cover image Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

Mark Vanhoenacker. Knopf, $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-35181-2

In this intimate, often illuminating piece, Slate columnist Vanhoenacker takes readers on a personal tour of his world as an airline pilot. His manner is leisurely, poetic, and prone to philosophical musings as he shares his decade’s experiences as the pilot of Airbus A320 and Boeing 747 planes. He explains technical jargon and the secret language of the airline industry, discusses “place lag” and in-jokes, and grants a view of the world as seen from 30,000 feet. “Air crews come to know a life of motion, of transiting the physical miles between our memories or ideas of places,” he writes. When discussing our fascination with flight, he claims, “while airplanes have overturned many of our older sensibilities, a deeper part of our imagination lingers and still sparks in the former realm, among ancient, even atavistic, ideas of distance and place, migrations and the sky.” Vanhoenacker conveys that sense of freedom, wanderlust, and traversing a large world made small by travel, while at the same time demystifying the inside of the cockpit and humanizing the all-powerful pilots within. Readers who can withstand bouts of existential navel-gazing will find Vanhoenacker’s memoir packed with eloquent insight into a high-flying world. Agent: Caroline Michel, Peters Fraser & Dunlop. (June)