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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't be put down, 5 Mar. 2010
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This review is from: Aloft (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This is a book of essays about plane crashes. Real-life tragedies. Edge-of-the-seat cockpit transcripts from the black box. Real-life `whodunnits', from the mysterious apparent suicide of Egyptair 990 outbound from New York in 1999, to the harrowing breakup of the space shuttle Columbia over Texas in 2003. Often, catalogues of chains of jaw-dropping human failures, or almost unbelievable combinations of bad luck.
But "Aloft" is not just for those of a slightly morbid disposition. This is because the author is both a journalist and a pilot. If his flying is as good as his writing, then I only wish he could be at the controls whenever I fly as a humble, slightly nervous economy-class passenger.
The quality of the writing is superb. This is a book that, truly, one cannot put down. It is superb, not least because Langewiesche is not a voyeur or a sensationalist. He expresses in smoothly flowing, well-honed English, not only his compassion for the fortunately extremely rare victims of modern air disasters, but also his great love of flying and of the world seen from above.
In the latter field he can be almost poetic, but he also has all the technical data at his fingertips, explaining reasonably clearly some of those complexities of advanced aircraft navigation which your pilot may have touched on during your flight, but which you perhaps always wanted to understand more fully.
When you have read it, no doubt at one sitting, try "Fly By Wire", Langewiesche's equally absorbing account of the recent memorable "Miracle on the Hudson" when a crippled Airbus made an almost perfect water landing in New York, with no loss of life. This latter volume particularly recommended if you are nervous about flying!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary flying wisdom, 1 Mar. 2011
By 
John Joss (Los Altos, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Aloft (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
William Langewiesche is a writer of extraordinary skill and remarkable perception. He is also a pilot of extensive experience and the son of one of flying's greatest exponents (his late father Wolfgang's book, STICK AND RUDDER, is one of the eternal pillars of the craft of flying and should be read by every pilot at every skill level). He writes with elegance and style.

ALOFT is a collection of the author's essays written over a fairly long timespan. The book addresses issues that hundreds of millions of us experience worldwide, year after year, but few understand well: flight, flying, airplanes and the sky. Add another vital dimension: the weather, which the author writes about with appropriate respect in a chapter titled "The Angry Sky," through which we may ponder the reality that Nature bats last and should demand endless respect from mere humans.

The book traces many different aspects of flying and the natural environment of air and space above the surface of the earth. One core consideration attacks the reader: flying is not a natural act except to birds, bees and other flying devices. Every ascent by man more than a few feet above the earth invites a visit below. Langewiesche looks at everything with a coldly analytical eye, the same kind of clinical skills of observation that have informed his many excellent works over the years. Yet he scrupulously avoids jargon or technical cant.

Pilots will find his material fascinating, including his terrifying analyses of accidents such as the loss of an Air India 747 flying out of Bombay, the re-entry breakup of the Columbia space shuttle, and the collision of an executive jet with an airliner at 37,000 feet over the Brazilian jungle. He shows a forensic-analyst's ability to examine, review, balance and decide in the presence of extreme technical complexity. He would make an excellent expert witness at an accident investigation.

Of course he is not omniscient--he fails to note, for example, that under the stress of an emergency the human, physiological reflex is to 'boresight' the vision and exclude peripheral information that could deliver life-saving solutions. And he does not comment on a truly shocking NTSB defect: the absence of battery backup for the aircraft data and cockpit voice-data recorders that, in the case of the EgyptAir 990 crash, meant that the last 114 critical seconds of the flight were not recorded as to aircraft behavior or cockpit conversation when the engines and their generators were shut down (note: the author of this review attempted at the time to ask why battery backup was not mandated, but received no intelligent response). And, with respect to the view from aloft available to everyone these days, he needs to edit and update to reflect the views offered by satellite services such as Google Earth.

Non-pilots may be at times shocked by his candour but should in the end come to trust his appraisal of airplanes and their complex systems and equipment, pilots of many kinds, air-traffic controllers, the governing and examining bodies--the entire spectrum of interested and involved organizations and people involved in flying. Those readers should also abandon fear of flying on commercial aircraft, which statistically (as is widely known) is many times safer than driving to the airport.

Readers of almost any persuasion, who derive pleasure from the precise use of language, will be thrilled by Langewiesche's extraordinarily supple and readable prose.

Here is a book that satisfies on many levels. It stands with some of the very best writing about flying, ever. It ranks, for example, with some of Richard Bach's best work (e.g. STRANGER TO THE GROUND and A GIFT OF WINGS), or the lovely book by Jeffrey Quill, (SPITFIRE: A Test Pilot's Story), or many of the flying novels of the late Ernest Gann.

Even if the author claims, in his introductory notes, that he did not want to write further about flying after having done so much of it, and had to be bullied by his editors to do more, perhaps he protests too much. He has wisdom and a voice in flying that needs to be exercised and that we should listen to. With any luck, given the right editor, he will be persuaded to add to his writing oeuvre in the domain of the sky, perhaps in subsequent editions of this very special book. I, for one, would like to read his analysis of the Air France Airbus A340 loss over the Atlantic, once the bare facts are known, or his description of the two non-stop, unrefeueled round-the-world flights so far achieved.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A pilot's book, 9 Aug. 2010
By 
J. Mincham (kings Langley UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Aloft (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Like his father (who wrote Stick and Rudder, one of the best books ever written on the art and tecnique of flying) William Langewiesche writes both well and informatively. All pilots, whether professional or, like me, pleasure pilots, should read this book. It gives you insights and will enhance your awareness and general piloting skills. It also conveys the enthusiasms of a man who really loves to fly.
Highly recommended for all those with relevant interest and/or skills.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deep insight, 21 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Aloft (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This book is a valuable contribution to Flight Safety. In it, William Langewiesche studies aircraft accidents in depth, not only from the technical viewpoint, but also goes into the deeper reasons and organisational flaws which in many cases make accidents more likely, and in some cases inevitable. He is an experienced pilot himself, so he knows what he is talking about. Thoroughly absorbing and intensely interesting. I strongly recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What a great read, 21 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Aloft (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This is a great read.
Whether you fly or not (I do) you cant avoid being drawn into Mr Langewiesche's writing.
Anyone who flies should read this, anyone who doesn't should read it anyway as it will dispel a lot of the myths that leave some scared of flying.
A cracking read. His book Fly by Wire is even better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read, 31 Jan. 2014
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Beautifully written, each chapter left me spellbound. Langewiesche journalistic skill is to turn even the most mundane technical matter into a fascinating read. Well worth it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Aloft but not aloof, 3 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Aloft (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Really good. First class writing and good journalism. You don't have to be especially interested in aviation to enjoy the quality of the writing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read after your flight!, 15 April 2015
By 
N. K. Bullock (Altrincham, Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Very thought provoking and a little bit frightening!
The authors aviation background brings the cockpit firmly to life.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I join in with the good Reviews - but ..., 19 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: Aloft (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
... I would like to make a comment on "On a Bombay Night (The Turn continued). On page 45, 5th line from the bottom, the author says: "He (the Captain) swore, 'Arey Yar!'

'Arey Yaar' is not swearing. It's an exclamation full of despair, a cry for help to a friend. He obviously realised that something was going terribly wrong, he might even have realised that there was nothing left he could do. 'Arey Yaar' (also 'Are Yar') means 'hey man/friend'. 'Arey' = hey; 'Yaar' = friend. But a close friend. Arey Yaar is Hindi and in that situation and context a shocked cry for help to a friend.

It's like we do in certain situations. No matter how professionally trained we are, there are moments when we call out for our mother, or a close friend, well aware that it's irrational because they're not there and couldn't help anyway if they WERE there.

He was totally taken aback and shocked, knowing his fate. And so was his copilot.
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Aloft (Penguin Modern Classics)
Aloft (Penguin Modern Classics) by William Langewiesche (Paperback - 25 Feb. 2010)
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