13,760 Feet--Living with TWA Flight 800

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a memoir in stories and songs by Mark L Berry

Excerpts from 13,760 Feet have appeared in Airways, AOPA Flight Training, and TARPA Topics magazines, ERAU EaglesNEST, as well as Write This, and Connecticut Newspapers.


13,760 Feet Fourteen years before Captain Sullenberger safely landed on the Hudson River saving every one of his passengers and crew, I got a call to turn on the TV. TWA 800 went down—my airline with my fiancée Susanne, a financial manager on a business trip, seated in row 3. I imagined I was suddenly onboard that 747 with her while crewmember friends of mine were assessing emergency exits, opening doors above the waterline, and ordering passengers outside and into life rafts with strong commands, “Open seatbelts, come this way!”

At the time I was a TWA 767 first officer. I knew Susanne was in good hands but none of this was happening on TV like I was expecting. I continued imagining her taking the whole emergency in stride, but expressing her frustration about the sudden change in the outcome of her flight. She was a strong swimmer and loved the water, but very much a clotheshorse, and getting her business outfit dunked in salt water would tick her off. For a Scandinavian who was very unashamed about nudity, she had more clothes than any five women I’d ever met—combined. I was puzzled that I didn’t see the evacuation procedures unfolding on the news like they were playing-out in my head. Just to see her blue and green outfit with her extremely blonde hair moving into a raft or a rescue boat from a helicopter camera angle would have settled my tiniest doubt that I was keeping hostage in the deepest dungeon of my mind.

Rebuilding my life means continuing to move the heavy metal even though I’ve seen what happens when all safety fails. Aluminum ParachuteStill Flying After TWA 800 is an insider’s view of what it takes to make it in the major airlines, as well as climbing back into the cockpit after the ultimate loss—my fiancée on TWA 800.

MLB as 767 Captain I’ve been in commercial cockpits over 25 years: picking through lines of thunderstorms and shedding accumulated aircraft icing; floating a flight attendant in zero g-force maneuvers on an otherwise empty airplane, only to get caught because the lavatory was re-painted blue with toilet water; and wearing my uniform at the funerals of my family, co-workers, roommates, and friends who have paid for safer skies with their blood. My memoir chronicles what has made me the MD80 captain I am today and it’s close to completion.

I’m a regular contributor for Airways Magazine where I’m developing a steady following, with appearances in ERAU EaglesNEST, AOPA Flight Training, Write This and TARPA Topics magazines plus Connecticut Newspapers. My writing is refined at Fairfield University’s creative writing MFA program.


Praise for 13,760 Feet—Living with TWA Flight 800:

“Your prose is resonating with truth, wisdom and tons of humor.
Usually I have a lot to say about any book. This one stunned me into blissful silence as I devoured one page after another. It’s so beautifully and lovingly written, that it should be read many, many…
Every word hits the mark and every sentence an illumination shining from within you out…
This is a very empowering book.”

— Da Chen
Best-selling author of Brothers, China’s Son, and Colors of the Mountain


“Straight from the airline pilot’s seat, Mark Berry has written an eloquent memoir that takes readers inside the cockpit and, through intimate memory and original song, one of the world’s most devastating flight disasters. An irresistible read for frequent flyers and frequent readers.”

— Lary Bloom
Editor, columnist, and author


Listen to my memoir’s companion songs.
They’re available below, sorted in chronological order including the chapter in which each appears.
This is a story that you don’t just read, you experience it through music.


Aluminum Parachute—Title Song
Performed by Simon Ashby

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Debs and Eroll performing Aluminum Parachute
Link to watch Debs and Errol perform Aluminum Parachute live
(use BACK button to return)


Chapter 02 – The Best Day of My Life
Under the Tiny Bridge
Performed by Billy Sea

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 04 – Tighty-Whitie Deep Sea Divers
Tighty-Whitie Deep Sea Divers
Performed by Christopher Madden & Malakai Madden

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 06 – Sorted by Speed
Outside of School
Performed by Simon Ashby

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 08 – The Majors
My First Solo
Performed by Billy Sea

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 09 – The Road Back to the Cockpit
Learning to Breathe Again
Performed by TC Elliott

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 12 – Teaching is a License to Learn
Teaching Is a License to Learn
Performed by Simon Ashby

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 14 – St. Thomas Upside Down and Spinning
Island Hopping Dream
Performed by Nadia Cripps & TC Elliot

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 16 – Pilots of the Caribbean
Pilots of the Caribbean
Performed by Steve Schafer

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 16 – Pilots of the Caribbean (Vieques is Hot)
Tryin’ to Get Off Island
Performed by Christopher Madden and Malachai Madden

Chapter 18 – Cutting My Winter Teeth
The Box the Twin-Otter Came In
Performed by CTS

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 20 – Pigship Probation
Long Live the Pigship
Performed by Lynn McLeod and Deborah Linden

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 22 – Before CRM – The Five Ps
City in the Sky
Performed by Larry Seger & Lt. Col. Sheri Miller

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 24 – Success and Silence (with WLBjr)
Anaphylactic Shock Reaction
Performed by Kristian Borreson & Adam Hill

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 26 – My Airline Family—Where Dreams Are Free
Dirty Double Crosser
Performed by Peter Watkinson

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 28 – Are You a Cardinal?
Are You a Cardinal?
Performed by Simon Ashby

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 30 – The Secret the Darkness Completely Concealed
The Secret the Darkness Completely Concealed
Performed by: Plain White Toast

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 31 – Losing the Lottery
Susanne
Performed by Mick James

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 32 – Investigation and Speculation
One Day
Performed by: Shane Clary – Lead Vocals

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 33 – Going South in Eastern Europe
I Escaped into a Dream
Performed by John Cooperider

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 34 – As Far Away from Myself as I Could Get
The Infinite Steps
Performed by Simon Ashby

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 35 – My Vanilla Sky (with WSCS)
Cathedral Steps
Performed by Don ‘Lefty’ Williams & Errol Elumir

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 36 – Sacred Watering Holes
Sacred Watering Holes
Performed by Billy Sea

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 37 – High Terrain All Quads
Shakin It In the Dark
Performed by Valerie Cox

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 38 – Catching up with Concord
Farewell to Concorde
Performed by Cleveland Brown

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /

Chapter 39 – 25 Years Since ERAU
When I Look Back at Twenty
Performed by Joanne Gabriel

Lyrics & mp3 - plus Artist links /


Me as a 727 FO Feel free to email me with your comments: mark@pushingleavestowardsthesun.com


If you are a Literary Agent or a Publisher I’d love to hear from you!

Cheers! Mark L Berry