"Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight," our pilots still intone. But who are they kidding? In Full Upright and Locked Position, former FAA chief counsel and senior aviation policy official Mark Gerchick unravels the unseen forces and little-known facts that have reshaped our air travel experience since September 11, 2001. With wry humor and unique insight, Gerchick takes us past the jargon, technicalities, and all-is-well platitudes to expose the new normal of air travel: from ...
"Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight," our pilots still intone. But who are they kidding?
In Full Upright and Locked Position, former FAA chief counsel and senior aviation policy official Mark Gerchick unravels the unseen forces and little-known facts that have reshaped our air travel experience since September 11, 2001.
With wry humor and unique insight, Gerchick takes us past the jargon, technicalities, and all-is-well platitudes to expose the new normal of air travel: from the packed planes and myriad hassles of everyday flying to the alchemy of air fares, the airlines’ endless nickel-and-diming, and the elusive hope of escape from steerage. We find out what pilots do in the cockpit, what’s really worth worrying about when it comes to airline safety, and why we get sick on planes. Meanwhile, Gerchick ponders the jarring disconnect between our quaint expectations of "service with a smile" and the grim reality of cramped seats, no-free-lunch, and "watch-yer-knees."With sympathy for both fliers and airlines, Gerchick shows how the new "business-all-business" airline industry has finally learned to make money, even in the face of crushing fuel costs, and get millions of travelers where they’re going every day safely and quickly.From his singular vantage point as former aviation regulator and policymaker, Gerchick gives us a straightforward insider’s view of how hard it is for government to improve the traveler’s lot by explaining the vagaries of consumer protection rules as well as the political realities and the economic forces at work. While Gerchick offers reasons to hope for a better future in air travel, he presents an unvarnished look at what we can expect—good and bad—when we take to the skies. Some of it will reassure you, some will make you cringe, but all will open your eyes to what it means to fly today.
Former FAA counsel Gerchick’s lucid and horrifying overview of air travel in America does its job too well: after reading this book, you’ll never want to set foot on a commercial flight again. After an overview of the current state of flying and its discontents, Gerchick conducts a point-by-point dismemberment of the business—the hidden charges, the pinching seats, the bacteria, and delays. Important episodes in his history include the rise of the low-cost airline in the ’80s, the tragedy of 9/11, and the explosion of jet-fuel costs that followed. It is a grim but illuminating tale. What saves the book from being an unmitigated downer is Gerchick’s bemused, avuncular tone. He’s the guy in the coach seat next to yours (on the aisle, of course) who’s seen it all before. While the economy flyer may shudder to learn that the flight crew refers to him as “self-loading freight,” Gerchick cushions the blow with jokes, asides, and fascinating data. Despite his impressive range of knowledge, Gerchick never bores the reader with mere pedantry. While his book can’t save readers from airport purgatory, the insights provided will make the turbulence a little easier to bear. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn, Sagalyn Literary Agency. (June)
“I fully expect that some day soon I’ll be on a flight where every passenger is reading the same book: Full Upright and Locked Position. It won’t make the plane seem any less cramped, or the pricing or schedule policies any less maddening, or the security any easier to deal with. But Mark Gerchick’s clarity, knowledge, and humor will give everyone a better sense of how American air travel became such a joyless (though safe) ordeal, and what hope there is ahead.”
Christine Thomas - Miami Herald
“Intriguing… Resonant… a narrative that is part lifting of the veil and part condemnation of commercial airlines’ loss of soul.”
Patricia Harris - Boston Globe
“Anyone who wonders why they are always in the last boarding group—regardless of seat assignment—should read Full Upright and Locked Position.”
J. Randolph Babbitt
“An incredible, plainspoken look into the world of the airline industry. Mark Gerchick’s Full Upright and Locked Position covers everything: the people, the problems, the history, and even the 'how and why' of airline ticket pricing. Whether you travel once a year or once a week, this insider's account will both educate and fascinate you. It's a fun read, too, while you poke around 'under the cowling.'”
“Mark Gerchick provides an authoritative, incredibly insightful, and entertaining account about why the airlines behave the way they do. The traveling public, the airlines, and public policy decision makers should put Full Upright and Locked Position on their 'must-read' list.”
Carol J. Carmody
“Mark Gerchick demonstrates a comprehensive grasp of the aviation system: economics, safety, politics, and the passenger experience. His grasp of aviation safety (i.e., what should you worry about?) is especially compelling. Any air traveler will find Full Upright and Locked Position lively, interesting, and informative reading.”
Gerchick, an aviation consultant and former FAA chief counsel, gives travelers a peek into the cockpit of the air travel industry. How safe is that airplane? How likely are you to catch a cold? What is the pilot really doing in there, anyway? Gerchick's dry humor makes this analysis of the industry's fate since its deregulation a surprisingly light, enjoyable read. There will be few revelations for serious aviation buffs, but occasional travelers will appreciate savoring a taste of astonishingly swanky international first-class accommodations while also learning why they themselves are crammed into a few inches of space in coach, still reeling from the sticker shock of $25 checked bags and $12 cheese plates. Unfortunately, the book's references to Boeing's troubled 787 Dreamliner are already out-of-date. VERDICT A more general overview than recent publications such as Patrick Smith's Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need To Know About Air Travel; Questions, Answers, and Reflections and William J. McGee's Attention All Passengers: The Airlines' Dangerous Descent—and How To Reclaim Our Skies, this volume will amuse air travelers who are casually curious about the industry and their own onboard experience.—Audrey Barbakoff, Kitsap Regional Lib., Bainbridge Island, WA
An informative, revealing examination of the business of flying. Aviation consultant Gerchick, former chief counsel for the Federal Aviation Administration, pulls no punches in this highly researched exposé on the state of air travel today. He probes behind the scenes to give readers a critical and edifying take on aviation, answering a variety of questions: e.g., Why was free food eliminated from flights? Why were baggage fees adopted? What do pilots really do behind that locked cockpit door when the plane is on autopilot? Gerchick distinguishes what's not worth worrying about when flying--that the airplane will break or turbulence will cause it to crash, that safety regulations are lax--from what is: The air traffic controller or pilot could indeed be asleep, it's true that small commuter planes are not as safe as large commercial flights, and birds in the flight path are a perennial problem. He addresses many other issues, as well, explaining the endless fare wars among airlines and the reduction in comfort levels for economy-class passengers, assessing whether the perks of flying first or business class are worth the steep sticker prices. An illuminating and occasionally disgusting chapter on what can make an airline passenger sick will have many readers reaching for the hand sanitizer. Gerchick also discusses frequent flyer miles, why the FAA is so slow to make changes in regulations, and what that confirmation code tells the pilot and flight attendants about who you are. It affects "the way you're treated and the service you get," he explains, "advertising to everyone where you stand in the airline's pecking order." Frequent fliers and once-a-year vacationers alike will benefit from the insights Gerchick provides on an industry that only gets more congested and expensive as the years progress. A thorough disclosure on today's airlines and the passengers who use them--best read while still on the ground.
Mark Gerchick, an aviation consultant, has advised some of America’s largest airlines and busiest airports over the past fifteen years. A former chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration and senior Department of Transportation aviation official, he lives in McLean, Virginia.