Synopses & Reviews
Salon.com's most popular columnist tells why airline travel is still the safest way to get from here to there-and lots of other flight facts.
Even frequent fliers, probably don't have a clue how their plane gets from New York to Los Angeles in 5 hours. And many people probably think flying is more dangerous now than ever-even though it's still the safest means of transportation.
In Ask the Pilot, Patrick Smith-a commercial airline pilot and author of Salon.com's popular column-explains in frank and very funny language what fears are grounded in reality and which ones are airborne urban myths. He stacks up the facts, anecdotes, and advice to every flying question imaginable: * Just how safe it is to fly?
* What is the safest airline?
* Do airlines reduce cabin oxygen flow to save fuel and keep passengers docile?
* Can turbulence cause a crash?
* What's windshear - and can it really rip the wings off a plane?
* How does a plane get off the ground?
* Why does the plane sometimes bump, jig, and turn at a high angle during climbout?
* Has anyone ever survived a water landing by donning a vest or using a raft?
* Why are tray tables stowed before landing?
Frequent flier or neurotic aerophobe, this is the one book that will wise people up - and calm fliers down.
"Patrick Smith is extraordinarily knowledgeable about modern aviation, and communicates beautifully in English, not in pilot-ese. Smith is the ideal seatmate, a companion, writer and explainer who will set your mind at ease." Boston Globe
"Patrick Smith is one of the best writers around, period, which certainly makes him by far the best writer ever to have earned a commercial pilot's license. Ask the Pilot is deliciously stylish and informative. A soaring accomplishment, and an indispensable book for anyone who travels by air, which means everyone." James Kaplan
"Anyone remotely afraid of flying should read this book, as should anyone
appreciates good writing and the value of great information."
The New York Times Book Review
More than ever, air travel is a focus of curiosity, intrigue and anxiety. This year, some half a billion
passengers will ride aboard the ten largest US airlines alone. Fair to say each one has a question, a doubt, and a lingering fear in the back of his or her mind. We take to the air routinely, yet few of us understand the how and why of jetting from New York to London in six hours. Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and author of Salon.com's popular air travel column, unravels the secrets and tells you all there is to know about the strange and fascinating world of commercial flight.
Insights into safety, security, and the nuts and bolts of how planes fly
Straight talk on turbulence, air traffic control, windshear and accidents
The history, color and controversy of the world's airlines
The awe and oddity of being a pilot
The poetry and drama of airplanes, airports, and travelling abroad
Patrick speaks eloquently to our fears and curiosities, incorporating anecdotes, memoir, and a life's passion for flight. He tackles your toughest concerns, debunks conspiracies and urban myths, and in a rarely heard voice dares to return a dash of romance and glamour to air travel.
Though we routinely take to the air, for many of us flying remains a mystery. Few of us understand the how and why of jetting from New York to London in six hours. How does a plane stay in the air? Can turbulence bring it down? What is windshear? How good are the security checks? Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and author of Salon.com's popular column, "Ask the Pilot," unravels the secrets and tells you all there is to know about the strange and fascinating world of commercial flight. He offers:
- A nuts and bolts explanation of how planes fly
- Insights into safety and security
- Straight talk about turbulence, air traffic control, windshear, and crashes
- The history, color, and controversy of the world's airlines
- The awe and oddity of being a pilot
- The poetry and drama of airplanes, airports, and traveling abroad
In a series of frank, often funny explanations and essays, Smith speaks eloquently to our fears and curiosities, incorporating anecdotes, memoir, and a life's passion for flight. He tackles our toughest concerns, debunks conspiracy theories and myths, and in a rarely heard voice dares to return a dash of romance and glamour to air travel.
About the Author
Patrick Smith, 37, is an airline pilot and freelance contributor. Patrick made his first solo flight at 16 and has flown both cargo and passenger jets. He has traveled to more than 50 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
Ask the Pilot Author's Note and Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Painter's Brush
1. Things About Wings and Why Knots?
Airfleets For Neophytes
Airfoiledthe art of wings and keeping aloft · A primer on moving parts · Aerobatics in a 747? · Turbines and turbofansan intro to jets and props · No engines? Can we glide to a landing? · Boeing versus Airbus · Too hot to handle, too high to fly? · Those white linesclouds or conspiracy?
2. Turbulence for Tyros: Windshear, Weather, and Elements of Unease
Up to SpeedThe Promise and Peril of Concorde
Turbulence and windshear · Pressurizationhow, why, and what if it's lost? · How can ice crash a plane? · The truth about toilet water · Are we flying with broken parts? · Aging planeshow old is too old?
3. What Goes Up . . . Takeoffs, Landings, and the Mysterious Between
Idlewild, Roanoke, and Timbuktu Too
Into the wind and backwards to boot · Takeoff trauma and the climbout cutback · V-what? · A runway nightmarefact or fiction? · From whence the aborted takeoff? For what the aborted landing? · Foggy notions and crooked landingsfinding the ground · Those mysteriously missing thunderstorms · SCROD, WOPPO, BOSOX, and Gardner·The biggest and busiest airports · To HEL and back
4. Are You Experienced? The Awe and Oddity of Piloting
The Exploding Toilet And Other Embarrassments
Labor and loathingthe myth and mirth of pilot salaries · Pilots and copilotswhat's the difference and what do they do? · The workday commuteNew Zealand to Atlanta? · Where are the women? · Secrets of skill · Are you irrelevant? · Is there a future in pilotless planes? · Up, locked, and loadedguns in the cockpit · Flight deck fatigueare the pilots sleeping?
5. Life in the Cabin
Terrorism, Tweezers, and Terminal Madness
Class warfare: Where am I sitting and what's the difference? · Do pilots cut airflow to save fuel? Do they reduce oxygen to keep me docile? · Cell phones, laptops, and headphones · Those damn dings · Are we really cleared to land? · The briefing babble · Tray tables, window shades, safety belts, and seatbacks · The skinny on seats
6. . . . Must Come Down: Disasters, Mishaps, and Fatuous Flights of Fancy
En Route Angst And The Psychology of Fear
The ten worst crashes in history · Those dangerous foreign airlines? · Cockpits and culture · Fallacies and flotationgetting to know your life jacket · Crackpots and conspiracy · The true and false of shoulder-fired missiles · Crewless catastrophecan a passenger land the plane? · Soft walls and other lousy ideas
7. To Fly To Serve
Mourning the Cheat Line
The oldest, biggest, best, and worst carriers · What, no Africa? · Small countries, big airlines · Red-eye rationale · A code-share primer · The world's longest flight · Flight numbers, Shamrocks, Clippers, and Cacti