Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & Reflections
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know about Air Travel: Questions, Answers, & Reflections

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  532 ratings  ·  88 reviews
For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web's popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know...

-How planes fly, and a revealing look at the men and women who fly them
-Straight talk on turbulence, pilot trainin...more
Paperback, 303 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Sourcebooks (first published January 1st 2013)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,131)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Eric_W
I have been reading Patrick Smith's blog on Salon for several years. He's a professional airline pilot and always brings sense and rational thinking to the often hyperbolic world that is so prevalent in a society that prefers the fearful over understanding. I was hooked from the start, especially by his enthusiasm for the journey as opposed to just the destination when traveling. I think he's also correct when he describes air travel as having become so commonplace it's now, by definition, tedio...more
Wanda
Jun 13, 2014 Wanda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Wanda by: CBC radio

"For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web's popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know..."


I heard the author of this book interviewed on CBC radio and decided that it wouldn’t hurt me to get a bit of reassurance from a pilot, especially given the amount of air travel that I do in pursuit of my hobbies. I am not a nervous flier...more
Alec
On a recent Airtran flight back from Richmond, I decided to splurge and spend the extra $25 to upgrade to the exit row. Because I'm worth it. As I stretched my legs luxuriously (yet remained poised and ready to fling open the door in case of a water landing), I noticed the man seated next to me was reading Cockpit Confidential. I used to read airline pilot Patrick Smith's guest posts on the Freakonomics blog, so I was vaguely aware of the book and his work in general. I made a "hmm, wonder if th...more
Kristie Helms
I'm in the top percentile of Nervous Flyers. I have little superstitions like touching the outside of the plane with my right hand when I step through the jetway. I say a constant stream of Hail Marys during take-offs & landings (thanks Mary!) and I'll white knuckle absolutely the smallest amounts of turbulence during even the short shuttle flights between BOS & LGA.

All of this is truly helpful because while I love traveling, the anxiety involved kind of gets in the way of the actual tr...more
Aoi
No kidding, this is the book you want to read abroad a plane. Being one of those nervous and paranoid flyers, I can appreciate the in-depth discussions about how dangerous turbulence is, and how close to averting disaster are we if the pilot executes a turnaround (not really).

Apart from allaying passenger worries, Patrick Smith also shines light upon the little, often unnoticed details, like the Taj Mahalian motif on Air India window-panes (I hadn't!).

The question-and-answer format of the book...more
Biblio Files
Expecting an update of Patrick Smith's earlier book, Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, I was surprised to see a completely different book. Yes, he still answers questions that passengers are curious about, such as how dangerous is turbulence, and what is in the air supply in the cabin, but he goes into many other topics that are of interest to people who enjoy flying. He discusses airline logos and liveries (the paint jobs on the planes) and airline names.

Smith is ofte...more
Cass Morrison
Engaging enough read and packed with info for travelers who want to know more about flying. Very UScentric.
Ashley
I really enjoyed the first half of this book, with its simple, easy-to-understand explanations of how planes fly, risk analysis, and the other fascinating insights about pilot training and the seniority system. But of course my favorite part was hearing an experienced pilot talk about the mechanics of how a plane flies, what goes on in the cockpit during a flight, and just how routine each flight can be. For me, getting on a plane is a huge leap of faith. I'm not afraid of flying, but when I'm s...more
John Behle
Good mix of tech, "there I was" stories, aviation lore, plus nuggets of info one can use for better trip planning and flying. There is even fun stuff like the history of favorite airline ad slogans. "Fly me."

This book is up-to-date, just released in May '13.

Also, I seriously thought at one time of being an airline pilot, now I'm glad I did not enter that career field. The grueling training, the endless checkrides, the vast expense of renting planes (keep building those flight hours...) and hir...more
Jim
I have been reading Patrick Smith's column entitled "Ask the Pilot" on Salon.Com (before they switched their editorial policy a few years back). In 2004, he published an earlier version of this book entitled Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, of which Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections reflects a substantial re-write and augmentation. You can also visit his excellent website at Ask the Pilot.

Interspers...more
Davidkantor
Some people don't want to know how things work, including airplanes. They just want to sit quietly and get where they are going. I am not one of those people. I am the kind of guy who reads the manual and wants to know how stuff works, even the features on my phone or camera that I'm unlikely ever to use. On United flights I am glued to the air traffic control channel -- hey, you never know when you might hear something interesting. (Although, in practice, other than takeoff and landing, almost...more
Kenneth
I am really impressed by Patrick Smith's extremely pleasant writing style and use of words. I love flying (as a passenger) and I always wondered what goes on behind the scenes in an airport and in the cockpit. I'm fascinated by everything involving airplanes and little did I know that this book can teach me so much things that I never knew or have never come across before. The question and answer portions are particularly fascinating. Also, the opinion portions are equally deserving of praise. T...more
Steve Larson
Good coverage of key topics. I did expect more and information from "behind the scenes." There were no punches put on airline management, unions, or the FAA. Sure it covered flying and aircraft well. What about the business of flying. Different book I guess.
Anthony
As someone who flies a lot, I really enjoyed this book, written by a commercial airline pilot, Patrick Smith. What I found most enjoyable was the fact that he minimizes explaining the physics of flying and focuses more on his opinions of traveling, from security to airlines and their logos to airports. It was really enjoyable to read his opinions about all of these from the perspective of being a pilot.

If you're fearful of flying, you'll get a lot of comfort from this book, but that is not the...more
Wendy
Recommended for:

Anyone curious about air travel, pilot life, and how airports and airlines work. Also for people looking for some reassurance that what goes up will stay up until it's time to land.


I've never particularly enjoyed flying, but after 9-11, I crossed over the line into being afraid to fly. As a side note, I don't think this fear would have taken root as firmly if I had flown some time soon after 9-11 (the whole "fall off the horse and get back on" thing), but with small kids and no...more
Holly
I read this book over the summer during several flights. I actually stretched it out longer than I needed to because it was so interesting to read it in the air. Not that I was ever a white-knuckler in a plane and needed reassurance, but I was more curious about the goings on behind the cockpit door. Since the book was written by a seasoned veteran pilot who didn't seem reticent to spill some airline secrets, who wouldn't want to know? Where are the safest seats on the plane? Can planes fly them...more
Alisa
Not what I was expecting - too much technical information on topics like wing flaps and what makes an airplane fly, and not nearly enough interesting insider details.
Kim
I liked this book because I fly quite a bit. The pilot answers a lot of questions. Some of the information was a little too detailed so I skimmed some of it.
Noah
Not exactly Pulitzer material, but a fun, light read, especially if you fly a lot or you're an aviation geek.
Corey
I happen to be one who is fascinated by flying. I find the whole flight process (other than the asinine TSA check) to be intriguing. Part of that fascination is the fact that airlines have a tendency to give passengers very little information... the only information passengers get is what is necessary.

In this book, pilot Patrick Smith answers MANY questions about flying. If you have ever had a question about flying (particularly on an airline), then Smith most likely has answered it in this boo...more
Sharon
As a nervous flyer (and when I say nervous I mean must be medicated to make it through take-off), I have been a regular "Ask the Pilot" reader and fan. Paul saw this book at an airport bookstore and brought it home to me last week and I was really excited to read it. Patrick Smith's style is very conversational and easy to read. His matter-of-fact presentation is tremendously reassuring and I'm glad to have it in print. I think I need to travel with the section on Turbulence in my carry-on bag....more
Aeroman380
Overall this book is a good read for anyone but I think #avgeeks like me enjoyed the thoroughness a lot more. Average flyers don't care about most aircraft functions.

I like the way that Smith included many different world airlines and wasn't being overly American in most of his opinions. However, there are 2 things that was irksome and left me saying "how American!"
1. Yes, I do think the 747 is a beautiful aircraft, but I think the author obviously grandstands Boeing and belittles all the Airbus...more
Online Eccentric Librarian
This was an extremely enjoyable book with quite a few interesting insights into the airline industry. The book is a mixture of observations, opinions, recollections, vignettes, information, Q&A, data, and humorous bon mots. Author Patrick Smith has a great way of mixing tongue in cheek with info dumps to make this both fascinating and intriguing. I never once found myself bored.

I listened to the audio version. Narrator Drummond gave an enjoyable read, finding the humor when needed but smooth...more
Online Eccentric Librarian
This was an extremely enjoyable book with quite a few interesting insights into the airline industry. The book is a mixture of observations, opinions, recollections, vignettes, information, Q&A, data, and humorous bon mots. Author Patrick Smith has a great way of mixing tongue in cheek with info dumps to make this both fascinating and intriguing. I never once found myself bored.

Narrator Drummond gave an enjoyable read, finding the humor when needed but smoothly transitioning to gravitas as w...more
Patricia Baker
bought this book at a layover at the Chicago Midway airport on the way home from Baltimore last week. thought it was appropriate to read while waiting to fly and then while flying. liked the layout of the book. topics were covered by short covers of such topics as airplane noise, seat "assault", and TSA. I laughed at the TSA manager who took away his knife, the same kind that the airlines use on their flights. have to agree that security at the airport is probably the last place to stop a person...more
Anne Marie
I picked this book up on a whim in, where else, a book store at the airport. I was expecting some dry reading material made bearable by the interesting facts that it promised I would learn about airplanes, airlines, and flying in general, especially since I had nothing else on hand to keep me entertained on my upcoming six-hour flight. Instead, I was shocked to find that the pilot who wrote the book is actually a pretty fabulous and engaging writer.

It's a question-and-answer style book, divided...more
Peggy Kopman-Owens
In this behind the scenes primer, Patrick Smith translates industry terminology so that most travelers will find the journey through this thoughtfully prepared book both interesting and useful. His wealth of knowledge and practical hands-on experience invokes in the reader a new respect for aviation professionals. If readers want to know what really goes on behind the scenes at the airlines - or behind that cockpit door - this is must reading.
Mr. Caprow
I really enjoyed Patrick Smith's book about various things related to air travel. I enjoyed learning more about the ins and the outs of flight, airlines and being a pilot. Travel is something that interests me and after reading Smith's book, I am more than ever to take on my summer travel adventures. The book was well, written and easy to understand. Although, like many of my eighth grade students' papers, there was no conclusion. The book wrapped up with an informative and humorous glossary of...more
Don Tom
Patrick Smith has done it again, with a great update and addition to his original book, Ask the Pilot. For anyone who has an interest in commercial aviation or wants to know more about the ins-and-outs, ups-and-downs of flight, this is a wonderful dive into all things aviation.

It is a pretty quick read, and I picked it up before a long international flight (what better place to read about airplanes, than on an airplane?). Because Patrick Smith does a fantastic job of explaining things in terms e...more
Ethan
An enjoyable collection of Q&A by an affable pilot. Not a sordid tell-all, and ultimately lacks many practical tips for air travel, but it's still a helpful look behind the scenes of the commercial aviation industry.

Smith's at his best when explaining why turbulence and lightning are not to be feared and on the ridiculousness of passenger security mesaures post-9/11. He's not as interesting when he touches on airline economics, belabors the change in pilots' career prospects, or judges airl...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 37 38 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Full Upright and Locked Position: The Insider's Guide to Air Travel
  • The Hotel on the Roof of the World: From Miss Tibet to Shangri La
  • To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism
  • Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet
  • The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France
  • Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo
  • Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us
  • Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues
  • Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo
  • The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese
  • Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money
  • Burma: Rivers of Flavor
  • Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge
  • Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them
  • Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies)
  • The Aleppo Codex: The True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the International Pursuit of an Ancient Bible
  • Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945
  • Raw and Simple: Eat Well and Live Radiantly with 100 Truly Quick and Easy Recipes for the Raw Food Lifestyle
Ask the Pilot

Share This Book

“there are four standard cabins: first class, business class, economy class, and Ryanair.” 1 likes
“Air travel is a complicated, inconvenient, and often scary affair for millions of people, and at the same time it’s cloaked in secrecy. Its mysteries are concealed behind a wall of specialized jargon, corporate reticence, and an irresponsible media.” 0 likes
More quotes…