plane circles over the Arizona State
University Polytechnic campus in the far
East Valley. Its drone is barely
noticeable, nothing like the shrieking
jets that ruled this piece of sky when
this was Williams Air Force Base.
almost-subliminal sound of that single
airplane might be enough to trigger
powerful memories in Terry Isaacson as
he stands outside his office as vice
provost of the Polytechnic campus.
of the mid-1980s, when Isaacson, now a
Kyrene Corridor resident, was a U.S. Air
Force colonel and Wing Commander at
Approaching his 64th
birthday, Isaacson was a career Air
Force officer who now is in his second
career as a university administrator.
graduate of the Air Force Academy, he
has taken to heart the words carved into
a marble monument at the Academy: “Man’s
Flight Through Life Is Sustained By the
Power Of His Knowledge.”
those words on the statue are certainly
true, but there’s more to it than that.
Man’s flight through life is enriched by
the love of family. It’s guided by the
power of his principles. And it’s
rewarded b the joy of doing things for
others,” as Charles Turner said.
Turner is not a real person, although he
certainly shares some traits with Terry
Turner is a character in Isaacson’s new
book, “A Flight Through Life.”
you see, has embarked on a third career:
Through Life” is a historical novel
published in 2005 by PublishAmerica, a
relatively new publishing house in
Baltimore. The novel tells the story of
three generations of the Turner family
through their shared love of airplanes.
Charlie … It’s an aircraft,”
Charles Turner corrects. But “Grandpa,”
as Charles Turner is known in the novel,
never explains the difference.
Isaacson chuckles when he is asked to
no difference between an airplane and an
aircraft. I don’t know. I’ve always
referred to airplanes as aircraft,
probably due to my experiences at the
Academy. I probably overdid the
airplane-versus-aircraft distinction in
So … is
Charles Turner in the book really Terry
Isaacson? Is “A Flight Through Life” an
question brings another chuckle.
ask me if it is autobiographical, and
the answer is no. But people write about
what they know and their experiences, so
there’s obviously some of my experiences
in the story.”
for example, was a fighter pilot. But he
was not shot down in Vietnam as two of
the book’s main characters were. And he
does not own a private aircraft and live
in Stellar Airpark, as Charles Turner
does in the novel.
Nor do the
characters in his book have Isaacson’s
athletic history. He doesn’t mention it
while being interviewed by The Wrangler
News, but during his time at the Air
Force Academy, Isaacson was a three-time
All-American wrestler and he was
nominated for the Heisman Trophy in
football in 1963 along with such famous
players as Dick Butkus and Heisman
winner Roger Staubach, of the Naval
the characters in the book are a blend
of other people that I know, including
my uncle and my father. The characters
just become a blend of people. You
create a character that fits the story.
Many of my classmates were killed in
action or were taken prisoner of war.”
novel, Grandpa Turner suffers a stroke
while flying his 13-year-old grandson,
Charlie, through the Salt River Canyon
on the boy’s first flight. Charlie, with
no previous flight experience, manages
to land the plane without bodily injury,
a feat that by itself might qualify “A
Flight Through Life” as fiction.
never knew his father, the
self-proclaimed Greatest Fighter Pilot
in the World, who was shot down and
killed in Vietnam trying to save his
friend. That friend is captured by the
Viet Cong, endures torture, but survives
and later marries Charlie’s mom and
becomes a true father figure in
Charlie’s life, only to be afflicted
with a fatal disease.
-- the tragedy, love, and disappointment
-- is life, Isaacson says. “I
know other people who have had similar
bad luck stories in their lives, and
some of them were classmates of mine,”
Through Life” is available at The
Changing Hands Bookstore, the Barnes and
Noble at Chandler Fashion Square, and
other bookstores, according to Isaacson.
A co-worker even found a copy at
Waldenbooks in New York City, he said.
beginning novelists, however, promoting
your book is up to you. PublishAmerica
does not budget to promote its authors.
really got to market it yourself,”
Isaacson said. “And I really haven’t
started that yet because I haven’t had
time. I’ll do that when I leave the
University, whenever that might be.”
like all authors, Isaacson is moving on
to a new work. Unfortunately, it
“crashed” shortly after takeoff.
“I started a new book, and oh my
goodness, I had 14 chapters outlined and
characters developed and my computer
crashed. I had some of it backed up in
hard copy, but I lost everything on the
hard drive. I was devastated, but I
learned a lesson there.”