Review: Squawk 7700

Peter Buffington’s Squawk 7700 is partly the bittersweet memoir of a man who had to give up on his dream of flying for a living and partly an indictment of the state of the airline industry that led him to that point.  I am naturally sympathetic to both of those aspects.  I love flying and dislike the idea that making a living doing it is closed to people with a passion for it.  I also see the dangers and unfairness of the treatment of regional airline pilots.  They have to work incredibly long hours at a technically and physically demanding job for the kind of money we pay house painters.  That is a recipe for trouble and more people should be aware of why their tickets are so cheap.

Buffington writes knowledgably and with heart about the technical topics and the hopes and routine days of an aviation professional.  He also is unflinching about the state of professionalism that he finds at all levels of the aviation world. There are a lot of useful facts and many interesting anecdotes in the work.

All that said, I think Buffington’s editors have let him down. As I say, there are two related but distinct books in here vying for time and focus –  the memoir and the warning.  Walking the line so that they reinforce each other’s message rather than distract from each other is no easy task, and Buffington is not always successful.  The dispassionate tone of a whistleblower creeps into his memoir at times, reducing the reader’s sympathy, and the inflamed tone of storyteller comes through in critiques of policy that may be better served by a cool assessment of facts that need no magnification.  There are some spots where closer copyediting would clarify the technical portions as well.

Overall I agree with his assessment, and respect his passion.  I think another editing pass or two would make those clearer to readers outside the aviation world, who would benefit greatly from hearing what he has to say.

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