Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

Author: Mark Vanhoenacker


Series: Vintage Departures

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 3, 2016)

Language: English

Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches

1. Introduction

In the twenty-first century, airplane flight— once a remarkable feat of human ingenuity—has been relegated to the realm of the mundane. In this mesmerizing reflection on flying, Mark Vanhoenacker, a 747 pilot who left academia and a career in the business world to pursue his childhood dream of flying, helps us to reimagine what we—as pilots and as passengers—are actually doing when we enter the world between departure and discovery. In a seamless fusion of history, politics, geography, meteorology, ecology, family, and physics, Vanhoenacker vaults across geographical and cultural boundaries; above mountains, oceans, and deserts; through snow, wind, and rain, renewing a simultaneously humbling and almost superhuman activity and reawakening our capacity to be amazed.

About the Author

Mark Vanhoenacker is a pilot and writer. A regular contributor to The New York Times and Slate, he has also written for Wired, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Independent. Born in Massachusetts, he trained as a historian and worked as a management consultant before starting his flight training in Britain in 2001. His airline career began in 2003. He now flies the Boeing 747 from London to major cities around the world.

2. Comment

1) By Yours Truly VINE VOICE on May 9, 2015

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )

This is a gorgeous piece of nonfiction, in a class with work by John McPhee and Peter Hessler, both of whom I admire. It's more meditation than memoir, a young 747 pilot's reflections of all kinds of associations he makes as he flies the world's skies. Divided into topics like Air, Water, Night, he free associates in a very disciplined way about his childhood path to his chosen career, about the lives of his parents and his brother, about the places they, and he, have lived. His scientific dissections of the phenomenon of flying, of the planet's atmosphere, land and bodies of water; of our galaxy and universe are deft and often beautiful. But what makes them memorable are his ability to make them fresh and literary, seemingly personal but not self-centered. One notion I like a lot is his take on that common feeling of What am I doing in Shanghai when only yesterday I was in Atlanta? He calls this place-lag and here's how he describes it: "the imaginative drag that results from our jet-age displacements over every kind of distance; from the inability of our deep old sense of place to keep up with our airplanes." This will be a sure hit among pilots, but I think it will have resonance for those of us who fly less frequently. As a matter of fact, I can't think of a better book to take on your next trip.

2) By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 4, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

Okay, you know who you are. You're the passenger who always chooses a window seat, so you can gaze out during the flight, looking on as the world on the ground passes smoothly beneath you. Maybe you like traveling at night, so you can see the lights of cities large and small twinkling below, reminding you that the world is a series of lights. Maybe you wish the inflight entertainment monitors would show the takeoffs and landings so you could see what the pilots can see. And even though you might find it difficult to put yourself completely in the hands of those at the airplane's controls, you love to fly. It's for those fliers - and I'm including myself - that Mark Vanhoenacker has written "Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot".

Mark Vanhoenacker is American born and raised and is pilot with British Airways. Now in his 40's, he took up piloting somewhat later in life than most; he didn't become a commercial pilot until he was 29. But he had always loved flying and airplanes and traveling, and had known from an early age that he wanted to fly commercially. Vanhoenacker has flown two plane types in his career; an Airbus which flew the "short" routes in and out of London, and the 747, the plane for long flights. London to Tokyo, London to Cape Town, London to Mumbai, to name a few.

"Skyfaring" is not a conventional book about flying airplanes. Vanhoenacker takes the reader on voyages through the air while talking about both the mundane and the magic of flying. Dividing the book into a series of chapter, some of which are "Lift", "Water", "Encounters", and "Return", the author takes the reader up in the air with him.

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