I was born in Los Angeles in 1943 of hardy immigrant stock. I was a bright lad who wrote a lot and liked model airplanes, and in 1965 I graduated from Harvard with high honors in English. Then I ran out of steam and my brain shriveled up. Abandoning my early ambition of taking up where James Joyce had left off, between 1968 and 1973 I designed an airplane and built it in the back yard of a small house in Tarzana, California. Always eager to bewilder, I called it Melmoth. In it, often with my life's companion Nancy Salter, who hates flying, I flew 2,000 hours, including trips to Europe and Japan. Melmoth was wrecked in 1982 when an out-of-control Cessna ran into it on the ground. I had already begun building Melmoth 2 in 1981, when our son Nicholas was born and it seemed as though we would need a bigger airplane. It took somewhat longer than expected. Nick himself graduated from Harvard almost a decade ago, and has ridden in the plane but twice. Nick's sister Lily, who was born in 1988, has flown with me once.
I write two monthly columns, Aftermath and Technicalities, for Flying Magazine, as well as occasional pieces for Smithsonian Air & Space and the Los Angeles Times. I also used to write travel pieces and automobile evaluations for Conde Nast Traveler, but, sadly, no more. In addition, I have written some software useful in airplane design, and with my partner, David Pinella, operate AeroLogic, which sells and supports a suite of programs for analyzing the dynamics of fluids (like air) flowing over objects (like planes).
Courtesy of Phil Makanna