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

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  2,478 Ratings  ·  298 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 Eggs
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 tr
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 book
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
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.
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.

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
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I learned about Patrick and his book from his appearance on the Freakonomics podcast ("Why Does Everyone Hate Flying? And Other Questions Only a Pilot Can Answer").

I found this to be an easy and enjoyable read; it helped me kill many hours waiting in the airports and sitting on the planes.

The book covers a wide variety of topics, from the mechanics of an aircraft to minutiae of a crew's work and life. It also spends a significant amount of space talking about the airport and flight security, whi
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.
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.
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.
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
very interesting, but a lot of it is made up of his recycled Salon columns.
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.
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.
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.
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
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel by Patrick Smith

“Cockpit Confidential” is an excellent behind-the scenes look at the airline experience. Airline pilot and author of the popular Ask the Pilot Feature Blog, Patrick Smith tells you practically everything you need to know about the airline business. This insightful 320-page book includes the following seven chapters: 1. Plane Truth: Things about Wings and Why Knots, 2. Elements of Unease: Turbulence, Windshear, Wea
Khalid Bin Hamad
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
انا قريت النسخة المترجمة باللغة العربيه وموجودة بمكتبة جرير والترجمة جداً ممتازة

ما قد قريت بحياتي كتاب يتكلم عن موضوع فني بمثل هذي المتعة والفايده ، الكاتب ما يتكلم معك باسلوب الطيار الفاهم والخبره ، بالعكس يتكلم باسلوب بسيط وسهل يبسطلك كل النواحي الي تعتقد انها معقده .. هذا الكتاب راح يجاوب على كل التساؤلات والهواجيس والاستفسارات والتوتر والخوف من السفر بالطيارة ، اتوقع بعد ما تقرا الكتاب راح تكون سفرتك الجايه ممتعه جداً لانها بتكون تختلف عن كل سفراتك الي راحت وبتكون ملاحظ كل شي يدور بالمطار و
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5** I can't say it more clearly: Patrick Smith is such a pilot. From his idiosyncratic but sure-of-himself opinions, to his cynicism. He reminds me of a couple older-school types that I've met in flight training. It's a wonder that he likes flying at all, sometimes. To his credit, he does go into analysis many times in the book, speaking to both the pros and cons of an industry change, or a definition, or a standard practice. If he just stayed on one opinionated line with a lot of this stuff, ...more
Major Hayden
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an easy to read book about everything you ever wanted to know about aviation. Patrick covers a wide variety of topics, including the life of pilots, how airports work, how planes work, and what happens when things go wrong. I have a strong sense of curiosity about almost everything and this book satisfied a lot of my questions.

Nervous flyers take note: this is the book for you. Patrick explains in great detail what pilots worry about and what they don't. There are deep explanations about
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 l ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it
This was interesting and full of cool information, but I can't recommend reading this while on a plane if you're a nervous flyer. I bought this prior to a flight, hoping it would calm my anxiety. The technical information did help, but the author referenced crashes and accidents quiet frequently. The worst section is a list of the deadliest crashes in history. Overall, I liked the book, but don't think it's written for people with a genuine fear of planes.
Davi Saro
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Enjoyed reading this book. It answered many questions concerning air travel. At first, I thought this was a memoir of a pilot. But, it actually turned out to be written in a question and answer format. The one thing I learned which I didn't know before hand was the worst airline disaster in history, the crash of two 747's at Tenerife. Such a sad turn of events. Overall, an enjoyable book. Easy to read, with a lot of useful information and a few anecdotes which made me laugh.
Martijn Kluit
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Patrick Smith is a very good writer, whose wit made me chuckle often.
As a book though, there is too much detailed descriptions of things that are not interesting to the general public.

WARNING!!! for fearful flyers like myself: this is not for you. SOAR is a much better book for stifling nerves. The language Patrick Smith uses does nothing to calm them.
Jonathan Downing
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing! This is a must-read for anyone who is enthusiastic about air travel. Scratch that - anyone who uses air travel. Did you know that, if while on an Airbus you hear a sound like a screwdriver from under the floor, that's the PTU kicking in because the Pilots are trying to save fuel by taxiing on one engine? You would if you had read it...
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