Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

Knopf. Jun. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780385351812. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385351829. SCI
Vanhoenacker's debut poignantly recalls how he came to become a long-haul pilot, abandoning postgraduate work at Cambridge University for a management consulting position, largely because of the amount of passenger flying time he was forced to undertake. Three years later he leaves again for flight training. The author describes in detail his classroom instruction together with various exams for his Boeing 747-type rating before entering the cockpit as a licensed pilot. In a skillfully crafted amalgam of autobiography, avionics, history, geography, physics, and poetry, he explores the welcome challenges and rewards of his work with technical precision and uncommon sensitivity, describing, for instance, the freedom of flight, the sense of solitude, the opportunity to experience the world, the fun of unanticipated layovers, the love of a brilliantly conceived aircraft, the hurly-burly of ground crews on the taxiway prior to liftoff, the challenges of on-board emergencies, the effects of long-haul piloting on one's biological clock, and the unparalled beauty of the firmament and world's oceans as seen from the pilot's seat. Even so, Vanhoenacker concludes: "Every landing is a return from the possibility of all places to the certainty and perhaps the love of one."
VERDICT A singular glimpse into the multidimensional life of an extraordinary airline pilot. Recommended for aviation specialists and enthusiasts, airline personnel, frequent flyers, and public libraries.
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