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The New Yorker’s Sarah Larson described Mark Vanhoenacker, in her review of his Skyfaring, as having ‘the mind of a scientist and the heart of a poet’. While it’s not a collection of words one might usually use to describe a 747 pilot and British Airways senior first officer, it’s one that perfectly fits both the man and his written display of thoughts on his profession. Serving to re-inject the magic into that which has become mundane to most, Vanhoenacker’s love of air travel soars and swoops through his every page, and is grounded in his childhood dream to be a pilot (he recalls being taken to Disney World and experiencing an itch to re-board the ‘magical vessel’ that conveyed him there). Indeed, the author gave up careers in business and in academia to embark on his pilot training in 2001. But while he praises wings for being ‘this most charmed of our creations’, and lyrically describes the northern lights as like ‘milk poured into iced coffee’, he also admits that even for him, familiarity can breed indifference: ‘Sometimes I find it hard to remain interested… because [the northern lights] appear so regularly.’ Yet despite admissions like these, Vanhoenacker’s fine, nonlinear consideration of the magic of flight gives us many reasons to marvel in that state of ‘in-betweenness’ that to many of us has become so unspectacular and uninteresting.

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