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Kennedy told interviewer he had no fear of flying

By, 07/18/99

John F. Kennedy, Jr. said in an interview last year with USA Today that he and his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy had no fear of flying.

Kennedy, who earned his pilot's license in the spring of 1998, said Carolyn joined him in the air "the second it was legal."

"The only person I've been able to get to go up with me, who looks forward to it as much as I do, is my wife," Kennedy said in the interview, during which he also talked about his magazine, George, his happy marriage, and his longing to live a fairly normal life.

"Now, whenever we want to get away, we can just get in a plane and fly off," he said.

Kennedy was derided as "the hunk who flunked" when he failed the New York State bar exam twice. But flight instructor Carol Kline told USA Today that said a person who wants to be a pilot has to be smart.

"It's not quite as hard as a bar exam," said Kline, owner and operator of C G Aviation in Huntington Station, L.I. "But you have to be able to read and interpret weather forecasts, you've got to plot cross-country flights, you have to know all the regulations."

In addition to the written exam, there is also an oral exam and a flight exam, she told the newspaper.

The Federal Aviation Administration insists that a prospective pilot log a minimum 40 hours of flying. But because the skies over Long Island are so crowded, most instructors insist on 60 to 95 hours before letting their students take the test, Kline said.

"Most people who take the test do pass the first time out," Kline said. "But that's because only the people who really want to fly get as far as taking the test."

The son of the slain President, Kennedy told USA Today he grew up just living a fairly normal life, always taking the subway, for example.

He took obvious pride in his glossy magazine, George; Kennedy said he puts in long hours and loves it.

"I'm really happy here," he told USA Today. "I like doing this. . . . And I feel like, in a way, I'm serving a larger purpose in bringing more people to learn about politics."

"For almost two years, it was like I didn't have a job. I was sort of doing this (developing George) in secret and everyone was like, "What's John doing with his time? Now here it is, two and a half years (later). It's pretty cool."

"It was important to me to go outside the (political) arena for a number of reasons," he told USA Today. "I think everyone needs to feel that they've created something that was their own, on their own terms."

"I always grew up just living a fairly normal life. I thank my mother for doing that. I always took the bus. I always took the subway. ... Hotel suites and limo cars, it's like, Whew! Forget it."

"The worst thing, I think, that can happen (to famous people) is that ... you retreat into your own private world. For what I do and just for how I want to live my life, I think it's really important to connect to normal life."

The newspaper conducted the exclusive interview at Kennedy's New York office, which the paper said has a "million dollar view of the New York Harbor -- and a desk that's more sturdy than handsome, standard office issue oak. It is decorated with bumper stickers, including one that said, 'Socks in 96.' On the wall is a striking photograph of Bessette, only her smiling face visible, a reflection caught in a round mirror."

He said he was prepared for the media frenzy surrounding his every move, but his wife was not.

"I have a thick skin about it, but for my wife, I think people sort of forget how hard that can be. She's a very private woman. It's like you go from having a life you've built on your own terms and all of a sudden it's being snatched away from you. It's hard..."

"My wife went from being a private citizen to a public one overnight and she really bore up very well. I'm really proud of her. I think, mercifully, the novelty of us being married wore off with members of the media. We're enjoying a much more normal life. The curiosity in the first year was taxing."

USA Today asked Kennedy why he had not yet entered politics.

"I'm really happy here (at George)," he said. "I like doing this and this is a job that's going to take a while to really develop. And I feel like, in a way, I'm serving a larger purpose in bringing more people to learn about politics and be interested in it and to feel optimistic about it."

"And that may be enough and it may not. So I have sort of five-year horizons and my horizons are clear for the next five years, and after that, I'll sort of think about what the next horizon will be."

"As for now, it's kind of drenched in irony, right? Me in a media conglomerate?"

His magazine has been successful, and the Kennedy name on the masthead hasn't hurt.

"Anytime you have a lot of hype, people want to kind of see you take it on the chin," Kennedy said. But he acknowledged with a grin, "We've managed to reach people who probably wouldn't have been reached if my name was Joe Smith."

Kennedy timed the interview to advance the release of his book, "The Book of Political Lists," by the editors of George Magazine. Among the interesting tidbits in the book are the Secret Service code names for Kennedy family members.

His father's code name was Lancer, his mother's Lace, and his name was Lark.


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