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

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,775 ratings  ·  386 reviews
A New York Times bestseller

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
Paperback, 303 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Sourcebooks (first published January 1st 2013)
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Petra X living life blissfully,not through books!
I don't really know who this book is aimed at. Perhaps no-one or everyone. It reads like a series of blogs losely held together because they are about air travel. But at one moment the author/pilot is describing to you the finer intricacies of a turbo prop engine versus a jet engine and at the next telling the reader that some issue is too technical for explaining here.

The book reminds me of one I read recently by a sour doctor who said that American doctors were underpaid and on the breadline.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
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
Kristie Helms
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 travel par
Dec 02, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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 boo
Cass Morrison
Sep 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Engaging enough read and packed with info for travelers who want to know more about flying. Very UScentric.
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved this! Like most people who fly regularly, I tend to think I know a decent amount about flying, but as this book so interestingly showed me, I really don't!
I'm not a nervous flyer, but I couldn't resist going straight to the "10 worst air disasters", chapter which leads off, if course, with the infamous Tenerife crash, which I remember seeing horrific photos of as a kid, and has always been the thing that flits through my mind whenever I'm taxiing down a runway.
Well, for all you nervous
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Viewpoint of an airline pilot answering random questions for the general public. I learned a few things though most I already know about, though I’m in the aerospace industry. He has a dark humor and does little in one chapter to settle the nerves of normal passengers. He seems pretty old school and hates all change; new logos, new airplanes. Also gripes about seniority though understandable since it appears pilots get paid jack shit and don’t have much opportunity to move up.

This is pretty inte
Randell Green
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Best part of this book is that it prompted me to keep a lot of notes. Also, went down the rabbit hole with plenty of flight videos. This book is extremely helpful and I’ll be keeping it on my desk for years to come. ✈️
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The author covers everything, from what it's really like to be an airline pilot (not as glamorous as you might have thought) and why this, that or the other happens when you fly. The text is easily arranged so you can skip past what you know already.
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Alisa Kester
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 28, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Jill Meyer
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Are you a nervous flyer? Are you someone who'd rather drive than fly? Are you someone who doesn't get excited looking at the lights of planes as they line up in the night sky outside a busy airport, coming in for a landing, one after the other? On the other hand, do you know what the terms "OAG", "triple 7", and "Runway Two-niner" refer to? If you're the latter and not the former, you'll enjoy Patrick Smith's new book, "Cockpit Confidential".

Patrick Smith - the name "Smith" is a nom-de-plume - i
Scottsdale Public Library
Patrick Smith is an airline pilot and author of the website In his revised and expanded second edition of Cockpit Confidential, he provides information regarding the world of commercial flying. I read this book because I am a somewhat nervous flyer and thought it might provide information to help with my anxiety during a flight, and it did. I found it calming to know more about what actually goes on in the cockpit and about turbulence which is "far and away the number-one concer ...more
Jenn Cavanaugh
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm sure this wasn't his intent - the concept doesn't even seem to occur to him - but this has me thinking about a lot of potential benefits of additional government regulation of the airline industry. Otherwise, no life-changing surprises, but in all fairness, still more info than I could hope to retain. A good source if you ever need to write about a pilot. ...more
Al Maki
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
If you’re curious about commercial air travel it’s a good book. The author has 30 years experience as a commercial pilot and apparently writes poetry. It’s knowledgeable, well written and at times evocative of his experiences. Overall a better book than I expected.
Rayfes Mondal
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mostly a collection of answers to questions people have asked on his web site but a few longer pieces too. Good stuff for someone that loves aviation like I do.
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-classics
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.

Sarah Carr
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for frequent travelers who are curious to understand more about the airline industry or for new or nervous fliers that want to understand how planes work (in layperson's terms) and why turbulence is generally not dangerous. As a pilot on an American-based airline (but he won't say which one!) who flies 757s and 767s, Smith's writing is easy and conversational, and the Q&A format makes it easy to pick up and put down when you have a moment. I also really appreciated his longe ...more
Sarah Parker
Jul 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
I bought this at Boston Logan airport because it was written by a local and it's about airplanes. Obvious book to buy before a 7 hour flight, right? Wrong. I found it tedious and slow. I guess I was expecting some gratuitous stories or at least something a little more exciting than his childhood obsession with planes. ...more
Steve Larson
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Jul 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Not exactly Pulitzer material, but a fun, light read, especially if you fly a lot or you're an aviation geek. ...more
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an easy and informative read for people interested in the airline industry. Most of it I already knew, which made me feel like an insider.
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
very interesting, but a lot of it is made up of his recycled Salon columns.
Cathryn Conroy
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By chance, I started reading this book by commercial airline pilot Patrick Smith in the airport in Baltimore as we were getting ready to board a flight to Boston. I kept reading it on the plane. And then I decided that I would ONLY read it in airports and on planes. Luckily, I flew a lot this year. So on flights to Atlanta, Columbus and Cincinnati, this book was open on my Kindle. It was a real kick to read while flying. I learned about various parts of the plane and could look at the window to ...more
Ma Yui Fung Moses
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book is by a pilot named Patrick Smith, he answers the people's question about aeroplanes and the situations when the aeroplane is cruising. There are a total of 7 chapters, each consists of about 20 questions. Some of the questions are about the life of a pilot, from arriving at the company to discuss about the flight plan to taking off. Some of the questions are about the situations you may encounter during flight, for example wake turbulence, thunderstorms, bird strike etc. Some of ...more
John Kerl
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most amazing books I've ever read, across genres. Full stop.

I got it for the demystification (what the hell is a "cross check"?) -- and it is all of that and more. Smith candidly defends some things that are more innocent than we thought, yet does not spare his own industry deserved criticism. We see a candid assessment of the environmental cost of travel. Atrocious graphic design apoplectically berated. Entrancing views of the Aurora Borealis in the inky North Atlantic night. A paean
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