Under the pressure of his boss, the intransigent Riviere, the airmail pilot Fabien attempts a perilous flight during a heavy night-time thunderstorm in Argentina. As conditions get worse and the radio communication with Fabien becomes increasingly difficult, Riviere begins to question his uncompromising methods, and his distress turns to guilt when the pilot’s wife comes to find him in search of answers. Based on Saint-Exupery’s own experiences as a commercial pilot, Night Flight is a haunting and lyrical examination of duty, destiny and the individual, as well as an authentic and tragic portrayal of the intrepid early days of human air travel. (from Goodreads)
This story was based in Saint-Exupéry’s experience as director of Aeroposta Argentina, an early pioneering airline established in the late 1920s, and a subsidiary of the French airmail carrier Aéropostale.
The nouvelle narrates the events of one night, while in Buenos Aires is awaited the arrival of three flight coming from Chile, Paraguay and Patagonia. While the northern route is quiet and clear, the flight coming from the Andes had a strong storm at its back, and the southern one fell straight into it.
These pioneering nocturnal flights might be entirely endangered if something goes wrong, an the presure is as much in director, as in the inspectors and the pilots, for the excellency in the service above all, to prove everyone that this is possible.
It’s hard to wrap my mind around these early moments of commercial aviation, before the second world war. It seems both so far away (almost 100 years) and yet very recent. It was an activity both risky and exciting, and the pilots seemed to be very aware at all times that they were making history.