Yesterday I was teaching a safety-themed class to a group of first-time flight attendants. Only one of the twenty-five students had any previous flight attendant experience. As I talked about and explained the responsibility they had in their future jobs, it made me think back to how the airline industry has changed since I joined it in 1998. Back then the cockpit (now often called the flight deck) was a revolving door (every Monday morning I would run up to the cockpit of a 727 to watch the Concord take-off from Newark), passengers weren’t filming or snapping photos and posting them on social media, and, well, today when passengers get out of control other passengers actually jump in to help (looking at you, Richard Marx). In 2000 I had a passenger storm the cockpit, pushing the petite flight attendant aside and not ONE passenger jumped up to help). How times have changed.
With that said, I’ve always enjoyed reading aviation-themed books, especially those that lean on history and real-life facts. This year I’ve had some good luck with aviation-themed reads and have been able to include many of the stories and references to aviation incidents in my presentations. I recommend you check them out:
Violence in the Skies: A History of Aircraft Hijacking and Bombing by Philip Baum (Summersdale, 2017). Mr. Baum is a security expert and editor of Aviation Security International Magazine. I’ve contributed to this fine magazine and find his knowledge insightful, interesting and most of all impressive considering he keeps up with the latest threats and technology in airline security. Mr. Baum developed this outstanding book based off his knowledge and years of deep research. It offers dozens of airline security stories dating back to 1911. The evolution of airport security is based of the stories reflected in Violence in the Skies. Stories bombings, hijackings, and other attempts at sabotage air travel. I consider myself well-versed in aviation history but there were incidents and stories in this book that I had never researched or read about. If you’re looking for insight and entertainment at the same time, this is it.
Jet Blast (Tate Publishing, 2014) by Stephen Carbone. In 2016 I interviewed Mr. Carbone for an aviation feature I was working on. I was impressed with his knowledge and background as an NTSB inspector and working for the FAA. When he mentioned he wrote an aviation-themed fiction book called Jet Blast I knew I had to read it. Here’s the summary: A wide-body jet is nearly lost in the Pacific Ocean, the cause: unknown. Since there was no accident, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) management decides against an investigation.
I enjoyed this book immensely for the authentic details and streamlined plot. This Amazon review especially solidifies the book’s “real life” approach: Mary says: I loved this book! I have an aviation maintenance and accident investigation background, so I am a somewhat demanding reader. Too often the aviation books I have read left me cold because the authors set up impossible plots or made technical errors in the narrative that grate on the reader who has any real aviation experience. Not so this great read! Mr. Carbone writes with an obvious depth of familiarity with today’s complex aviation electronic systems, the government agencies that police the industry, and the men and women who fly and maintain these sophisticated aircraft. I was hooked from the first chapter. The characters are genuine, the action realistic, and the plot certainly timely. I highly recommend Jet Blast to anyone who likes action, suspense and an insider’s view of accident investigation.
The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World’s Most Mysterious Air Disasters (2016, Penguin Books) by Christine Negroni. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Negroni’s for years. She’s aviation savvy and her name seems to be in every byline in aviation news. She wrote this interesting book about air disasters, but what piques most readers’ interests (including mine) is what really happened to MH370. No spoilers here today but I can say say the inflight trainer (and longtime aviation writer and researcher) in me completely can see how her theory is easily spot-on. In addition, I recently transitioned from being an inflight ground instructor to being the Manager of Inflight Standards (think keeping the department and flight attendants aware of changing policies and other new or updated safety factors). However, I will still be staying qualified as an instructor and get to teach my favorite course, leading joint pilot and flight attendant Crew Resource Management (CRM), which was developed due to many of these scenarios Ms. Negroni speaks about in her book. Again, this is another fascinating aviation-themed book for history and entertainment.