In the 1950s, in a sleepy little town in rural Iowa, a young pilot named Fred Stromquist had the kind of job most pilots in the country had been doing for decades: fly commercial jets, often in the wake of World War II.
He was an aviatrix, a kind of flying instructor who helped young pilots learn how to fly planes and land them.
But in 1952, a year after he started his job, he fell ill and died.
He wasn’t alone: Around the country, aviatrons were on the brink of vanishing, and Stromquist’s death was the tip of the iceberg.
His death, along with those of others like him, set off an epidemic of suicides and the death of pilots in large numbers.
The suicide epidemic was a real and immediate threat to the aviator industry.
There were nearly 3,500 aviatrists working in the United States, according to the National Aviator Association, and about 300 were on call at a time, making it the deadliest job in the world.
But Stromner was not alone.
The National Aviation Association also reported that in 1950, about 4,000 pilots had died, and by 1960, there were 7,000.
At the same time, the aviation industry was on the verge of being decimated.
In 1951, there had been just 4,500 pilots working in aviation, according the Association.
In 1960, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the numbers of aviatrist deaths and found that a high rate of suicides in the industry could be attributed to the epidemic.
That same year, the United Nations Population Fund published a report on the suicides of aviator pilots.
When the epidemic hit in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the aviatrader population had already been decimated by the war.
The aviatroners who survived were often forced to live in small towns, where they were often left to fend for themselves.
As the epidemic spread, the number of aviators who committed suicide increased, and the number who died soared, as did the numbers who were killed.
In 1960, the World Aviator Club estimated that there were more than 100,000 aviateurs in the U.S. today, with about 1.5 million aviatrs working in service.
Aviatry, like many industries, has struggled with the loss of its longtime members.
Many aviatrios are still around, though some have lost the support of their families.
As one aviator put it, “The industry is like a small family, and you never get to see everyone.”
But those who do survive, they are now finding a new and more fulfilling place to call home.
The last of those aviatres, a man named Mike “Mr. Joe” Bunch, is one of those who is making his home at the top of the mountain.
Joe Bunch is in his 80s and is a respected aviator.
His career began when he was just 18 years old.
He worked for Boeing in the 1970s and ’80s, flying Boeing 737s.
Joe’s last flight was in 1978, just as the first Gulf War ended.
He flew his 737 into a tree on a rural road in Oklahoma, where he and his friend got lost.
Joe and his friends eventually found their way to a nearby town, and Joe said he was relieved that they were not killed in the crash.
“I felt very good about it,” he said.
“If I had been killed I probably would have been more upset.”
Joe and others were on their way back to Los Angeles to fly to New York, where Joe was doing a pilot training school, when the crash occurred.
Joe said that he was so worried that he flew home and thought about suicide every night for weeks after the crash, but the plane was flying so well that he didn’t want to risk it.
The next morning, Joe woke up and saw the crash site, and he drove to the crash scene with his father and two other friends.
Joe was so relieved to find out that he had not killed anyone, that his father told him he had just saved a life.
Joe got a phone call from a friend who had helped him get home safely.
“That was the end of it,” Joe said.
The first thing Joe did was call his dad.
Joe remembered telling him that he and the others had found their plane.
The pilot had been in a tree, and they were going to land on the other side of the highway.
Joe then told his father what happened.
Joe recalled that he remembered the pilot saying that he wanted to take a shot at life, but he was scared.
Joe and his dad then drove the three of them to a small farmhouse near the crash spot, where there were some trees around.
Joe brought his father his parachute and put it in his car.
He then told Joe