"I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed. I thought it might interest you."
copyright Keith Ferris
John Gillespie Magee, Jr. and HIGH FLIGHT
Being a pilot, I have always had a particular fascination with the poem HIGH FLIGHT. How could somebody describe so well how I felt about flying? Somehow or other, 19-year old John Gillespie Magee, Jr. captured the essence of flying in creating this poem. He also created something that has touched a chord in many people, both pilots and non-pilots.
In 1988, I started wondering about the author. I found that there was a lack of hard information concerning the origin of the poem, as well as its author. The information that was out there seemed to be very contradictory, so I set out to find out the truth.
And the truth was... amazing.
I started doing in-depth research on John Magee with the intent on writing a biography. Along the way I have encountered many people with the same interest; truly, Magee & HIGH FLIGHT are internationally known. I have found many applications of his poem, many of which I have collected.
Magee in a 412 Squadron (RCAF) Spitfire (recognizable from the "VZ" marking)
More interesting facts about John Magee
Every once in awhile I will post something interesting about John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Keep checing back, for you never know what new information you might find!
Some basic facts about
During my research, I encountered many inconsistencies and misconceptions about the origin of the poem, and about the life and death of its author. Here are some of the basic facts:
Getting his Wings
This painting hangs in Rugby School in England, where Magee attended.
"Official" RCAF Photograph
Magee with "Brunhilde" ... "Climbed to 36,000 - crashed - Poor Brunhilde" (notation in Magee's logbook)
I have completed writing the book about John Magee and his most famous poem. I am now in the process of creating a feature film about the life of John Gillespie Magee and the creation of the poem HIGH FLIGHT. I have been doing research since 1990 and it continues to the present day.
I am actively searching for people who knew Magee. I am also seeking reactions from people (not necessarily pilots) about the poem.
In addition, I am looking for instances where HIGH FLIGHT has been used. Do you know of other places where the poem, or even parts of it, were used? Please let me know via e-mail:
Some of the people who I have clips of reciting HIGH FLIGHT (or parts of it):
I have tracked down the use of High Flight on The Simpsons. Homer says something like this: "Put out my fist, and punch out the face of God." Classic Simpsons!
Other uses that I have heard of but have not acquired:
I have created the High Flight Compilation DVD using some of the clips that I have collected. I am using the proceeds to help support my production of the John Gillespie Magee, Jr. & High Flight film. You can purchase it by visiting my store .
John's mother Faith Magee recites High Flight.
Remnants of RAF airfield at Llandow, Wales, where No. 53 OTU was located. Magee took off from here on the flight that would inspire him to write High Flight.
Here's a link to "The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor" for the week of December 19, 2005. If you scroll down to the entry for December 20, you'll see... High Flight! Mr. Keillor recites High Flight in his wonderful voice. (You will need RealPlayer to listen.)
All News and Log items have been moved to a Blog. Here's the link:
In my mind, Magee and the Supermarine Spitfire are inextricably linked. I believe that the Spitfire, combined with Magee the poet-pilot, produced High Flight. Click on the above link the hear a wonderful song by Ivor and Kevan Bundell: "Mr. Mitchell's Angel" (RJ Mitchell was the designer of the Spitfire).
I was asked to assist in the production of a radio story about John Magee and High Flight. Here is the roughly half-hour program. I must admit that it's strange to hear my own voice!
Vintage Wings of Canada works hard to preserve the memory of the people and aircraft that have made a difference to the world. This article is about their restoral of a North American Harvard to the colors and markings of a Harvard that John Magee flew (a project that I was involved with).
August 18th is HIGH FLIGHT's creation anniversary date!
August 18th, 1941, was a Monday. Pilot Officer John Magee was in Llandow, Wales, undergoing his operational training on Spitfires at No. 53 Operational Training Unit (OTU). John started the course on August the 6th, a flight in a Master I with Flight Officer Bache.
The next day, John took a second flight in a different Master I with a different instructor. Apparently John impressed his instructors, for his very first flight in a Spitfire was on the same day.
Eleven days later, after his seventh flight in a Spitfire, John records in his logbook: "Climb to 33,000 feet." This flight was made in a Spitfire MKI, serial number R6976. The flight was two hours long.
When John wrote the letter to his parents that included High Flight, he remarks, "It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed." The poem is dated September 3rd, 1941. So I feel fairly safe in assuming the High Flight was composed between August 18th and September 3rd.
Here is the pertinent page from John's logbook:
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