The pioneering aviator, who studied weather, pointed his B-17 into violent storms around the world and recorded conditions firsthand. “ We’d sit around, waiting until the weather was bad, and then go fly through it,” he said on the radio.
It wasn’t only weather Buck found.
In 1930, he became the youngest licensed pilot in the United States at the tender age of 16. Months later, he rode his bike to an airfield carrying six chocolate bars and a canteen of water, jumped into a plane and proceeded to break the junior speed record flying coast to coast. Just for fun, he broke it again on the way back.
By age 18, Buck set more than a dozen junior aviation records for altitude, speed and distance. By age 20, he and a teenage partner became the youngest aerial photographers, spending months over the Mexican jungle photographing Mayan ruins from the air.
He became chief pilot for TWA, and flew gliders in retirement well into his 80s. His 1931 book, Burning Up the Sky, described that first transcontinental lark. His 1970 book, Weather Flying, is still required reading for pilots. He died this year at 93.
Lesson: Don’t wait for cues. Go “looking for trouble” as soon as you can.
—Adapted from “Robert N. Buck Dies at 93; Was Record-Setting Aviator,” The New York Times.