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Confessions of an Airline Pilot – Why Planes Crash (Hardback)

Including Tales from the Pilot’s Seat

Aviation > Aviation Biography & Memoirs Military > Memoirs

By Terry Tozer
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399012041
Published: 24th January 2022


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How do you know if the airline you are planning to fly with is safe? What should you be worried about? Is it, Turbulence, lightning or that the pilots might be asleep while the aircraft flies on, on autopilot?

Does a pilot’s life conform to the cliché; a life of foreign adventure with off duty hours spent by the pool in some tropical paradise surrounded by attractive members of the opposite sex?

Or is it a life of commercial pressure to cut corners to keep the show on the road irrespective of the rules?

Surely it can’t be true that the pilots have to jack up a 70 ton aircraft themselves and change a wheel when they get a puncture.

Find out what really happened with the expert investigation into the only crash that Concorde had. This and other detective stories that puzzled investigators are analysed by the author and presented in a highly readable form.

Your questions are answered by providing the reader with a fly in the cockpit view of a series of real flights. Some result in accidents and incidents that demonstrate what the priorities for good safety are. Others are experiences from the author’s own flying career in both passenger airline flying to long haul cargo, with its hidden world of global commerce, military operations and more. Finally, the author offers a suggestion that would offer the passenger an easy way of choosing safe airlines; it could be the answer to equate choosing a flight with choosing other life altering purchases that are already in place.

I’ve read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a very easy read – not too technical – and I particularly found the personal memories very entertaining. It was also fairly reassuring on the safety front. I liked your cheese analogy!

Elizabeth P (Retired)

As Featured In

The Aviation Historian, Issue No. 40

Featured in

JP4 Aviation Monthly - July 2022

“Thanks, Terry. I found your excellent book at the local library. I’m not a pilot, but I’ve always been interested in airplanes and aviation, and once upon a time I worked for Cessna Aircraft and I was a docent a few years ago at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington….. Thanks again for writing a professional pilot’s account of what really goes on in a commercial aircraft’s cockpit. It’s a real eye opener.”


Competition as featured in

Sussex Local (Chichester)

This is much more than a collection of stories. It provides an in-depth analysis and commentary on why airliners crash - usually due to human error.

NetGalley, Sandra Hood

"Have just finished the book. Very informative and very well written. I really enjoyed it, a jolly good read.... the point is well made."

Aviation Engineer

"Just to let you know how much we are enjoying the book. What a compelling read!! ..... we became so absorbed in chapter one that we almost missed the bus into Lancaster."

Customer Review

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it has to be said. Very interesting account of the factors that make up airline crashes, broken down.

I work in the healthcare industry myself, but I could relate to so much that this author was talking about - the culture of shame if you admit to being tired or at the edge of burn out, the factors that go together to create the perfect storm and leads to lost lives, being pushed to accept things that you really shouldn't etc etc. I have been considering doing a Masters on the culture within our industry and the author of this book certainly gave me even more food for thought and things to consider that I had not thought of.

Excellent piece of writing, engaging and interesting, even for those of us who are not pilots or otherwise working in the airline industry.

5 stars from me.

NetGalley, Monica Mac

A thoroughly enjoyable book that is fortunately not macabre, but rather points out the facts of the accidents and is worth reading. Also, a good reminder of why things are done in a particular way is a good way to account for safety in doing tasks.

A interesting good read that should widely appeal to aviation buffs.

NetGalley, Narut Ujnat

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a very honest and frank review of airline accidents peppered with anecdotes from the Author's own experiences. Some of the incidents are well known others less so but in each case Tozer has used the official investigation reports to both tell what happened and what the investigation found were the root causes. To this he adds his own perspective which is less guarded than the official comments and seem to follow common themes based no doubt on a lifetime in the industry. One of these is company culture, specifically where profit gets prioritised ahead of safety. As someone who has worked in Process Safety in the Oil and Gas business this is exactly the same challenge we faced. Ironically, we always looked with envy at the airline industry's levels of safety which were and still are much better than our own! This fact is difficult to remember when reading this book despite Tozer's insistence that the highest risk he faces in a working day is driving to and from the airport. Compared to the number of flights and hours flown globally every day, accidents are very rare but of course when you read a book like this dozens are listed one after the other and it is difficult to keep a perspective. What impressed me was some of the processes instilled in the industry to drive a safe outcome, such as the adherence to safe operating procedures reinforced with checklists and the Cockpit Resource Management dealing with distributed responsibility, clear accountability and communication.
The book is an easy read and even if you know nothing about airlines and flying you will be able to appreciate the content and know more when you next board a plane - provided you have not been scared off!

NetGalley, Michael Neill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book explains the numerous safety measures of airlines, and also how things can go very wrong. I have even more respect for pilots, and I agree that further safety measures should be taken (such as schedules that don't produce fatigue in pilots).

NetGalley, Janette Forman

What a fascinating read. Pretty sure I didn't put this down once I picked it up, which is rare when it comes to non-fiction.

NetGalley, Kady Burns

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

How do you know if the airline you are planning to fly with is safe? What should you be worried about? Is it, Turbulence, lightning or that the pilots might be asleep while the aircraft flies on, on autopilot? This and many topics are discussed in this amazing book. Loved reading this fascinating book!

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

About Terry Tozer

Terry Tozer has contributed to The Independent and wrote Op Ed pieces for the Western Morning News under his own name and the nom de plume of Mike Shapland on non aviation subjects. He is now an established media commentator and a regular speaker on the BBC, Sky, Al Jazeera, Channel 4 and 5 news as well as BBC radio, Talk Radio, LBC Radio and Times Radio stations, where he is the go-to commentator on aviation matters primarily aviation safety. For details of his media appearances and examples of his journalism see www.terrytozer.co.uk
Terry began earning his living flying aeroplanes, in the 1980s as a flying instructor, then coastguard/shipping patrol pilot, an air taxi and air ambulance pilot in the UK and Europe, and since 1988, as an airline pilot. He is uniquely informed and connected in the world of aviation, with access to some of important players in the industry. That said he is no longer involved in union affairs and does not promote union, or any other, interests.

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