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Book review: ‘How To Land A Plane’ by Mark Vanhoenacker

If you are a long term HFP reader you might remember Rob’s book review of Mark Vanhoenacker’s ‘Skyfaring – A Journey with a Pilot’ about two years ago. Mark Vanhoenacker is a British Airways Boeing 747 pilot who regularly writes for several publications including The New York Times and Skyfaring was his first published book.

Now Mark’s second book has been published as part of Quercus’ ‘Little Ways to Live a Big Life’ series. The other titles are How To Play The Piano, How To Count To Infinity, How To Draw Anything and How To Understand E=mc2.

The publisher kindly sent us a copy of How To Land A Plane and here is my review. Although, to be honest, I’d also have liked How To Draw Anything as I can only draw clouds……

I’m not scared of flying. If I was I’d certainly have the wrong job and should not be jetting off to write hotel and flight reviews. I do, however, get nervous every time the captain announces ‘cabin crew seats for landing’ as this announces my least favourite part of every flight. For some reason my mind starts playing all kinds of scenarios that all lead to the plane bursting into flames …….

I obviously wasn’t too keen on reading a whole book about a plane landing.

But I’m glad that I did.

How To Land A Plane allows the reader to take a seat in the captain’s seat, which itself is kind of exciting. If you’ve ever looked properly at a picture of a cockpit you should have noticed a vast amount of switches, levers and screens and asked yourself how someone can memorise them all and use them at the right time.

Mark Vanhoenacker uses a lot of illustrations and takes the reader through the landing step by step. Whilst a plane landing is a very technical thing you don’t need any technical knowledge to understand what’s happening in the cockpit.

Of course this book doesn’t replace professional flight training but it does help understand the skills it takes to bring a plane safely to the ground. You even learn what those runway markings are.

If you have an hour to spare, preferably whilst on a plane, How To Land A Plane is a great book choice. It has only 58 pages and is very easy to read.

The RRP of £9.99 for the hard copy version seems slightly overpriced, but Amazon is currently selling the book for £6.94.  It would make a decent stocking filler for any aviation enthusiasts or business traveller in your family.

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  1. ‘If you have an hour to spare, preferably whilst on a plane’

    Is it just me or do others think they some fellow travellers may take this the wrong way? I can almost see the outcry now. ‘Passenger arrested at LHR after concerns about the book he was reading.’

    • I’m currently training for my PPL, and travel a lot for work. I’ve been doing all of the study for the written exams while on aeroplanes. Realised that sitting reading the section in “Operational Procedures” all about engine fires, while sat on the tarmac at LHR might have seen slightly alarming to any nervous traveller sat near me!

      Can recommend the “How to land a plane” book though, as a student pilot it was actually a really helpful description.

    • The missed red flag over 9/11 was that the guys paid for take off and in-flight training but not landing …..

      • Colin mackinnon says:

        As a flying instructor, I can tell you that the correct order for learning to fly is:

        Learn how to control the aircraft: i.e. “learn to fly”.

        Learn how to take-off.

        Learn how to land.

        ( although landing is actually about keeping the aircraft flying until it wont fly anymore!)

    • I read this article, and subsequently book, whilst on a plane:

      If anything, it makes you appreciate how safe planes are. The book is definitely worth a read.

  2. Hingeless says:

    Downloaded it , will read on my flight to SIN tomorrow 🙂

  3. The author was interviewed in the Layovers podcast recently.. which I also recommend subscribing to

    • Thanks, always on the lookout for a good podcast (esp now the 50 things that made the modern economy has almost finished) so have subscribed 🙂

  4. Oh! Matron! says:

    Skyfaring was a great book! Really enjoyed it and beautifully written