Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have flown domestic, short haul and long haul flights in everything from cattle class to Upper Class and as a form of transport it is a little bit dull. Flying is seen as mundane now and love it or hate it, you cannot deny that modern air travel is the thing that has opened up the world up. It is one of the safest forms of transport ever invented too, making travelling to destinations far and wide, safe, easy and painless.
In this eloquent book, Vanhoenacker tells us just what it is like to be a commercial pilot in this modern age. The plane that he is trained to fly is the classic 380 ton Boeing 747. He tells about crossing oceans and continents, night flying and the delights of spending time in different destinations on each day of the week. He loved flying from an early age, but it was only after he graduated and ended up travelling the world as a management consultant that he started to re-consider his career choice, wondering if he could be a pilot. He took the plunge, retrained and realised his dream of becoming a pilot.
I really enjoyed this book, he writes in a calm measured way, as you’d expect and hope for, from a pilot. What comes across most is that he has never lost the sense of wonder in flying. You hear of him as a small boy being completely entranced by it and he still is now, from the magical scenes of the Northern Lights to the history behind the names of beacons that they track across the world. He takes pleasure in the names of winds and clouds, night flying with only the stars for company and reassurance in the skills of the engineers that enable him to fly. I like the way that he focuses the chapters on a particular aspect of flying; Water, Place, Air, Night and Machine; all different perspectives of the same journey.
The writing is a breath of fresh air; it is adept and detailed without feeling complicated. When he is flying across the oceans you see the curve of the earth as he does and sense the ice on the wings as they descend into world famous cities. A beautifully written book, even one for those who don’t like flying. 4.5 stars
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