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Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & Reflections

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A New York Times bestseller For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web's popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know... -How planes fly, and a revealing look at the men and women who fly them -Straight talk on A New York Times bestseller For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web's popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know... -How planes fly, and a revealing look at the men and women who fly them -Straight talk on turbulence, pilot training, and safety -The real story on congestion, delays, and the dysfunction of the modern airport -The myths and misconceptions of cabin air and cockpit automation -Terrorism in perspective, and a provocative look at security -Airfares, seating woes, and the pitfalls of airline customer service -The colors and cultures of the airlines we love to hate Cockpit Confidential covers not only the nuts and bolts of flying, but also the grand theater of air travel, from airport architecture to inflight service to the excitement of travel abroad. It's a thoughtful, funny, at times deeply personal look into the strange and misunderstood world of commercial flying. It's the ideal book for frequent flyers, nervous passengers, and global travelers. Refreshed and vastly expanded from the original Ask the Pilot, with approximately 75 percent new material.


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A New York Times bestseller For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web's popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know... -How planes fly, and a revealing look at the men and women who fly them -Straight talk on A New York Times bestseller For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web's popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know... -How planes fly, and a revealing look at the men and women who fly them -Straight talk on turbulence, pilot training, and safety -The real story on congestion, delays, and the dysfunction of the modern airport -The myths and misconceptions of cabin air and cockpit automation -Terrorism in perspective, and a provocative look at security -Airfares, seating woes, and the pitfalls of airline customer service -The colors and cultures of the airlines we love to hate Cockpit Confidential covers not only the nuts and bolts of flying, but also the grand theater of air travel, from airport architecture to inflight service to the excitement of travel abroad. It's a thoughtful, funny, at times deeply personal look into the strange and misunderstood world of commercial flying. It's the ideal book for frequent flyers, nervous passengers, and global travelers. Refreshed and vastly expanded from the original Ask the Pilot, with approximately 75 percent new material.

30 review for Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & Reflections

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X

    I don't really know who this book is aimed at. Perhaps no-one or everyone. It reads like a series of blogs losely held together because they are about air travel. But at one moment the author/pilot is describing to you the finer intricacies of a turbo prop engine versus a jet engine and at the next telling the reader that some issue is too technical for explaining here. The book reminds me of one I read recently by a sour doctor who said that American doctors were underpaid and on the breadline. I don't really know who this book is aimed at. Perhaps no-one or everyone. It reads like a series of blogs losely held together because they are about air travel. But at one moment the author/pilot is describing to you the finer intricacies of a turbo prop engine versus a jet engine and at the next telling the reader that some issue is too technical for explaining here. The book reminds me of one I read recently by a sour doctor who said that American doctors were underpaid and on the breadline. This author thinks that pilots are vastly underpaid and misused and apart from a very few of the elite translantic captains don't have job security or respect let alone money. It's such a hard life being a pilot... unless you go to work for a regional carrier or do something like cargo, but the author looks down on those pilots, too much workhorses and not enough flashy stripes on the sleeves probably. The subjects discussed are anything and everything to do with air travel. How airlines only make cents per passenger, how the painting on the fuselage of x country's national airline is crap, how dated is the advertising of .... He does get one thing right, that the Far Eastern airlines economy class is as good as business (he says first but that's an exaggeration) on American and European airlines. Getting to and returning from Thailand this summer, comparison of airline comfort. (view spoiler)[We flew American (cattle shoe-horned into seats and flight attendants who were annoyed at being bothered for drinks when they were chatting and reading magazines), JAL to Tokyo - much better, nicer seats and mostly friendly flight attendants. Also the food was a notch up. But Cathay Pacific was wonderful. Wider comfortable shell seats that slid forward to extend, choice of food, very large choice of entertainment and great flight attendants. I thought China airlines would be awful but they'd be my first choice now. (hide spoiler)] Small diversion to do with useless Immigration and Customs. (view spoiler)[ Going through Immigration into the US is mostly a long-drawn out nightmare of queuing, but Dallas/Fort Worth was by far the worst. Well Customs was. Everyone, even the poor girl in front of me who had only hand luggage, had to queue to get out. That is one busy airport and there were two Customs stations manned. It took us an hour and a half after collecting the luggage to get through so slowly was the queue snaking around the carousels. Immigration into Thailand was amazing. It was run with military precision which isn't surprising since it is a (more or less) benign military dictorship. It was a joy to be able to get through Immigration and Customs in about 15 minutes despite the large number of people. They had this great idea of having every station manned! Also they were pulling out from the lines all the old people and young people with children and they were processed directly. Mind I shouldn't complain, Immigration and Customs on my island are surly to the point of out and out rudeness, as is a lot of the Caribbean to non-tourists, even to tourists sometimes. At least in the US they are mostly polite and friendly. (hide spoiler)] So all in all, it was a mish mash of a book. I learned some stuff like you'll never work out their codes for the cheapest prices and that TSA is a bugbear of irrationalities even to the pilots. Also that the people who get checked the least are the agency staff who clean planes etc. They often don't checked or searched at all. Good to know. Itinerates getting temporary jobs who aren't going to be on the plane get greater freedom from security searches and checks than the pilots who have their own lives to lose. Anyway goodish book. 3.5 stars. Rounded up, the pilot seems like a really nice extremely opinionated guy. What's not to like?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alec

    On a recent Airtran flight back from Richmond, I decided to splurge and spend the extra $25 to upgrade to the exit row. Because I'm worth it. As I stretched my legs luxuriously (yet remained poised and ready to fling open the door in case of a water landing), I noticed the man seated next to me was reading Cockpit Confidential. I used to read airline pilot Patrick Smith's guest posts on the Freakonomics blog, so I was vaguely aware of the book and his work in general. I made a "hmm, wonder if th On a recent Airtran flight back from Richmond, I decided to splurge and spend the extra $25 to upgrade to the exit row. Because I'm worth it. As I stretched my legs luxuriously (yet remained poised and ready to fling open the door in case of a water landing), I noticed the man seated next to me was reading Cockpit Confidential. I used to read airline pilot Patrick Smith's guest posts on the Freakonomics blog, so I was vaguely aware of the book and his work in general. I made a "hmm, wonder if that's good?" mental note and went back to my favorite mid-flight pastime: sleeping with my head back and mouth agape, wheezing like a wildebeest. After a nap which ended just after the flight attendant passed me with drink service, I found myself awake, drinkless and with nothing to read. My neighbor, however, remained engrossed in his airplane book, so I decided I'd join the party. With the appropriate amount of shame and self-loathing, I discretely began to read over his shoulder. My despicable act was rewarded with what appeared to be a very pleasant read full of interesting insight and a dash of airplane trivia. My conscience forbade me from keeping up this blatant invasion of privacy for long, but just as I turned away, a reflection from the man's lapel caught my eye. He was a pilot!* A Southwest Airlines pilot was reading a book giving insight into the life of a pilot. I still haven't decided if I was intrigued, amused or terrified, but I was definitely reading that book. I bought Cockpit Confidential on Amazon as soon as I got home. *Yes, in hindsight the uniform was also a clue, but give me a break. You expect me to remain ever-vigilant in my exit row duties AND use my eyes to see things? Unreasonable. The book itself was a very pleasant read and helped me to understand the airplanes in which I spend so much of my life. One of my main takeaways was a better grasp of what a pilot is actually doing in the cockpit. We've all heard the "plane basically flies itself!" comments and I, for one, assumed that was more or less the case... ...and it kind of is. However, a plane flies itself just like an industrial plant runs itself. Yes, the airplane has a complex controller which can execute what we think of as flight maneuvers. On a perfect day, and under perfect conditions, a pilot doesn't have much to do but paperwork. However, perfect conditions don't really exist. As such, pilots are always reacting to the current situation and effectively telling the plane what it should do to adapt. We all think of flying as a complex version of driving, but after reading Cockpit Confidential, I think the apt comparison is to operating a plant. Not sure that means anything to those of you who aren't familiar with industrial plants, but it definitely helped my understanding. I recommend this book to anyone who spends a lot of time in airplanes, and especially to those of you who are nervous fliers -- Smith's explanations of flight would go a long way towards putting anyone at ease...as long as you skip the chapter about airline disasters. Right. Maybe don't read it if you're a nervous flier…unless you run out of books and the guy next to you looks secretly willing to share. Then all bets are off. Coming up next: I go from a book I saw on an airplane to a book I bought in the airport. Oh, the suspense!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    I have been reading Patrick Smith's blog on Salon for several years. He's a professional airline pilot and always brings sense and rational thinking to the often hyperbolic world that is so prevalent in a society that prefers the fearful over understanding. I was hooked from the start, especially by his enthusiasm for the journey as opposed to just the destination when traveling. I think he's also correct when he describes air travel as having become so commonplace it's now, by definition, tedio I have been reading Patrick Smith's blog on Salon for several years. He's a professional airline pilot and always brings sense and rational thinking to the often hyperbolic world that is so prevalent in a society that prefers the fearful over understanding. I was hooked from the start, especially by his enthusiasm for the journey as opposed to just the destination when traveling. I think he's also correct when he describes air travel as having become so commonplace it's now, by definition, tedious. I found the information to be fascinating and useful. He's opinionated and sometimes pedantic (does one lead to the other?) but since I suffer from the same flaw, it's hard for me to be critical. I remember my first sight of a 747. I had just dropped off my wife at the Minneapolis Airport decades ago and I had just left the airport and drove by the end of a runway when I was confronted by this behemoth, resembling a ship in size, as it accelerated just a little overhead. "Jesus H. Christ" (note the presence of the middle initial prevents it from being blasphemous - then again, blasphemy is a victimless crime) was all I could come up with. There is no way something that large could ever fly. And now we sit (crammed, if you must know,) in a tube called the "Boeing 747, a plane that if tipped onto its nose would rise as tall as a 20-story office tower. I’m at 33,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, traveling at 600 miles per hour, bound for the Far East. And what are the passengers doing? Complaining, sulking, tapping glumly into their laptops. A man next to me is upset over a dent in his can of ginger ale. This is the realization, perhaps, of a fully evolved technology. Progress, one way or the other, mandates that the extraordinary become the ordinary." What a shame when the extraordinary becomes the ordinary (the laptop being another example.) Smith's goal is lofty: "I begin with a simple premise: everything you think you know about flying is wrong. That’s an exaggeration, I hope, but not an outrageous starting point in light of what I’m up against. Commercial aviation is a breeding ground for bad information, and the extent to which different myths, fallacies, and conspiracy theories have become embedded in the prevailing wisdom is startling. Even the savviest frequent flyers are prone to misconstruing much of what actually goes on. “ I loved his comments about airports and what they should be like. I had no idea the difficulty foreign visitors have simply using an American airport as a transit point to other places. They have to go through immigration, get fingerprinted, suffer all sorts of other indignities, collect and recheck their luggage, not to mention go through TSA indignities again. Even if they are only passing through. This is why US airlines are losing business to airlines like Emirates and Singapore which fly through Frankfurt and Dubai, airports which cater to transit passengers. Why can't airports have short-stay hotels inside secure areas? How about free wireless? Stores that sell something other than Mont Blanc pens? Multiple power ports? Play areas for children (the Kids' Forest in Amsterdam would attract even adults if no one was looking)? Information kiosks that actually dispense information? Not to mention enough seats in the waiting area for the size plane at the gate (no more sitting on the floors.) Airports in other countries have managed to do these things. What's wrong with American airports? I part company with him about airstairs however. Give me a jet-way any day. Taking the bus from the terminal to the plane in Frankfurt and then climbing up a set of stairs in the rain was not what I signed on for. *He* may think it's thrilling and a reminder of yesteryear; not me. And must we be bombarded with constant CNN at the gate which no one ever watches and can't be shut off (there aren't even power cords.) If you've ever wanted to know what happens when lightning hits an airplane (it happens frequently), what declaring an emergency really means, what planes dump fuel and why, (dumping toilet waste is impossible), and why when someone says the turbulence was so bad they dropped thousands of feet it was probably only 20 feet (I actually enjoy turbulence,) what a walk-around accomplishes, the hidden but crucial role of dispatchers, why V1 is an important decision point, why losing an engine on takeoff is more of an inconvenience than a danger, then this book is for you. And, of course, how could we discuss flying without mentioning the security theater run by the TSA. As Smith notes, maximum security prisons staffed by jack-booted guards who have total control can't keep knives or drugs out of prisons, so whatever gives the TSA the idea they can prevent box-cutters from getting on an airplane when they have to screen 2,000,000 people a day. And the premise is wrong. They are looking for "things" rather than "people." The success of the terrorists on 9/11 had nothing to do with airport security; it was a failure of "national security." The CIA and FBI failed us. And the terrorists benefited from a mindset that viewed hijacking as they had occurred in the seventies (when in one year there were 40(!) skyjackings, usually resulting in a brief layover in Havana. Armored doors on cockpits would have prevented all of them and what happened on 9/11 (airlines refused for decades to install them because of the cost and added weight.) So now everyone from age 2 to 95 (including pilots who could bring down a plane with a twitch of a thumb - he had a butter knife confiscated from his carry-on once) is considered a suspect even though even a moron knows how to craft a weapon from a ball-point pen. But we all love our delusions (and over 80% of Americans believe in angels.) He comments on UFOs and the conspiracy theories that pilots have agreed not to talk about them. "For the record, I have never seen one, and I have never met another pilot who claims to have seen one. I had to laugh at the notion of there being a tacit agreement among pilots over anything, let alone flying saucers.... And although plenty of things in aviation are tantamount to career suicide, withholding information about UFOs is not one of them." Happy flying. Addendum: 7/2/13 Just read this article that shows precisely what is wrong with aviation coverage in the general media: http://apnews.myway.com//article/2013... This is an example of everything working exactly the way it should. Note that at no time did the planes come within 1.6 miles of each other, the TCAS system worked the way it should, the pilot could see the other plane, the ATC reported its proximity, the pilot took appropriate action descending 1600 feet, and the only injury (if one could call it that) was that a couple flight attendants "bumped" their heads. Geez, this is so not a story except for the ridiculous reaction of passengers who wanted to get their names in the paper.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kristie Helms

    I'm in the top percentile of Nervous Flyers. I have little superstitions like touching the outside of the plane with my right hand when I step through the jetway. I say a constant stream of Hail Marys during take-offs & landings (thanks Mary!) and I'll white knuckle absolutely the smallest amounts of turbulence during even the short shuttle flights between BOS & LGA. All of this is truly helpful because while I love traveling, the anxiety involved kind of gets in the way of the actual travel par I'm in the top percentile of Nervous Flyers. I have little superstitions like touching the outside of the plane with my right hand when I step through the jetway. I say a constant stream of Hail Marys during take-offs & landings (thanks Mary!) and I'll white knuckle absolutely the smallest amounts of turbulence during even the short shuttle flights between BOS & LGA. All of this is truly helpful because while I love traveling, the anxiety involved kind of gets in the way of the actual travel part of traveling. That all said, I can't even describe how very much I appreciated Patrick Smith's way of explaining the whys and hows of turbulence, the (un)liklihood of direct bird strikes and how very much we all loathe the TSA. I read this book on a 2.5 hour flight to St Louis and it calmed me down enough that I think I even napped on the return flight home. He has a really delightful style of writing and the format of the book itself with Q&As sectioned off into chapters was perfect for reading around the in-flight service. Highly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    "For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web's popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know..." I heard the author of this book interviewed on CBC radio and decided that it wouldn’t hurt me to get a bit of reassurance from a pilot, especially given the amount of air travel that I do in pursuit of my hobbies. I am not a nervous flier "For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web's popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know..." I heard the author of this book interviewed on CBC radio and decided that it wouldn’t hurt me to get a bit of reassurance from a pilot, especially given the amount of air travel that I do in pursuit of my hobbies. I am not a nervous flier by nature, but I know people who are and hoped to gain a few words of wisdom to comfort them with. I didn’t really care too much about airline logos and the mechanics of seniority among pilots, just to mention a couple of subjects that Smith covers. I found the coverage of issues that scare people to be done quite well, but it was a very small portion of the book. And I have to wonder how comforted they will remain when they get to the list of worst airline crashes in history—at least, as he points out, none of them are recent and technology has changed a great deal during the intervening years. Basically, my own general feelings on flying were reinforced by this book—pilots and flight crew would not willingly sign up for these jobs if they felt that their lives were in danger in any way. Since there are many people applying for each and every pilot’s job that comes available, it would seem most pilots feel pretty secure about the safety of flying. Even small planes and obscure airlines have the same technology to work with and are safer than driving. He quotes a study in American Scientist magazine: "...if a passenger chooses to drive rather than fly the distance of a typical flight segment, that person is sixty-five times more likely to be killed." This has been a belief of mine for many years, but people are still willing to get into vehicles and drive without being freaked out by the thousands of traffic deaths that take place each year. (I actually do get a bit unnerved by having passengers in my car—I feel ultra-responsible for their welfare until I deliver them safely to the end destination, but this is a result of my parents being killed in a car crash while I was in my mid-thirties). Notable facts: turbulence, even when it’s bad, is an inconvenience rather than a hazard. You could be bumped, bruised, or have hot coffee spilled on you. The first two can be avoided by keeping your seat belt done up—there really is a reason that they ask you to do that. Also, even when crossing the Himalayas, there is always time to reach a safe altitude should the airplane lose pressure. Don’t hyperventilate into the rubber cup over your mouth and nose, you are still very safe. Plus, your plane has oodles of fuel on board to cope with possible detours and/or delays, so don’t get panicky if the airport is crowded and you end up circling it for a while. Re: health concerns, the air in the cabin is supplemented with fresh air from the engine compressors, so we’re not breathing only recycled air. The reason that I catch a cold more often when I fly is very prosaic—it’s all those hard surfaces that we all touch, the touch screen TV, seat belt buckles, tray tables, bathroom door handles, probably even those well-thumbed magazines in the seat pocket. Smith recommends some hand sanitizer (in the regulation small bottles). I like some of that and usually use a disinfectant wipe on all of the hard surfaces in and around my seat, I don’t care how crazy I may look to my surrounding passengers as I swipe like a demented cleaning lady! Having heard Captain Smith’s interview on CBC last year, I knew that he had said that lightning hitting a plane is not unusual and that it rarely causes any damage. Imagine my surprise in March when I saw lightning hit the plane that I was in going from Bogata to Caracas! I was even more puzzled when the pilot announced that we were returning to Bogata, instead of completing the flight. I have come to the conclusion that it was the political situation in Venezuela that caused our turn around, rather than damage—they didn’t want to have anything wrong that might possibly prevent getting right back out of Venezuela. I can’t say I blame the crew, although it turned my 8.5 hour layover in Bogata into a 26.5 hour marathon layover. My final thought: This book is no substitute for psychological help if you have an ingrained phobia about flying. I think in that case, you would be much better off finding a mental health professional who could work with you on de-sensitizing your fears. Those like me, who are basically comfortable, will find the words you need to understand the flying environment better and stay happy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aoi

    No kidding, this is the book you want to read abroad a plane. Being one of those nervous and paranoid flyers, I can appreciate the in-depth discussions about how dangerous turbulence is, and how close to averting disaster are we if the pilot executes a turnaround (not really). Apart from allaying passenger worries, Patrick Smith also shines light upon the little, often unnoticed details, like the Taj Mahalian motif on Air India window-panes (I hadn't!). The question-and-answer format of the boo No kidding, this is the book you want to read abroad a plane. Being one of those nervous and paranoid flyers, I can appreciate the in-depth discussions about how dangerous turbulence is, and how close to averting disaster are we if the pilot executes a turnaround (not really). Apart from allaying passenger worries, Patrick Smith also shines light upon the little, often unnoticed details, like the Taj Mahalian motif on Air India window-panes (I hadn't!). The question-and-answer format of the book makes it extremely easy and convenient to skim through. I also appreciate his matter-of-fact take on problems encountered mid-air; rather than airily saying it's no big deal, the crew are adequately trained; he details the steps taken by pilots as per training. One of the best things about this book is the fact that Mr. Smith isn't just a professional pilot in the vast airline industry, but also an avid traveller himself. He tries to bring back to us the romance of flying, of journeying to far off places, the spectacular vistas that are the New York skyline, or the Bosphorous teeming with ships at twilight. Even though the content was more often than not confined to the American airline industry, it was extremely entertaining to read his snarky comments on airline logos and their slogans. An extremely engaging and informative read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Expecting an update of Patrick Smith's earlier book, Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, I was surprised to see a completely different book. Yes, he still answers questions that passengers are curious about, such as how dangerous is turbulence, and what is in the air supply in the cabin, but he goes into many other topics that are of interest to people who enjoy flying. He discusses airline logos and liveries (the paint jobs on the planes) and airline names. Smith is ofte Expecting an update of Patrick Smith's earlier book, Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, I was surprised to see a completely different book. Yes, he still answers questions that passengers are curious about, such as how dangerous is turbulence, and what is in the air supply in the cabin, but he goes into many other topics that are of interest to people who enjoy flying. He discusses airline logos and liveries (the paint jobs on the planes) and airline names. Smith is often pedantic and always opinionated, and it all makes for an entertaining book. He has some definite thoughts about the service on airlines, which is a little surprising, since he is a pilot for a major U.S. airline (but he doesn't say which one), and he also has some comments about passengers, which are usually less strident, such as his puzzlement over why sudoku is so popular. Just don't get him started on airport security. One important reason Smith's book may appeal to more people than a straightforward question and answer book would, is that Smith is not only an industry professional, but he's often a passenger, traveling for fun, so he knows what it's like to sit in coach. This dual point of view, which is apparently not very common among airline employees, many of whom don't care to travel on their own time or dime, gives Smith more perspective, so he's not just the lecturer here, he knows your travelin' pain. Not only does he travel, he enjoys airports, flying, and seeing new places. He intersperses his question and answer sections with musings on travel. Most entertaining, in my opinion, were his ramblings on questions of design, such as airline logos and slogans. Smith is a little too honest to completely allay your fears about flying, but I appreciate the straight talk and it gives him a lot more credibility than if he told you not to worry, he's got it covered up in the cockpit. He does have it covered, but there are no guarantees, and he's weathered a couple of hairy experiences. Although you might want to save those sections for when you're on terra firma, much of the book would be quite diverting while you're stuck in the middle seat.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cass Morrison

    Engaging enough read and packed with info for travelers who want to know more about flying. Very UScentric.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Diego

    Viewpoint of an airline pilot answering random questions for the general public. I learned a few things though most I already know about, though I’m in the aerospace industry. He has a dark humor and does little in one chapter to settle the nerves of normal passengers. He seems pretty old school and hates all change; new logos, new airplanes. Also gripes about seniority though understandable since it appears pilots get paid jack shit and don’t have much opportunity to move up. This is pretty inte Viewpoint of an airline pilot answering random questions for the general public. I learned a few things though most I already know about, though I’m in the aerospace industry. He has a dark humor and does little in one chapter to settle the nerves of normal passengers. He seems pretty old school and hates all change; new logos, new airplanes. Also gripes about seniority though understandable since it appears pilots get paid jack shit and don’t have much opportunity to move up. This is pretty interesting, though it’s mostly tailored for the general public. Still fun to read and to read about a pilot’s perspective. The chapter on all the crashes was a unique view. I wouldn’t read this while flying though if you know little about aircraft.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Randell Green

    Best part of this book is that it prompted me to keep a lot of notes. Also, went down the rabbit hole with plenty of flight videos. This book is extremely helpful and I’ll be keeping it on my desk for years to come. ✈️

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Loved this! Like most people who fly regularly, I tend to think I know a decent amount about flying, but as this book so interestingly showed me, I really don't! I'm not a nervous flyer, but I couldn't resist going straight to the "10 worst air disasters", chapter which leads off, if course, with the infamous Tenerife crash, which I remember seeing horrific photos of as a kid, and has always been the thing that flits through my mind whenever I'm taxiing down a runway. Well, for all you nervous Loved this! Like most people who fly regularly, I tend to think I know a decent amount about flying, but as this book so interestingly showed me, I really don't! I'm not a nervous flyer, but I couldn't resist going straight to the "10 worst air disasters", chapter which leads off, if course, with the infamous Tenerife crash, which I remember seeing horrific photos of as a kid, and has always been the thing that flits through my mind whenever I'm taxiing down a runway. Well, for all you nervous fliers out there, it turns out that crash was a series of really, really random and rare events, so you can stop worrying! There's tons of random, interesting stuff like that in here, from what those funny sticking up flaps on the end of the wings are to the fact that apparently I am NOT the only person in the world who has long wondered why Alaska Airlines planes all have Johnny Cash's picture painted on them ( turns out it's actually not him). An enjoyable and enlightening read!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Olwen

    The author covers everything, from what it's really like to be an airline pilot (not as glamorous as you might have thought) and why this, that or the other happens when you fly. The text is easily arranged so you can skip past what you know already.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Are you a nervous flyer? Are you someone who'd rather drive than fly? Are you someone who doesn't get excited looking at the lights of planes as they line up in the night sky outside a busy airport, coming in for a landing, one after the other? On the other hand, do you know what the terms "OAG", "triple 7", and "Runway Two-niner" refer to? If you're the latter and not the former, you'll enjoy Patrick Smith's new book, "Cockpit Confidential". Patrick Smith - the name "Smith" is a nom-de-plume - i Are you a nervous flyer? Are you someone who'd rather drive than fly? Are you someone who doesn't get excited looking at the lights of planes as they line up in the night sky outside a busy airport, coming in for a landing, one after the other? On the other hand, do you know what the terms "OAG", "triple 7", and "Runway Two-niner" refer to? If you're the latter and not the former, you'll enjoy Patrick Smith's new book, "Cockpit Confidential". Patrick Smith - the name "Smith" is a nom-de-plume - is an airline pilot and blogger, who operates out of Boston. He used to blog for SALON magazine but I'm not sure he still writes for them. In any case, he has his own website, askthepilot.com, and this new book. His previous one, "Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Flying", was published in 2004. Smith has been been a pilot and in love with all forms of air travel since, as a child living in Boston, he'd sit on the Revere beach and watch in awe as planes landed at nearby Logan Airport. He grew up to make a living as first a pilot for a commuter carrier - flying up and down the Atlantic seaboard and all around New England - and then he "graduated" to flying cargo jets for a freight airline. Finally, he's now flying for an international passenger airline. (I think it might be Delta, from what I've been able to glean from his writing. Or, if not, American.) He has been subjected to layoffs during his career and is quite honest about how he - and other pilots - struggle with the on-going airline politics and economic ups-and-down that make a pilot's career somewhat haphazard. Okay, Patrick Smith and I are airline fanatics. And, probably so are most people reading this review. Most of us fly a lot - Smith is lucky that he gets paid to do so - and we like to see new places. We're also fascinated by the arcane of the airline industry - old tickets from the 1940's and clips from newsreels of passengers boarding a plane in the 1950's outfitted in suits and ties and hats. We know what local airlines were swallowed up by what larger airlines, and we know airport codes. Patrick Smith is talking to US in his book. We "get" him, and he "gets" us. His new book talks about his own, long love of flying. He writes about how difficult it is to "catch on" in the airline industry, and how that industry has weathered crashes - both physical and economic - and the changing requirements of the TSA. Smith doesn't like the TSA - who does? - and is not shy in giving some recommendations which might not please the politically-correct among us. Looking at the September 11th terrorist attacks in particular, he talks about how the TSA and other government groups reacted by imposing the wrong "rules" in the hopes of making airplane travel "safer". "Safer" than what? Smith recounts the many terror attacks and hijackings of airplanes and airports in the 1970's and 1980's that we've seem to have forgotten. Is the taking away of a butter knife from the flight bag of pilot Patrick Smith by over-zealous TSA officials going to make the plane and the passengers Smith is going to fly be any "safer"? Hell, no. And what about those stupid restrictions on 4oz of toothpaste and mouthwash? Good lord, it's half the battle of flying today just getting through TSA security. Author/pilot Patrick Smith covers Sept 11th and many other subjects in his new book. It's not a book most readers will be particularly interested in, but for those of us who read his blog, look-in-awe at his YouTube videos of night-landings at JFK taken from the cockpit, and enjoy flying and the history of flying, this book's for us.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Scottsdale Public Library

    Patrick Smith is an airline pilot and author of the website askthepilot.com. In his revised and expanded second edition of Cockpit Confidential, he provides information regarding the world of commercial flying. I read this book because I am a somewhat nervous flyer and thought it might provide information to help with my anxiety during a flight, and it did. I found it calming to know more about what actually goes on in the cockpit and about turbulence which is "far and away the number-one concer Patrick Smith is an airline pilot and author of the website askthepilot.com. In his revised and expanded second edition of Cockpit Confidential, he provides information regarding the world of commercial flying. I read this book because I am a somewhat nervous flyer and thought it might provide information to help with my anxiety during a flight, and it did. I found it calming to know more about what actually goes on in the cockpit and about turbulence which is "far and away the number-one concern of anxious flyers," by the way. Although some of the material was too technical for me, I liked the question/answer format, which made it easy to identify sections of the book that were of particular interest to me. It included amusing content as well, such as "life in the cabin" answering: Why are the windows so small? What if someone opens the emergency exit? I would recommend reading this for anyone interested in learning more about flying or those who are apprehensive about flying. – Jacque C.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenn Cavanaugh

    I'm sure this wasn't his intent - the concept doesn't even seem to occur to him - but this has me thinking about a lot of potential benefits of additional government regulation of the airline industry. Otherwise, no life-changing surprises, but in all fairness, still more info than I could hope to retain. A good source if you ever need to write about a pilot.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Al Maki

    If you’re curious about commercial air travel it’s a good book. The author has 30 years experience as a commercial pilot and apparently writes poetry. It’s knowledgeable, well written and at times evocative of his experiences. Overall a better book than I expected.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rayfes Mondal

    Mostly a collection of answers to questions people have asked on his web site but a few longer pieces too. Good stuff for someone that loves aviation like I do.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I have been reading Patrick Smith's column entitled "Ask the Pilot" on Salon.Com (before they switched their editorial policy a few years back). In 2004, he published an earlier version of this book entitled Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, of which Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections reflects a substantial re-write and augmentation. You can also visit his excellent website at Ask the Pilot. Interspers I have been reading Patrick Smith's column entitled "Ask the Pilot" on Salon.Com (before they switched their editorial policy a few years back). In 2004, he published an earlier version of this book entitled Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, of which Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections reflects a substantial re-write and augmentation. You can also visit his excellent website at Ask the Pilot. Interspersed between thematically organized Questions and Answers are interspersed multi-page essays on such subjects as the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Cockpit Confidential comes close to being a vade mecum for both domestic and international travelers. For, you, see Patrick is himself a widely traveled pilot who has flown a variety of passenger and cargo aircraft and who knows, figuratively speaking, where all the bodies are buried. I agree with the author that American-owned airlines tend to be the pits. That's why, when I went to Iceland, I took an Air Canada to Toronto and an Icelandair to Reykjavik. That's why I flew to Buenos Aires and back three years ago on LAN Chile. In the introduction, he writes:More than never, air travel is a focus of curiosity, intrigue, anxiety and anger. In these pages I do my best to inform and entertain. I provide answers for the curious, reassurance for the anxious, and unexpected facts for the deceived. I begin with a simple premise: everything you think you know about flying is wrong. That’s an exaggeration, I hope, but not an outrageous starting point in light of what I’m up against. Commercial aviation is a breeding ground of bad information, and the extent to which different myths, fallacies, wives’ tales and conspiracy theories have become embedded in the prevailing wisdom is startling. Even the savviest frequent flyers are prone to misconstruing much of what actually goes on. Which isn’t surprising. Air travel is a complicated, inconvenient, and often scary affair for millions of people, while at the same time cloaked in secrecy. Its mysteries are concealed behind a wall of specialized jargon, corporate reticence and an irresponsible media. Airlines, it hardly needs saying, aren’t the most forthcoming of entities, while journalists and broadcasters like to keep it simple and sensational. It’s hard knowing who to trust or what to believe.I think Smith succeeds admirably. He assuages those who are afraid of flying with cogent statistics, and regales experienced fliers like myself with useful and important information. I think Cockpit Confidential would make an excellent gift to both experienced and tyro fliers -- but be sure to read the book yourself!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I really enjoyed the first half of this book, with its simple, easy-to-understand explanations of how planes fly, risk analysis, and the other fascinating insights about pilot training and the seniority system. But of course my favorite part was hearing an experienced pilot talk about the mechanics of how a plane flies, what goes on in the cockpit during a flight, and just how routine each flight can be. For me, getting on a plane is a huge leap of faith. I'm not afraid of flying, but when I'm s I really enjoyed the first half of this book, with its simple, easy-to-understand explanations of how planes fly, risk analysis, and the other fascinating insights about pilot training and the seniority system. But of course my favorite part was hearing an experienced pilot talk about the mechanics of how a plane flies, what goes on in the cockpit during a flight, and just how routine each flight can be. For me, getting on a plane is a huge leap of faith. I'm not afraid of flying, but when I'm strapping myself in, I always wonder how something so enormous can stay airborne. Looking out the window during turbulence and seeing the wings bounce and shake, I can't help but fear that they'll snap right off. Smith clearly and amusingly explains how wings are designed to behave just like this. The reason for the two-star rating, which just indicates "okay," is the second half of the book, which I felt was far weaker than the first half. Smith needed and deserved a better editor to save him from mistakes all of us writers make when we just know too much about a topic. My main complaint is the mission creep in this book. Smith is an experienced, knowledgable pilot--but I do not want his extended and snarky thoughts on the graphic design decisions of each airline. I also found it jarring that, in an otherwise objective and straightforward book, the second half was full of soapbox moments and descriptions of personal pet peeves. I'm certain Smith is an interesting fellow and I bet he has a memoir in him, but I thought these deviations really weakened the book. If they had been kept to those sidebar-esque first-person accounts, then it would have worked a lot better for me, personally. I just found it distracting by the end. I did want to mention that his account of the Tenerife disaster was gripping and so easy to understand.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Parker

    I bought this at Boston Logan airport because it was written by a local and it's about airplanes. Obvious book to buy before a 7 hour flight, right? Wrong. I found it tedious and slow. I guess I was expecting some gratuitous stories or at least something a little more exciting than his childhood obsession with planes.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve Larson

    Good coverage of key topics. I did expect more and information from "behind the scenes." There were no punches put on airline management, unions, or the FAA. Sure it covered flying and aircraft well. What about the business of flying. Different book I guess.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alisa Kester

    Not what I was expecting - too much technical information on topics like wing flaps and what makes an airplane fly, and not nearly enough interesting insider details.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I liked this book because I fly quite a bit. The pilot answers a lot of questions. Some of the information was a little too detailed so I skimmed some of it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hank

    very interesting, but a lot of it is made up of his recycled Salon columns.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Noah

    Not exactly Pulitzer material, but a fun, light read, especially if you fly a lot or you're an aviation geek.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is an easy and informative read for people interested in the airline industry. Most of it I already knew, which made me feel like an insider.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ma Yui Fung Moses

    This is a book is by a pilot named Patrick Smith, he answers the people's question about aeroplanes and the situations when the aeroplane is cruising. There are a total of 7 chapters, each consists of about 20 questions. Some of the questions are about the life of a pilot, from arriving at the company to discuss about the flight plan to taking off. Some of the questions are about the situations you may encounter during flight, for example wake turbulence, thunderstorms, bird strike etc. Some of This is a book is by a pilot named Patrick Smith, he answers the people's question about aeroplanes and the situations when the aeroplane is cruising. There are a total of 7 chapters, each consists of about 20 questions. Some of the questions are about the life of a pilot, from arriving at the company to discuss about the flight plan to taking off. Some of the questions are about the situations you may encounter during flight, for example wake turbulence, thunderstorms, bird strike etc. Some of the questions are about the disasters that happened before, for example in 1971, a man using the name DB Cooper skyjacks a plane and threatened to blow up the plane. All these answers are very interesting and I learned a lot of air travel facts from Patrick Smith. I recommend this book to everyone because I think that the facts about air travel is very interesting and i think that many people will also be interested in this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cathryn Conroy

    By chance, I started reading this book by commercial airline pilot Patrick Smith in the airport in Baltimore as we were getting ready to board a flight to Boston. I kept reading it on the plane. And then I decided that I would ONLY read it in airports and on planes. Luckily, I flew a lot this year. So on flights to Atlanta, Columbus and Cincinnati, this book was open on my Kindle. It was a real kick to read while flying. I learned about various parts of the plane and could look at the window to By chance, I started reading this book by commercial airline pilot Patrick Smith in the airport in Baltimore as we were getting ready to board a flight to Boston. I kept reading it on the plane. And then I decided that I would ONLY read it in airports and on planes. Luckily, I flew a lot this year. So on flights to Atlanta, Columbus and Cincinnati, this book was open on my Kindle. It was a real kick to read while flying. I learned about various parts of the plane and could look at the window to see some of them. I learned about turbulence as the plane was doing a little do-si-do in the air. I learned about the colors of the uniforms worn by the crew. I learned about the total inanity and uselessness of much of airport security while waiting in line to be screened. If you fly even once a year, this is a book worth reading as it demystifies what for most of us is a combination of magic and misery.

  29. 4 out of 5

    John Kerl

    One of the most amazing books I've ever read, across genres. Full stop. I got it for the demystification (what the hell is a "cross check"?) -- and it is all of that and more. Smith candidly defends some things that are more innocent than we thought, yet does not spare his own industry deserved criticism. We see a candid assessment of the environmental cost of travel. Atrocious graphic design apoplectically berated. Entrancing views of the Aurora Borealis in the inky North Atlantic night. A paean One of the most amazing books I've ever read, across genres. Full stop. I got it for the demystification (what the hell is a "cross check"?) -- and it is all of that and more. Smith candidly defends some things that are more innocent than we thought, yet does not spare his own industry deserved criticism. We see a candid assessment of the environmental cost of travel. Atrocious graphic design apoplectically berated. Entrancing views of the Aurora Borealis in the inky North Atlantic night. A paean to the soul-expanding benefits of seeing the world through others' eyes. The admirable self-actualization, the unabashed impassioned nerdiness, of a little child watching the skies becoming an adult who plies them. Everything from acronyms to the ambition of the human race in 308 pages. With a glossary!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Manish

    Apparently, Smith runs a popular blog called "Ask the Pilot" which also featured in Salon. As expected from the title, the blog answers the frequently asked questions from flyers and more often tries to assuage their fears.  The book collects most of the questions and in the process becomes a quick ready reckoner for fliers - both the nervous ones and the seasoned ones :)  In an accessible style, Smith answers most of the questions and also shares a bit of his enthusiasm and fascination with aviat Apparently, Smith runs a popular blog called "Ask the Pilot" which also featured in Salon. As expected from the title, the blog answers the frequently asked questions from flyers and more often tries to assuage their fears.  The book collects most of the questions and in the process becomes a quick ready reckoner for fliers - both the nervous ones and the seasoned ones :)  In an accessible style, Smith answers most of the questions and also shares a bit of his enthusiasm and fascination with aviation. Hopefully, I should be slightly less nervous the next time I hit an air pocket!  The most terrifying part of the book was his moment by moment narration of the Tenerife crash - the worlds deadliest air disaster to date! 

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