No matter how he travels for the rest of his life, Bill Mauldin will always to some extent be associated with the earthbound jeep, which at times played almost as dominant a role in his cartoons of World War II as those two slogging protagonists, Willie and Joe. But for Mauldin these days—and for some 60,000 others who own private planes—the way to go now is off the ground. Four years ago he took up flying, not only as an escape from traffic jams, but as a sport and as what seemed to him a particularly good system for seeing the world. The fact that during his Army years in the European theater he had already seen (and reported) a considerable part of it from the worm's-eye, or mud, level, undoubtedly did nothing to keep him from going for the bird's-eye view. True, he still drives a jeep, but no more than he has to, and mostly to get himself from his home to the nearby airport where he keeps his plane.
Mauldin, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Special Contributor on Flying, has sometimes described himself as a "lower-case Lindbergh." But he takes his flying seriously, recognizing along with its opportunities for adventure and recreation its relentless demands for attention to the business at hand. After he earned his private pilot's license (he has logged more than 1,400 hours) he kept on going, now also holds a commercial license with a multi-engine and instrument rating.
Beginning next week, with the first of a three-part series, Mauldin will be writing about one of the latest of his flying experiences, a 12,000-mile trip in a twin-engine Piper Apache around the Caribbean Sea. Mauldin decided to make the expedition because it seemed to him of all flights at present open to the flying sportsman the one best combining the qualities of length, pleasure and safety. He suspected the Caribbean of being a private pilot's paradise, blessed with good weather and good scenery and offering, with its profusion of islands, landing strips at convenient and prudent intervals.
Accompanying him were his two children, Andy, 8, and David, 6, and Co-pilot George Moffett. This went along with Mauldin's belief that the private plane is on its way to becoming for the family almost as important an element in the world of sport as the private boat.
How his suspicions about the Caribbean paradise and his convictions about family flying ultimately worked out is the story Mauldin starts next week—one with interest and excitement, I feel sure, not only for fliers but fathers, mothers and everyone who has felt the quiet call of the Caribbean.