon. It was such a rarity for a woman to get a license to fly that the local newspaper carried an announcement.

But the young Polly Porter was apparently born to fly, and she would keep flying until her eighties, when cataracts and bad hips grounded her. Even after she was no longer able to fly, Polly remained active in the general aviation community. She was a founding member of the 99s’, a club founded by Amelia Earhart to support women flyers and other organizations.

After getting her license, Polly flew as a barnstormer and airshow pilot. She moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, where she became a pilot and instructor for a number of Hollywood stars of the age, including Errol Flynn. During World War Two, she volunteered to ferry aircraft for Great Britain, and later training US pilots during the same conflict. After the war, she married an Australian and spent a few years in the Outback, then returned to the US where she settled in San Diego. She refused to hang up her flying spurs, and became a founding member of the Flying Samaritans, a group who flew supplies and doctors into rural areas of Baja Mexico.

In the late 1980s, Polly started to work with a student pilot, Salli Kaseman-Moore, on an autobiography. Salli died, and the task was eventually taken up by Salli’s sister Betty. This effort brought forth Prop Wash in 2005.

As an entertaining history of early aviation and picture into the life of a fascinating woman, this book is a success. Unfortunately, the combination of writers and editors seems to have made the book somewhat of a jumble. The writing process apparently consisted of Polly telling her stories into a tape recorder, and Betty Kaseman attempting to get those down in words. The result at times reads more like a transcript of an oral history then a true biography.

Despite these flaws, Prop Wash is an entertaining peek and a primary record of aviation from the 1920s to the 1940s.


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