The Captains’ Airline by Art Samson

Tanuki with his long winter coat.
Tanuki with his long winter coat.

Why I Read It: I work in the accident investigation field and thought this would be an interesting read.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who are interested in accident investigation in reality, not the glamorized movie versions.

Publisher: Incubation Press (2012)

Length: 419 pages

Having worked in the accident investigation field for several years now, I was attracted to this book. The airline industry, along with the hospital industry, are often held up as models of how to incorporate good communication and team building in high-risk situations. This book is set in the second half of the 1980s, primarily following two men who work for Omega airlines. Omega has suffered several near misses to accidents, and several real accidents in the preceding years, keeping them on the radar of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Bradley Morehouse use to fly with the Blue Angels, gaining him prestige with many of his coworkers. His marriage is an empty one, as his wife pursues a high-powered career in television reporting. Gradin Jones is an Omega pilot, married with a few kids, stuck in the grind of required checklists, having lost the glamor of being a pilot. Both men find themselves in the middle of minor accidents that could have turned out much worse.

This book is full of pilot jargon and industry acronyms; so if you have a keen interest in this field it is probably more exciting than to the average reader, who must take time to puzzle over these things. Even though I am somewhat familiar with this jargon, I still found myself wishing for a Definitions & Acronyms section at the back of the book. Still, Art Samson used several real accidents as examples in this book, with the federal investigation numbers provided as foot notes. This would be a good book for an accident investigation class.

Overall, I found myself interested in the personal lives of the two main characters, concerned about their careers and home lives. The male characters were almost always introduced with a small resume list of their career accomplishments, which gave them some depth and was interesting. However, this was unbalanced by the lack of depth for the female characters, who were simply introduced by name and some physical attribute or their ability to make good coffee.

Let’s talk about sexism in the airline industry in the 1980s. Prevalent? Hell, yes! While this book stays true to that, it does not show the ludicrousy of sexism by holding up a token fully capable woman or by revealing the limiting chauvinistic attitude. Overall, all characters in the book seem quite comfortable with the inequality. This is fiction, and in my fiction I like the author to take things a step further and show me how the world can be so much more than what it normally is day to day. While I enjoyed certain elements of this book, I can’t say that it attained it’s full potential.

What I Liked: Real federal investigations cited; the banter between the crews and the training groups; detailed look into the numerous, never-ending required checklists before, during, and after flight; the final accident action scene was written very well; there was poetry and a book store; Admiral the dog.

What I Disliked:
The book was told from the male point of view; the women were mostly sex objects, even if they were fully capable within their limited assigned role of wife, stewardess, coffee-maker; I think the book would have benefited from 1 more round of editing to cut down on the extraneous wording in certain scenes.

10 thoughts on “The Captains’ Airline by Art Samson”

    1. I didn’t realize how many checklists there were before, during, and after flight for commercial airlines. I do enjoy learning new things while reading fiction.

  1. I think the sexism would start to weigh on me. Obviously I haven’t read it, but it does seem like it would get annoying. And I make a horrible cup of coffee.

  2. This would probably put me off flying ever again. I don’t think I would enjoy all the jargon or the overt sexism! But, thank you, for the review.
    BTW I love your dog! Tanuki – what a cool name – does it mean something or is it a character – enquiring minds need to know 😉

  3. I’ve read airplane books in the past that I feel lost me after a few chapters because of the lingo. I have a sneaky suspicion this would be that kind of book. It’s kind of a cool idea though. I just wish it was more accessible. (this is me saying I wish it was a MG book 😉 )

    1. Yeah, if you’re not familiar with flight lingo, you can get bogged down in parts. The author often defined an acronym or flight term the first time it was used, but without a Definitions Section, who is going to remember the page #s of where the term was defined.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. It was interesting from an accident investigation point of view, but if you’re not in the field or have a keen interest, it might not appeal.

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