|| Just over 2 years ago I was at the Hood River Fly-In hosted by the Western Antique Aviation And Automobile Museum (WAAAM). I didn’t just get a chance to see old friends, I learned that one of them had embarked on writing a thorough history of the 737. My friend Dan Dornseif is a 737 Captain with Southwest, and has been flying Boeing’s ubiquitous workhorse for the last 15 years. He had already interviewed numerous Boeing engineers and spent dozens of hours pouring through their archives for additional research. He was finally ready to put pen to paper, but despite a passion for the subject, he didn’t have a lot of writing experience. He asked if I would mind giving a read to what he had, and I enthusiastically agreed. That beta-reading quickly turned into editing, and I eventually became the primary editor for the project.
Dan’s book, History of the 737- The World’s Jetliner, was published last month and this past weekend he gave a talk about the book at The Museum of Flight. I was invited to come along, and happily made the jaunt up to Boeing Field. It was cool to see something that I had put considerable time in come to fruition in a beautiful volume. I was also invited to join a breakfast hosted by retired Boeing engineers which had a presentation on the current 737 Programs and its future. (Long story short: they just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 737’s first flight, and there’s every reason to think they’ll still be flying for the 100th!) It was great to see Dan’s presentation and awesome to hear him talk a little about my own contributions to the book too
I had never done so much editing editing for a project that wasn’t my own and also wholly non-fiction to boot. It was also challenging since the goal was to make it accessible to those without an extensive aviation background while also giving new insights and deeper information for the Av-Nerds in the crowd too. (A crowd I’ve been a deeply ensconced member of since 3rd grade!) I was also able to visit The Museum of Flight’s amazing Pavilion, which is home to over 75 years of aviation history! It’s also a chance to get a true perspective on how huge some of Boeing’s airliners are that you can’t really appreciate until you’re standing underneath it (I’m looking at you 787!). I didn’t have time to go through any of the planes on display, but I did get in more than a few pics.
As for the book and getting it written, I wasn’t the only one on a learning curve as this was Dan’s first writing project. So it wasn’t surprising that as the first chapters came in I had to read through the drafts multiple times and had a lot of revisions to offer him. The challenge for me was came in recognizing and understanding the important points he was going for, help move them into a flow that was easier to read, and (perhaps most importantly to me), not lose Dan’s “Voice” in the process. Ultimately we didn’t just succeed, but excelled. Mainly because Dan wasn’t satisfied with simply making the changes I recommended, but studied them closely as well. His writing improved with every chapter he wrote, and my edits diminished accordingly. It became an even more fun and rewarding project for me not just because of the challenges and experiences, but because I could watch Dan’s growth as a writer firsthand. It was a reminder of just how important practice is to writing, and the difference it makes in your work.