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Cleared For Takeoff: A Pilot’s Story of Challenges and Triumphs

William R. Norwood

Pages: 146
ISBN: 978-145752-360-1
List Price: 14.95
Available: January 2014
Edition: Perfectbound

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Cleared for Takeoff is a fascinating memoir penned by the first African American pilot hired by United Airlines. Growing up in the 1940s and ‘50s in a small, segregated southern Illinois town left its mark on the impressionable lad. Although his financial resources were meager, William “Bill” Norwood was rich in love, support and guidance from friends, family and a mentor. Bill quickly realized he wanted to do one thing – fly.
He took his dream to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (where he was the first black quarterback), and persevered through the obstacles in his path, such as an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan, eventually becoming a pilot in the U.S.
Air Force and making history when he joined United as a pilot in 1965. Bill’s story of achieving his dream shares both his struggles – overcoming prejudice, facing discrimination while looking for housing and losing a son to cancer, and his triumphs – flying with the top crew in his squadron, meeting presidents Clinton and Obama, riding in an F-16 and, above all, succeeding in a career he loved.
From his first commercial United flight from Chicago to Cleveland, to being cleared to land by his son in the control tower on his final flight, Bill shares his love of flying and adventurous spirit in hopes of inspiring others, especially young people, to pursue their dreams, both in the air and on the ground.

Author William “Bill” Norwood, a retired United Airlines captain, was the first African American pilot for United Airlines. He flew the “friendly skies” for 31 years before retiring in 1996. Bill, who was in ROTC at Southern Illinois University, flew the B-52 in the Air Force. His inspiration was his elementary school principal in his small southern Illinois town of Centralia, who was a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.
Although he encountered pitfalls along the way, Bill credits God and the love and support of many people – known and unknown – for the success he had in life. In his spare time, the Mesa, Arizona, resident flies radiocontrolled airplanes, travels and plays golf. He is active with the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. He also works with youth through volunteering at aviation camps and speaking at schools. Bill, who helped found the Organization of Black Airline Pilots, was inducted as a Lincoln Laureate into The Lincoln Academy of Illinois – the highest honor a civilian can receive in Illinois. He and his wife, Molly, have been married for more than 50 years.