Buck, Robert N. 1914-2007 (Bob Buck, Robert Nietzel Buck)

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Buck, Robert N. 1914-2007 (Bob Buck, Robert Nietzel Buck)


See index for CA sketch: Born January 29, 1914, in Elizabethport, NJ; died of complications following a fall, April 14, 2007, in Berlin, VT. Pilot and author. Buck was a pioneering aviator who broke several flying records and later became a pilot for TWA. Inspired as a teen when he read about the famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, Buck and a friend built their own glider when he was fifteen; by the next year he was the youngest licensed pilot in America. Soon known in the media as "the Schoolboy Pilot," Buck was breaking junior aviation records by 1930. He broke the coast-to-coast speed record that year, flying from Newark to Los Angeles in about twenty-eight hours and then returning the other direction in about twenty-three hours with the help of tail winds. Over the next two years, he also broke the junior altitude record (15,000 feet), a distance record by flying almost two thousand miles in a light plane, and other feats as well. From 1933 to 1934, Buck became an aviation explorer, discovering ancient, unknown Mayan cities and taking pictures of them from the air. Trans World Airlines, which was then called Transcontinental and Western Air, hired Buck in 1937 to be a copilot. Three years later, he was promoted to pilot. During World War II, he worked stateside with the U.S. Army and his airline to test B-17 planes to see how they performed in the worst weather conditions. For this work, he was awarded an Air Medal in 1946. Aftern returning to Trans World in 1945, Buck was promoted to chief pilot but did not like this management position and asked to be made a pilot again. Later, he was a safety consultant for NASA and the FAA's Supersonic Transport Committee, work that led to the Air Line Pilots Association presenting him with the Air Safety Award in 1963. Buck continued to work for TWA through the 1960s, notably flying routes over both the North and South Poles and helping to establish the New York-to-Paris route in 1970. He retired in 1974, but continued to fly planes until he was eighty-eight years old. Buck chronicled many of his experiences in such works as Burning Up the Sky (1931) and North Star over My Shoulder: A Flying Life (2002). He was also the author of books on flying, such as Weather Flying (1970) and The Art of Flying (1984).



Buck, Robert N., Burning Up the Sky, Putnam (New York, NY), 1931.

Buck, Robert N., North Star over My Shoulder: A Flying Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.


Chicago Tribune, May 21, 2007, Section 3, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2007, p. B8.

New York Times, May 20, 2007, p. A23.