James Salter on Leaving the Air Force

“There’s the fact that people are being killed,” Salter said. “And there was a competition always going on, a sifting out, a sorting out. There was working with all this tremendously powerful machinery. And then, of course, there was also the fact that you were the one on the horse. Everyone was in business to support you–all the ground crews, all the supply people, everybody. That gave you a feeling, I would say, of over-importance, probably. But you wore that. You had to wear it.” He has called his time as a pilot–his twenties, basically–the heart of his life. “As a writer, you aren’t anybody until you become somebody. As a pilot, you’re nobility from the very beginning. It’s very hard to suddenly become just somebody on a bus.”

“It was worse than divorce, emotionally,” Salter told me.

–Nick Paumgarten on James Salter


About Eric Chandler

Husband. Father. Pilot. Cross Country Skier. Writer. Author of Outside Duluth and Down In It.
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3 Responses to James Salter on Leaving the Air Force

  1. Jon Wiesinger says:

    I had that same feeling, therefore, returned to Guard after 9 year break. Kids didn’t even know I used to be in the Air Force. Not that being a Herc/Tanker pilot is like being a fighter pilot, but it’s still more fun than going to work everyday.

    • Way more fun. Only a few more months left for me until I put retiree next to my name.

      • Jon Wiesinger says:

        Really? Then what? Guard is the most enjoyable way I know to make money. Although that is probably because it is part time and I don’t go when the BS gets too deep.

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