Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How to Make Air Travel Plain Sailing; but Can This Book Get Victoria Coren on to a Plane?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How to Make Air Travel Plain Sailing; but Can This Book Get Victoria Coren on to a Plane?

Article excerpt

Byline: VICTORIA COREN

THE FLYING BOOK: Everything You've Ever Wondered about Flying on Airlines by David Blatner (Penguin, [pounds sterling]12.99)

THIS is a funny old book, I must say.

Some 248 pages about how aeroplanes fly.

Chapter headings like Cockpit Instruments, Airplane Fuel and Flight Statistics. Who is it supposed to be for? Not pilots, surely, since they already know how planes fly. And not holidaymakers who happily jet from beach to beach, because they don't especially care. The only people I can imagine buying a book which explains the concept of flying are those who are frightened of it.

Happily enough, I am just such a person. My approach to aircraft technology is that of an ill-travelled New Guinea tribesman: "Big metal bird not stay in sky.

Me stay on ground." I was once only mildly afraid, until I went for treatment with a fear-of-flying counsellor. Then he died in a plane crash.

I'm not kidding.

I wouldn't say the whole experience allayed my suspicions.

Since then I have tried everything from hypnotherapy to good oldfashioned train travel, so I'm quite prepared to have a go at a book which might prove reassuring.

Unfortunately, those of us who fear flying tend not to be logical people. We do not operate by statistics, so don't come to us with your "millions-to-one". When we board a plane, it will either crash or it will not.

The odds are no more and no less than 50-50. We have overactive imaginations: we can already smell the burning fuselage, we can hear the prayers of terrified passengers, we can see the child's toy floating atop the ocean waves on that night's Channel 4 News. We like reading stories, and few of us were any good at school physics.

David Blatner does not really pander to our love of a good story. …

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