As the eldest of eleven children in small-town New Jersey, Rinker and Kern Buck were in possession of a few things: absurdly cool names, a love of flying, and a dream of adventure. So, they did what any young, red-blooded American boys would do: they restored an old Piper Cub plane and flew it across the country. Rinker, fifteen and outgoing, was the navigator. Kern, seventeen and introverted, was the pilot. Their five-day flight from their home in New Jersey to the California coast in 1966 earned them the honor of being the youngest aviators to fly across the continental United States.
Flight of Passage, Rinker’s memoir about his airborne voyage, is as good as any adventure story. Recalling both Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Into the Wild, Rinker and Kern sleep under the plane’s wings at night, consort with retired pilots, and inadvertently spend the night in a brothel. As they gain their wings over the changing American landscape, the brothers learn that their conflicting personalities bind them together rather than tear them apart.