Book Review - Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

By F/O Mark Vanhoenacker (British Airways)

Reviewed by F/O Jenny Winter, Chairwoman, Delta Master Executive Council Investor Relations Committee

Whenever I travel with my three-year-old daughter, which is often, we sit in seats over the wing. In these seats, we can feel and discuss the changing shape of the wing and the power of the engines, those parts that are the essence of flight. This is the flying that British Airways F/O Mark Vanhoenacker internalized in his pre-pilot life, the flying that he spills across the pages of Skyfaring with a precise and rapturous prose.

Notably, his book opens up the world of flight and the life of an airline pilot with careful details that so frequently are amiss in writings about our profession. Vanhoenacker tackles the complex world of long-haul international flight, describing and defining the hazy in-between spaces of dislocation over broad swathes of the globe. He coins the perfect term, “place-lag” and goes on to unlock for readers this very strange and unique byproduct of airline flying. He speaks to our life of colleagues with whom intense times are shared on a remarkable flight, at a Christmas dinner on layover, or for a delay stretching into days while something unplanned such as volcanic ash closes the skies. The places and times felt so familiar to me that I had to wonder whether I had ever stood near Vanhoenacker in one of the high building lookouts that he admits to seeking out on layovers.

Expect to pick up Skyfaring and let the structure of the book guide you through flight from liftoff to return, with meaningful diversions into chapters on place, wayfinding, machine, air, water, encounters, and night. This is a book that I am giving to my parents, saving for my child, and recommending to everyone I sit next to on the flight deck of my B-767. 

This article is from the September 2015 issue of Air Line Pilot magazine, the Official Journal of the Air Line Pilots Association, International—a monthly publication for all ALPA members.