Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker

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Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker

Category: Travel
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: More about the view from the cockpit and less about the science of flying, this wasn't quite what we expected.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 352 Date: July 2016
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099589853

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I didn't grow up dreaming of flying planes, but I did grow up dreaming of flying in them on a regular basis, and I still love air travel. There's something a little magical about it, and no amount of delays, go arounds, aborted landings or missing luggage will change that. And yes, I've had all of those in the last six weeks. Mark Vanhoenacker had a childhood dream to become a pilot, and though he took a detour into academia, and then another into business, that dream never left. Now on his thirrd career (at least) he flies for BA, writing in his spare time. This book brings those two worlds together, aviation and publishing, as he takes the reader on a journey from earth to sky and back again, with the bird's eye view only a pilot can muster.

I found this book a little hard to get in to, and even harder to evaluate. It is a very personal tale that focusses on memories from Vanhoenacker's childhood mixed with descriptions of the earth from above. The first few one can indulge, but after that it becomes a little repetitive. Most people reading this will have flown at some point in their lives – it's hardly likely to find its way into the hands of many who have not – and so are familiar with the experience from a passenger perspective. I was hoping this book would build on this with insider knowledge of aviation and of aircraft, but it drifted away from this towards observations such as One of the best reasons to become a pilot…is the chance to surface from the world of clouds; to know that sunlight will be present on nearly every day of your working life. He spends page after page describing landscapes, when really what I was hoping for was a mélange of factoids about the craft and its operation, like the fact you can only have x number of go arounds before you have to abort and head to another airport. Or the observation that the reason ski flights into Innsbruck are so often disrupted is because you have to pass a special test to land there and if the crew go over hours and they have to call in a replacement, you might find the relief pilot isn't skilled enough, or at least certified enough, to put you safely on the ground there. And don't get me started on the different types of wing de-icing fluid.

This is a sentimental, indulgent, rambling sort of book. The structure is rather unsystematic, moving with irregular rhythm between childhood memories, work life and those pesky adult years in between when he was doing other things. The author's love for flying cannot be disputed, and if I didn't already feel the same way, this book might have gone some way to making me feel more positive about the experience. But it is very much about being up there, looking down, which was not the book I was expecting. More philosophical and less scientific than I had anticipated, it did not meet my needs even though I can see how it might appeal to others in a different frame of mind. If you are interested in whimsy and poetry, this book may be worth a look, but for those interested in real world air travel and fun titbits to intrigue (or reassure) on their next trip I think there are more entertaining books out there.

I would like to thank the publishers for sending us a copy to review. If you're more interested in the technology than the philosophy, our list of Newest Popular Science Reviews is always worth a browse.

Buy Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker at Amazon.com.


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