Since people have been flying in heavier-than-air machines for over a century, it is amazing how little accurate information one can find in the news whenever there is a fatal crash or—heaven forbid—a missing aircraft. For many years, I had been reading Patrick Smith’s excellent “Ask the Pilot” column in Salon.Com, before that website decided to cut him loose in favor of more celebrity-conscious material. Patrick is the author of a book entitled Cockpit Confidential, which I am adding to my TBR (To Be Read) pile of books. On his excellent website, called Ask the Pilot, he writes:
More than ever, air travel is a focus of curiosity, intrigue, anxiety and anger. In these pages I do my best to inform and entertain. I provide answers for the curious, reassurance for the anxious, and unexpected facts for the deceived.
I begin with a simple premise: everything you think you know about flying is wrong. That’s an exaggeration, I hope, but not an outrageous starting point in light of what I’m up against. Commercial aviation is a breeding ground of bad information, and the extent to which different myths, fallacies, wives’ tales and conspiracy theories have become embedded in the prevailing wisdom is startling. Even the savviest frequent flyers are prone to misconstruing much of what actually goes on.
Which isn’t surprising. Air travel is a complicated, inconvenient, and often scary affair for millions of people, while at the same time cloaked in secrecy. Its mysteries are concealed behind a wall of specialized jargon, corporate reticence and an irresponsible media. Airlines, it hardly needs saying, aren’t the most forthcoming of entities, while journalists and broadcasters like to keep it simple and sensational. It’s hard knowing who to trust or what to believe.
In the current edition of his website, he launches a broad-based attack on the Huffington Post, which did an article entitled “16 Alarming Secrets That Will Change How You Will Feel About Flying.” I recommend you read the Huffpost article, and then look at what Smith has to say about it entitled “Nonsense from the Huffington Post.”
Not only is Ask the Pilot a great resource for information on flying, but it contains some fascinating travel articles written by a guy who’s been just about everywhere. I like it so much that I am planning to link to it on my own site.