Ask the Pilot

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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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Anyone remotely afraid of flying should read this book, as should anyone who appreciates good writing and the value of great information.
Alex Beam
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594480041
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.49 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Smith is an airline pilot and freelance writer. His air travel column appears weekly on Salon.com. He has flown both passenger and cargo jets and has visited more than fifty countries. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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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
Airfoiled—the art of wings and keeping aloft · A primer on moving parts · Aerobatics in a 747? · Turbines and turbofans—an 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 lines—clouds or conspiracy?

2. Turbulence for Tyros: Windshear, Weather, and Elements of Unease

Up to Speed—The Promise and Peril of Concorde
Turbulence and windshear · Pressurization—how, 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 planes—how 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 nightmare—fact or fiction? · From whence the aborted takeoff? For what the aborted landing? · Foggy notions and crooked landings—finding 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 loathing—the myth and mirth of pilot salaries · Pilots and copilots—what's the difference and what do they do? · The workday commute—New Zealand to Atlanta? · Where are the women? · Secrets of skill · Are you irrelevant? · Is there a future in pilotless planes? · Up, locked, and loaded—guns in the cockpit · Flight deck fatigue—are 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 flotation—getting to know your life jacket · Crackpots and conspiracy · The true and false of shoulder-fired missiles · Crewless catastrophe—can 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

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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(2)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 29, 2012

    A friend gave me this book to help with my fear of flying.  It w

    A friend gave me this book to help with my fear of flying.  It was easy to read and easy to understand.  The author does a nice job of explaining things without getting too technical.  I personally would have liked a little more info about all the noises, bumps, and jostles that one feels flying, but the way he explained what he did will certainly help me be less anxious my next time in the air.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great book to learn about air travel

    I bought this book to deal with my fear of flying. It's a fact book of how planes fly and other things that have to do with air travel. Note that this book is very honest and it does include a list of the top 10 worst air disasters. I learned a lot from this book and hopefully this knowledge will help me be calmer next time I fly.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2006

    Terrible

    It was very disapointing to buy this book. It had no details at all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2005

    Great Book!

    This book is truly a book that you can use. The way the author, Patrick Smith, calms you down about flying is a very big plus. I am planning to become a pilot for a major airline, so I would like to know what will calm people down on an airplane. I reccomend this book to people that fly alot, and to people that love airplanes. Even if you think you know everything about airplanes, airports, and pilots, this book will show you that you are mistaken. Outstanding!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2005

    This Should Get Six Stars

    This book was outstanding. The author explains the ups and downs of air travel and being a pilot. After reading a couple pages even my history teacher wanted to read it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2005

    LOVED it!

    Flying is a love-hate relationship for me. While I am fascinated with airplanes and the entire process of boarding a jet for a destination, I hate and sometimes fear flying. I have so many questions related to flying, and this book answered a lot of my questions. It is a unique book written by a pilot, and a professional who understand his trade. It is interesting to learn all the 'science' behind flying a commercial jet, and the why's and how's of operating this huge machine that also happens to carry hundreds of people in it. He writes with passion and humor. It is a good read- buy it and read it on a plane ride!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2004

    I loved this book!

    This was one of the best books I have read in a long time. If you are fascinated by airplanes/piloting/airports, this book is a must read. It was very educational, with a touch of humor. I was so sad when I reached the last few pages because I didn't want it to end! I hope he writes a continuation of this book sometime in the near future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2004

    Outstanding

    The trouble with this book is it's too short, and you end up with a whole new set of questions not covered in the text. I mean that in a GOOD way, as the author's style and intelligence really inspire you to THINK about flight and travel. I was startled by how smart and well written this book is. The author's critique of airline liveries and logos for example is hiliarious and brilliant. If you travel even semi-regularly, and whether you love or hate to fly, this is a must buy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted July 8, 2010

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    Posted January 30, 2011

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    Posted January 23, 2010

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    Posted December 6, 2009

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    Posted January 3, 2010

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