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Desperate to Fly
by Kai Gertsen
Paperback, 201 pages, 64 black & white images and many drawings, Copyright 2012
Dimensions: 6.69 x 9.61 x 0.43 inches (170 x 244 x 11 mm)

This book received the 2012 Joseph Lincoln Award for 'Outstanding contribution to the sport of soaring through the use of the written word'.

Kai Gertsen was an optimist, always able to smile at life; a pilot at heart, with a passion for cross-country soaring, and a desire to share his love for soaring by teaching others. In these memoirs he tells vivid stories of Danish traditions, family, and summer vacations in the countryside; a tribute to his love for the country he left behind. During WWII he finds his passion - gliders - and forges friendships that last a lifetime. He describes his families' move to the Yukon Territory with humor and price, despite the dire living circumstances, which lacked 'the finer things' he had become accustomed to in Denmark. After leaving the Yukon, he finds Helga, moves to the U.S. and gets back into soaring. For the next 55 years, he pours his life into cross-country soaring, with amazing flights to show for it - and not just on the good soaring days.

The appendix includes 3 excellent and widely used instructional manuals by Kai:

Review by John Seaborn - from the November 2013 issue of Soaring magazine

As the winner of the 2012 Joe Lincoln Award for "outstanding contribution to the sport of soaring through the use of the written word," Kai Gerten's book entitled Desperate to Fly celebrates the passion for motorless flight shared by our small band of intrepid aviators. But can one man's passion for soaring and his journey of adventure inform our own?

Published in 2012, Desperate to Fly tells Kai Gertsen's life journey from his happy childhood in Denmark, his introduction to soaring during World War II, right through to his long ridge missions in Pennsylvania with the likes of Karl Striedieck and John Seymour. In 1944, Kai soloed in an SG-38 primary glider; no instruments, no canopy, no tires and no dual instruction. Over the next 67 years, Kai logged over 6000 glider hours and in impressive 144,000 cross-country miles. His soaring records for the state of New York still stand, with an 18,047-foot altitude gain in a wood-and-rag Ka-6 and Free Distance of 350 miles in a 1-26.

To say Kai was old-school does not do him justice. To call him dapper may be overreaching, but Kai was solid in the way of a generation schooled in adversity and challenge. When things got tough on course, Kai could be counted on to bring it home, earning him the nick name "Iron Man." He shared his love for cross-country soaring with many students while he instructed at the Harris Hill Soaring Club in Elmira, NY. He had an eye for beauty, a healthy sense of humor and contagious optimism - and all are evident in his usual generous way throughout this book.

True to his lifelong desire to share his love for soaring, Desperate to Fly goes far beyond being just an interesting biography, and includes an appendix with Kai's notes on cross-country soaring, based on his extensive experience, as well as excellent guide to off-field landings. Perhaps the most valuable section is Kai's common sense, easy to understand manual on spin training, which is a must-read for glider pilots of all levels.

Desperate to Fly is well written, and Kai's dry humor shines throughout the book, making it easy to look and laugh at life through his positive eyes. And as a testament to his lifelong passion for soaring, at Kai's request, all profits from Desperate to Fly will go to the U.S. Junior Soaring team. This year Kai's family and the publisher have made the first annual donation.

Before he (Kai) passed away in 2011, the publisher, Karin Schlösser, asked Kai about a title for the book. After some thought he left her a message; "I have the title: Desperate to Fly. That pretty much sums up my entire life."

What about yours?

About John Seaborn: Since his solo in 1974 at age 14, John has accumulated over 3,500 hours of glider time in over forty-five types of gliders. Winner of the PASCO Sawyer Award, John earned FAI Diamond Badge 377 in 1977 at the age of 18, and was awarded the Joe Giltner Trophy for the fastest speed in a 15-meter Nationals four times. He was a member of the 1985 and 2012 U.S. soaring teams.

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