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Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections [Kindle Edition]

Patrick Smith
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (327 customer reviews)

Digital List Price: $9.99 What's this?
Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Book Description

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 turbulence, pilot training, and safety
•The real story on congestion, delays, and the dysfunction of the modern airport
•The myths and misconceptions of cabin air and cockpit automation
•Terrorism in perspective, and a provocative look at security
•Airfares, seating woes, and the pitfalls of airline customer service
•The colors and cultures of the airlines we love to hate

Cockpit Confidential covers not only the nuts and bolts of flying, but also the grand theater of air travel, from airport architecture to inflight service to the excitement of travel abroad. It's a thoughtful, funny, at times deeply personal look into the strange and misunderstood world of commercial flying.

It's the ideal book for frequent flyers, nervous passengers, and global travelers.

Refreshed and vastly expanded from the original Ask the Pilot, with approximately 75 percent new material.

Editorial Reviews


"Patrick Smith doesn't just know everything about air travel, he possesses a rare knack for explaining it in lucid and witty prose."

-- Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Travele

"Cockpit Confidential is the document that belongs in the seat-back pocket in front of you."

    -- David Pogue, New York Times correspondent and PBS television host

"Along with the inside scoop on collisions, crashes, and terrorism in air history, Smith paints an unflinching portrait of modern air travel with several fresh and unexpected insights." ---Publishers Weekly


"Brilliant...A book to be savored and passed to friends."
-- William Langewiesche, Vanity Fair

“Nobody covers the airline experience like Patrick Smith. He brings balance and clarity to a subject all too often over-hyped. And, he's a damned good writer.”
-- Clive Irving, Conde Nast Traveler

“I wish I could fold up Patrick Smith and put him in my suitcase. He seems to know everything worth knowing about flying.”
-- Stephen Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics

“Patrick Smith is extraordinarily knowledgeable about modern aviation, and communicates beautifully in English, not in pilot-ese. Th ideal seatmate, companion, writer and explainer.”
-- Alex Beam, Boston Globe

“A brilliant writer, Patrick Smith provides a laugh-a-page tour of a misunderstood industry -- a journey into the world of aviation, stripped of the mumbo-jumbo and filled with humor and insight.”
-- Christine Negroni, aviation correspondent and author of Flying Lessons

"Patrick Smith doesn’t just know everything about air travel, he possesses a rare knack for explaining it in lucid and witty prose."
-- Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Traveler

“Patrick Smith is one of the best writers around, period, which certainly makes him by far the best writer ever to have earned a commercial pilot's license. A soaring accomplishment, indispensable for anyone who travels by air, which means everyone.”
-- James Kaplan

-- Rudy Maxa

“Patrick Smith manages to demystify the experience and remind us of the magic of aviation. Also he has a great sense of humor – which is critical when you are wedged into seat 14D on a regional jet.”
-- Chris Bohjalian

“Brilliantly down to earth and reassuring”
-- Cath Urquhart, The Times (London)

"What a pleasure it is reading Patrick Smith's surprisingly elegant explanations and commentary. The world needs somebody writing E.B. White simple and sensible about a topic everyone has a question about."
-- Berke Breathed

Product Details

  • File Size: 976 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks (May 7, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C69H7RC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,205 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
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 often pedantic and always opinionated, and it all makes for an entertaining book. He has some definite thoughts about the service on airlines, which is a little surprising, since he is a pilot for a major U.S. airline (but he doesn't say which one), and he also has some comments about passengers, which are usually less strident, such as his puzzlement over why sudoku is so popular. Just don't get him started on airport security.

One important reason Smith's book may appeal to more people than a straightforward question and answer book would, is that Smith is not only an industry professional, but he's often a passenger, traveling for fun, so he knows what it's like to sit in coach. This dual point of view, which is apparently not very common among airline employees, many of whom don't care to travel on their own time or dime, gives Smith more perspective, so he's not just the lecturer here, he knows your travelin' pain.

Not only does he travel, he enjoys airports, flying, and seeing new places. He intersperses his question and answer sections with musings on travel. Most entertaining, in my opinion, were his ramblings on questions of design, such as airline logos and slogans.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the real airplane lovers... May 14, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Are you a nervous flyer? Are you someone who'd rather drive than fly? Are you someone who doesn't get excited looking at the lights of planes as they line up in the night sky outside a busy airport, coming in for a landing, one after the other? On the other hand, do you know what the terms "OAG", "triple 7", and "Runway Two-niner" refer to? If you're the latter and not the former, you'll enjoy Patrick Smith's new book, "Cockpit Confidential".

Patrick Smith - the name "Smith" is a nom-de-plume - is an airline pilot and blogger, who operates out of Boston. He used to blog for SALON magazine but I'm not sure he still writes for them. In any case, he has his own website,, and this new book. His previous one, "Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Flying", was published in 2004. Smith has been been a pilot and in love with all forms of air travel since, as a child living in Boston, he'd sit on the Revere beach and watch in awe as planes landed at nearby Logan Airport. He grew up to make a living as first a pilot for a commuter carrier - flying up and down the Atlantic seaboard and all around New England - and then he "graduated" to flying cargo jets for a freight airline. Finally, he's now flying for an international passenger airline. (I think it might be Delta, from what I've been able to glean from his writing. Or, if not, American.) He has been subjected to layoffs during his career and is quite honest about how he - and other pilots - struggle with the on-going airline politics and economic ups-and-down that make a pilot's career somewhat haphazard.

Okay, Patrick Smith and I are airline fanatics. And, probably so are most people reading this review. Most of us fly a lot - Smith is lucky that he gets paid to do so - and we like to see new places.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a frequent flyer? Buy this book. August 23, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you are a road warrior and aviation aficionado, as I am, you won't learn much that is new from this very easy to read tome. On the other hand, if you don't know much about how the airline industry works or what goes on in the cockpit, you will learn a great deal. The author covers a lot of ground and never gets too technical for the average reader. Well worth the price of the Kindle edition.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By Shinbal
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm an aviation geek, and a former fearful-flyer. Patrick Smith's first book, and his columns over the years have made him a confidant and friend to all types of travelers. Those of us who have been hungry for more are thrilled by "Cockpit Confidential" which gives us new stories, new insights, and a new look at the most loved/hated industry in the world. Patrick Smith is the author that rescues us from the aviation "experts" put out there by today's news media, preferring facts and level-headed analysis to silly hype. This book is perfect for so many different types of readers. It evokes fond memories of the glory days of aviation, before pajamas and slippers were standard traveling clothes. It reminds us that, despite delays, lost bags, airline bankruptcies, and way too much bashing by the 24-hour news cycle, flying really is an amazing thing. The reader will learn that flying is safe; safer today, in fact, than ever in history. But it's more than that. Smith's unique, liquid writing style will remind the reader that THE JOURNEY is half the fun of getting there! Best of all, Patrick's writing is fun to read. It's a difficult book to put down because it's fun and informative. Guaranteed - you'll look at your next flight differently, and maybe even come to realize there's still a lot of magic in the air.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars all that I ever wanted to know and then some!
Really enjoyed this informative and entertaining book. I am sure to read at least parts of it again during my next trip which involves flying. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent, informative and engaging book.
Published 3 days ago by babalon1
5.0 out of 5 stars Humour Abound
Chuckle a minute - good read
Published 4 days ago by Leo Morrissette
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Read!
I'm not even sure if Patrick is a Captain of First Officer, but it's a refreshing read. Truth is, some parts at the front I skimmed over, but there is a lot of fun, interesting... Read more
Published 9 days ago by El Craigo
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
Loved this book! I am a huge plane enthusiast and always am wanting to learn more. This book was very informative and made me understand the airline industry, as well as the... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Julie Shogan
4.0 out of 5 stars It is refreshing to read from a true professional commercial ...
It is refreshing to read from a true professional commercial pilot of many years answer questions from the more typical passenger. Read more
Published 13 days ago by tride
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative
Helped with some of my flying fear but parts made me more fearful. Sooo
Published 13 days ago by Barbara A. Perkins
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
Great read, as if you're out with a pilot who's gracefully answering all of your questions about commercial aviation. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Bryan C. Maloney
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, very informative- this guy's a true afficiando !
This guy totally loves his airplanes and anything to do with airplanes. He loves to tell how he could identify planes in the air as he would beg his parents to take him to the... Read more
Published 17 days ago by tleeminnieme
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for the frequent flyer or the first-time-on-a-plane flyer
Great book for the frequent flyer or the first-time-on-a-plane-what-was-that-noise? flyer. Detailed if you're looking for that, easy to read and understand. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Howard D Lippin
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More About the Author

Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, author and air travel blogger.

For ten years his "Ask the Pilot" column was a fixture in the magazine Salon. Today he hosts the popular online site WWW.ASKTHEPILOT.COM, which covers all aspects of air travel, from terrorism and security to airline customer service. Patrick has appeared on over 200 radio and television outlets, and his work has been cited in numerous publications worldwide.

Patrick's writing incorporates a wide range of knowledge and experience from both inside and outside of aviation, incorporating personal stories and insights into geography and culture from his life and travels abroad. (His self-published punk rock fanzines and poetry journals of the 1980s and 1990s are considered among the more peculiar works of literature ever produced by a native of Revere, Massachusetts.)

An avid traveler, Patrick has visited more than eighty countries around the globe.

He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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