Review: Skyfaring: a journey with a pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker


Like many people with a degree of aviation anxiety, I've ploughed through my fair share of books designed to help conquer Fear of Flying over the years. Mark Vanhoenacker's 'Skyfaring: a journey with a pilot' is emphatically not a self-help title. However, it's probably the most useful piece of literature I've encountered so far in my journey to flying freedom, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking to boost their level of confidence in the cabin. Here's why... 




I've read and re-read Skyfaring several times - both in the air and back on home turf, and keep coming back to its pages thanks to its author's rare ability to combine poetic brilliance with technical competence to delight the most avid avgeek.

There is a fine line between fear and fascination, and as anyone with a phobia will tell you, it's all too tempting to read up in great detail on what can go wrong on a flight (Air France 447 transcripts anyone? Mon dieu). Equally, the more dry and instructional self-help books you might be inclined to dip into do little to excite or inspire the reader into taking their next flight, tending instead to dwell on simply making the experience more bearable.

For many frustrating years, I found that when it came to persuading myself to get back on a plane, this approach, with its focus on safety statistics, desensitisation and merely making the experience bearable, didn't work.

Instead, embracing what's fun, exciting and downright magical about flying on an emotional level has turned out to be far more effective than hiding from the negatives, and I found that Vanhoenacker's book is an excellent resource for re-discovering a love of all-things airborne.

"Mr Vanhoenacker, fortunately for his readers, has lost none of his sense of wonder at the miracle of flight itself... a beautifully observed collection of details, scenes, emotions and facts from the world above the world" - The Economist 
Indeed, Skyfaring manages to capture a fascination for flying without allowing it to become morbid, thanks to its author's relentless enthusiasm for the often forgotten romance and wonder of air travel.

In prose that is never far from the poetic, Vanhoenacker shares evocative memories of his path to becoming a 747 pilot,  from his first long-awaited flight to Disneyland as a child, to the many aspects of life in the sky that still surprise and delight him, even after years on the flight deck.

I'd recommend this book to anyone trying to transfer their fear to a fascination - especially if you're finding that the traditional routes to confident flying aren't cutting it for you. In fact, Whether you're a frequent flier or a truly terrified traveller, I challenge you to read this book and NOT want to book your next trip within days.

If you take away nothing else from this blog, please remember this: as a fearful flier you will probably never feel indifferent about flying. Forget what you've been told about making the activity seem normal - making mundanity your goal is the fastest way to set yourself up to fail. But if you can find a way to transform that fear into fascination, you might find (as I did) that you've stumbled on a secret that few self help books want to share.

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