I love to fly, but I very rarely enjoy reading books about flying, especially while in an airplane: all too often they involve words like “plummet”, “screaming”, “disaster” and “splatted”. Nothing like reading a sentence that combines all four of those and then spending a few tense hours at several thousand feet staring out the windows trying to work out if the wing normally wobbles that much.
Books that should never appear in airport booksellers (that I have actually see stocked) include all the various “air crash investigations” series, any of the 4 books I have seen with “air disaster” in their title and – of course – Alive, the infamous story of 16 blokes crashed in the Andes eating the unthinkable, which will not only put you off flying but right off your inflight meal.
Ideally in-flight books should be diverting enough to distract you from the plane, not remind you you’re on one. So you would imagine that reading Qf32: The Captain’s Extraordinary Account Of How One Of The World’s Worst Air Disasters Was Averted by Qantas pilot Richard De Crespigny would be right out.
But as near-disaster stories go, it’s a very reassuring one, and this is down in no small measure to the calm and clear explanations of what does happen onboard when things start to go badly wrong. And Richard should know. He was the captain on what should have been a routine long-haul flight from Singapore to Sydney, piloting one of Qantas’s new A380 aircraft. It should have been a routine flight but shortly after leaving Changi Airport, an explosion shattered engine 2, sending hundreds of pieces of shrapnel ripping through the wing and fuselage, and creating chaos as vital flight systems and back-ups were damaged or destroyed.
The flight, with nearly 500 people on board, had the potential to be one of history’s worst aviation disasters. Some advance reports even stated that the plane had crashed but the experienced flight crew, led by De Crespigny, managed to land and safely disembark their passengers after hours of nerve-wracking effort.
The book doesn’t just shed light on what happened on that flight. It follows Richard’s life and career, from his time with the RAAF through over 20 years and Qantas, and explains the skills and training of a top-level airline pilot. Richard clearly loves to fly and is confident in the air, but he’s sympathetic to those of us who aren’t, as he explained in an interview with Escape’s Doc Holiday.
I have and will always be sympathetic to nervous flyers; this is why the QF32 crew behaved the way they did, informing and debriefing the passengers. I can’t emphasise enough that the crew have extraordinary skills and are trained to look after you in the case of an emergency. Whatever the emergency, the pilots and crew in the good airlines have been trained for every contingency and you are in the best hands! They know what they are doing. They have been trained, they are knowledgeable and they will not panic.
And is he confident that training is backed up by safe planes? When should we be staring out the window at the wobbling wing and wondering.
Aboard the top world airlines: never. You are safer in the aircraft than you were driving to the airport.
So, thanks to this book, from here on in I’ll feel a little calmer in the air. Instead, I’ll be worrying while in the car Anyone got any recommended reading for when I’m not driving?