This week, 69 years have passed since the disappearance of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry– author of the famous “The Little Prince”. Two years before writing the best seller, Exupery wrote his book “Flight to Arras” and shared details about the lives of aerial team members
Almost seven decades have passed since Antoine de Saint-Exupéry headed out on his last flight, and never returned. In his book, “Flight to Arras” which was written two years before the famous bestselling book “The Little Prince”, Saint-Exupéry wrote about the thoughts, fears, dilemmas and insights that pass through pilot’s head during flight, and are still relevant to this day. In his book, Saint-Exupéry describes the love he feels for the aircraft to parents loving their newborn child. The book is based on a 100 minute flight.
Two Out of Three never return
Saint-Exupéry’s flight is almost like a suicide mission. The French Air Force lost two thirds of its panes to the German Luftwaffe in 1940 which is why every flight during those weeks was a huge risk. It’s possible that it’s what made Exupery travel far with his thoughts of the aviation world to larger existential questions.
In a flight that lasts 100 minutes, all of the experiences resurface, not necessarily in chronological order. Between the innocence of childhood and the point at which it disappears, the pilot’s thoughts, the concerns with which fighter pilots around the world can identify at any time, all float in midair. As part of operational activities, the writer-pilot is sent on a dangerous reconnaissance mission and he claims it is worthless. He has to fly to Aras, enemy territory dotted with antiaircraft guns and it seems they are waiting for the French plane that arrives while flying at an attitude lower than normal. The antiaircraft guns wait there, waiting with their mouths open, for their prey; Saint-Exupery is ready to become a statistic: Two out of three is not coming back.
No One Expected to Stay Alive
“Captain, you do not really plan on staying alive after the war”, said one of the team members, a little while before being given the mission. No one expected to stay alive. Saint-Exupery’s feeling was that he was going to die, clearly because of the circumstances. During the flight, he is distracted by the burning issues of the day. He recalls his life, as if he asked to experience it again through the character child Antoine, who was born to a noble family and built modern airplanes. Even when the Germans fire on his planes, he continues to think about his childhood. When he glances at the oil pressure gauge, he notices that the plane has reached its limit, he says: “Yet, I can’t help but admire the blue of the evening”.
Contrary to the conventional thinking, as far as Antoine de Saint-Exupery was concerned, the flight was not separate from his everyday thoughts. His books that dealt with the flight tell a story about experiences of the world of the pilot and even the famous “The Little Prince” was inspired by his experiences in the Sahara Desert, where his plane landed, after a technical malfunction.
Contrary to expectations, and despite threatening statistics, Saint-Exupery returned safely from flights over the Arras. The feelings written on the page managed to make every reader, certainly those who know the experience of flying, sit in the cockpit in which Saint-Exupery himself sat.