Author, Mark Vanhoenacker is a senior first officer with British Airways and flies passenger jets around the world. He wants the reader to understand his passion for his job.
Unsurprisingly, life on a 747 is full of jargon: a second co-pilot on longer flights is known as ‘the heavy’, one acting as ‘heavy out’, the other as ‘heavy home’.
And for a pilot, the sky is full of aerial milestones called waypoints, with names usually comprising five capital letters.
These often relate directly to the place below, so above Boston in Vanhoenacker’s home state, there is the waypoint LBSTA, referring to the region’s prized shellfish, and another, NIMOY, after one of the city’s more notable sons, the late actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in Star Trek.
But other names are harder to explain. Above St Louis, Missouri, are the waypoints ANNII and LENXX. Vanhoenacker’s best guess is that an air-traffic controller there was a fan of Eurythmics’ singer Annie Lennox.
Who would have thought that the mysteries of flying would embrace Mr Spock, Klingons and Annie Lennox? Skyfaring is crammed with these revelations and more, while the acknowledgments end on a plaintive note.
Maybe one day, Vanhoenacker hopes, wide-eyed children will again be allowed in the cockpit during a flight. In the meantime, he does a very good job of telling us what happens in there, and why we should still trust the men at the controls.