One of's most enduring and popular Columns.

Flying is like a drug for me: I not only still enjoy every kilometre I fly in commercial airliners (although I clock up about 90.000 of them every year), I have also started flying myself, buzzing around the skies of New Zealand in a small Cherokee, making my flying instructor terribly nervous.

So for me a column about commercial airliners is a must read: "Ask the Pilot" has been featured in's "Technology" section since 2001. It's published fortnightly and contains the musings of a commercial airline pilot called Patrick Smith (although I doubt whether that is his real name) on planes, airlines, pilots, airports and everything else that is associated with commercial airtraffic.

Always intending to debunk some popular myths about flying, he also champions improvement of the harsh working conditions under which commercial pilots have to suffer, starting from ridiculously low pay to exposure to radiation and crap food and impossible shifts. His writing is consistently fluent and amusing, with a wonderful collection of anecdotes to fall back on.

This is how he describes himself:

Patrick Smith, 37, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker, freelance contributor and author. Patrick has visited more than 50 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

I gather from his writing that he had quite a chequered career, flying everything from small turbo-prop commuter planes to large cargo jets and intercontinental passenger routes. With that sort of experience his comments on the performance of planes, staff and airlines are quite believable and certainly add regularly to my rather incomplete knowledge on flying.

A flying nerd's "must read"


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