I’m not a nervous flyer -- mostly bored and slightly irritable when locked in an uncomfortable plastic tube for some hours after being prodded through officious “security” theater. But I am a San Franciscan, very aware that a commercial jet recently flunked landing at our local airport (with some loss of life). Bad stuff happens in flying, though vanishingly infrequently as Smith reminds us.
Where I feel out of sync with Smith is that he loves flying. If, like me, you experience little romance in air travel, you can hurry over the more technical sections of the book and over some of his enthusiasms. But even the most jaded of flyers can get something from his catalogue of the best vistas available to be seen from the air: as it happens, I have a vivid memory of looking down on the vastness of Greenland during a flight to Europe over the pole. The view was as remarkable as Smith says.
Where Smith’s book is delectable for a reluctant flyer like me is in his discussion of airlines (he knows most of us hate them!), airplane comfort (lousy in economy and he has a list of suggestions that could make it better like free inflight wifi for customer distraction and better seats) and the absurdity of the United State’s so-called “security” measures. Here’s a sample of what he has to say about the last:
Smith values professionalism. His critique of airlines and regulatory authorities becomes negative only when the chase after more dollars violates his sense of proper behavior in such an honorable activity as, semi-magically, taking to the air.
If you’ve been reading The Pilot for awhile, you’ll find a lot of repetition in this volume. If not, I think most people will find Smith smart and interesting about what is for most of us an irritating and alienating interlude.