At its core, Skyfaring: A Journey With a Pilot is a book about engineering as art. It is a poem about the human desire to connect and be somewhere, anywhere, nowhere. For its author, commercial pilot Mark Vanhoenacker, it is about a lifelong romance with flying, soaring above the terra firma, looking down on a planet that is a spiderweb of beacons,
invisible routes, trails and boundaries that hardly mirror the states below.
Skyfaring is a great summer read: If, like me, you are traveling, it makes you understand planes, airports and our desires to experience the known and unknown. It is a memoir, but it is also a handy guide to the artistry and nuance of those contrails seen in the early hours of the morning.
It is a pilots view of the flying experience, which is different from passengers perspectives, those of us sealed in the metal tube predictably complaining on Twitter about long delays, short-tempered staff and lost bags. Rarely do we think about the marvel that is the plane, or the functional chaos that is the airport. And rarer still do we thin
k of the pilot, who only creeps into our consciousness via dulcet tones announcing our departure, the weather or our imminent arrival. We have lost our sense of wonder about this miracle of flying. How is breakfast in Paris and dinner on a beach in the Caribbean all in the same day not magical?
Skyfaring is Mark Vanhoenackers effort to inject wonder back into our flying experience. For some unexpected reason, Mark sent me a copyhe somehow knew I was a traveler. It was signed with a very personal note. I was pleasantly surprised, and I vowed to read the book next time I was on a plane. I bought a Kindle version, mostly to support a fello
w writer, and queued my favorite songs for reading on my aging iPod shuffle. I was set. I read it on my way to Paris and then on my way to the Virgin Islands and then on my way home. I finished it in about 13,000 miles, aboard two different Airbus models, two different Boeings, a Cessna turboprop and a Piper prop plane. Alas, none of the reading oc
curred in a 747, the plane Mark flies.
Some paragraphs are so achingly beautiful and articulate that I found myself moved to a state between elation and tears I read it over my country. I read it over the Atlantic Ocean, twice. And the Caribbean Sea. I saved the ending for last night, timed to my journeys end. So what do I think? It just might be the best book I have read so far this y