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How to Fly a 747

How to Fly a 747

Submitter: This book I found in our local library in the children’s section a year after 9/11.  I could not believe my eyes when I saw this.

Holly: In 2001 this book was nine years old.  After 2001 there wasn’t much reason to keep it, given the picture and caption above.  It’s just irrelevant (not to mention irreverent!)  I’m curious to know what this book is actually about, though.  Sure, kids like airplanes, but “How to Fly a 747?” How much detail could it possibly go into about either flying or 747s?

0 Responses to How to Fly a 747

  • Yikes. “Normally avoided.”

  • Wow. There’s so much I could say about this one.

  • Geez, a little freaky no?

  • Yes, quite freaky lol

  • Looks like an interesting book from what little details you’ve provided. Maybe it gives general information about the processes it takes to fly a 747, which would perhaps be interesting for a kid thinking of becoming a pilot.

    Unsubscribed btw, what a stupid, alarmist, braindead post.

  • That is eerie.

  • I don’t think that alone is reason enough to weed it. That little frisson of spookiness and sadness that we feel when we read that — what’s wrong with a kid feeling that?

    For instance, I think I, as a kid, got a pretty valuable perspective by reading old books wherein eugenics was not yet a discredited idea. I was about 14 when I read “Gaudy Night” the first time, which has an American busybody in England to promote eugenic ideas, and she is treated merely as a sort of comic relief. I seem to recall reading a few G.B. Shaw plays at the same time that treat eugenic ideas as self-evident truths, and there are dozens of other books like that which I can’t recall the titles of (I know I was a big fan of John Buchan at the time… I recall that his “Prester John” doesn’t feature eugenics so much as as straight up racism, but definitely an exotic, imperial kind of racism compared to today’s).

    Should these books have been pulled from the shelves after the Holocaust made us realize exactly what that kind of reasoning leads to? One certainly can’t read those passages without wincing today. But reading that kind of thing gave me a better sense of the context of the Holocaust, I think, than my peers had at the same time. Why it happened, what people were thinking, how popular those ideas were, how easily it could’ve happened here instead. Disappear all of that into the memory hole (or make it available only to adult scholars of this kind of thing) and I think we’re more at risk of it happening again.

    The analogy isn’t perfect, but why shouldn’t kids read about a time when the WTC was so tall that it was a hazard to air traffic, understand what kind of a landmark it was (to be referred to so specifically in a book which has nothing to do with the buildings of New York), see a picture of it looking like some kind of glowing beacon or gate on the horizon… Especially if it happened before they were born? What better way to give them a sense of what it meant to us, who were adults at the time? This is exactly the kind of thing you ought to stumble upon in old library books, IMO.

    Now if the info about 747’s is completely out of date and irrelevant now, that’s a different story. Nobody will want to check it out anyway. But otherwise — let this kind of serendipitous history lesson happen.

    • I agree, the idea that kids need to be protected from anything that isn’t safely coated in “reverent” sentiments, and that they might somehow be damaged by exposure to a haunting reference like this, is strange to me.

      Actually I think that attitude goes hand in hand with the idea that a relatively smart kid couldn’t harmlessly learn something about flying a jetliner. Kids are curious. This book strikes me at first glance as not condescending to them unduly: a rare quality in kids’ nonfiction, alas.

  • A few weeks ago, our family was watching an old movie–either The Three Stooges or Abbott & Costello, I forget which one–and a rocket ship was launched with one of the guys in it and started circling around the skyscrapers of New York (using some very primitive special effects). My husband and I exchanged uneasy glances. For anyone who remembers September 11, just the visual of a flying object and tall buildings is enough to make one a little queasy.

  • NORMALLY avoided? Shouldn’t that be ‘ALWAYS’ avoided? Unless the author meant in terms of having to fly around it. That illustration is really, really…wow.

  • Though this book needs to go due to dated information, I tend to agree with Mary Salit. The images of 9/11 are permanently burned into my brain, and in the months after, I would cringe every time a plane flew overhead. However, I don’t find encounters with pictures of the Towers–even in this context–cringe-worthy. It’s more like old photos of my mom glamming it up with a cigarette back in the ’30s and ’40s. Her eventual death from lung cancer makes those portraits poignant rather than creepy, and my present response doesn’t dim the youthful vitality of those old black and whites.

  • Yeah, I’d weed this for dated information. I believe the flying process and cockpit has been improved quite a lot ’92, and of course, this book wouldn’t have any of the new safety and security measures that were implemented after 2001.

    I’d love to see that pilot that landed the plane in the Hudson river write a more up-to-date book though!

  • The illustration shows a glass cockpit, which is still the state of the art in 747s. Not dated.

  • Anyone can ‘fly’ a 747 on Microsoft Flight Simulator, if they so desire. The 2002 version was withdrawn and delayed in its release (due late September 2001) so they could remove the WTC from its default scenery. Every pre-9/11 reference to the WTC now seems macabre simply because it was such a surreal act of barbarism.

    Equally creepy are the details of Nazi plans to attack New York with atomic weapons. They hoped to drop a bomb more or less at Ground Zero. Luckily their jet engines were hopeless and they never got their A-bomb program off the ground – mainly because all their best scientists were Jewish and had been exiled to work for the good guys. So much for racism (Al Quaeda take note).

  • @ Ralph – you’re referring to the ‘Amerika Bomber’ project. It is rumoured (I emphasise rumoured) that the Germans got as far as a trans-Atlantic recce mission using a Junkers Ju390. Their most promising design for raids on the Eastern Seaboard was the Horten Ho.18 ‘Flying Wing’, which is believed to have ultimately inspired the current B2 stealth bomber.
    *aviation history geek mode off*
    Okay, the references to the WTC are unfortunate, but imagine for a moment you are a beautiful (if slightly crosseyed) stewardess on Columbia flight 409 from Dulles, and suppose your flight happens to be involved in a mid-air collision with a private aircraft that rips away half the flight deck and kills the flight crew and “Oh my God, there’s no one left to fly the plane!” – wouldn’t you be wishing you still had this book to hand?

  • Although some aspects of avionics and aviation-related technology have changed since 1992, you would be surprised (or horrified) at how much hasn’t, particularly with regard to FAA regulations and air traffic control systems. If the average air passenger knew how many “near-misses” there are every day at major airports, train travel would increase exponentially. Most juvenile literature doesn’t go into that much detail about the technology; and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for a young reader to ask about the World Trade Center — that’s a teachable moment for parents. So this book might be OK for a few more years, as long as 747s are actually being flown, which they still are.

  • I was re-watching The Wiz a year or so after 9/11, and I did get a little shiver when they arrived at the “Emerald City”. Yup, you guessed it, WTC. But it’s still a great surreal movie.

  • Does the poster mean to say that children’s books on flying aren’t to be allowed after 11 September 2001 ? In that case, I suggest that the events of 6 and 9 August 1945 are far more powerful and cogent reasons for not teaching children about flying aircraft. Or is it commercial airliners and more specifically Boeing 747s that are now taboo ? In that case, it should noted that no Boeing 747s were involved in the events of 11 September 2001 – at least not according to the official picture. Let us please keep our hands off library books – a society in which books are removed from library shelves because they remind someone of unpleasant events – or of views about the world which they dislike – is hardly one we wish to encourage. Seventy-odd years ago a war in here in Europe was started by a regime that made it a standard practice to see to it that unpleasant books were removed from libraries, schools and universities – that war ended up killing dozens of millions before the regime in question was defeated. Vestigia terrent !…


  • @ Henri – I don’t think the objection was to children learning about flying aircraft (at least I certainly hope it wasn’t); more that the reference to the WTC was not only anachronistic, but could be deemed in poor taste.

    As the 747 remains in widespread service – as WeedingGirl points out – this book could still be deemed ‘relevant’, though I suspect modern kids would be more interested in ‘How to Fly a Dreamliner/A380/Superjet’ than this. Having said that, obsolescence doesn’t necessarily mean diminished interest – I’ll bet books about Concorde are checked out every day, and that baby is long gone from our skies.

  • I am proud to announce that everyone defending this book is a complete and total idiot. Especially YOU Alice Bluegown, for the simple fact you’ve never seen a particular episode of Mythbusters.

    Now, it’s my turn. I’ve probably made a lot of you furious, but as the daughter of a pilot, I feel I should be heard. Everyone defending this book because it shows you how to fly a plane is an idiot because… 747’s have autopilots.

    Yeah. I said it. They said it on Mythbusters, too, look it up. On the other hand, everyone defending this book because it’s appropriate for children has never raised a child. You know why that is? Use your heads. Do you really think they’re going to risk a book that explains how to fly a 747 in any degree getting into the hands of a child? The first thing a child of a certain age or grade of curiosity will do upon getting on board a 747 is try to get into the cockpit. If in the strange event you don’t get thrown off immediately, god forbid the child actually manages to press the wrong button!

    Congratulations, you all share a single braincell. I’m sorry for getting all upset about this, but like I said, my Dad did this for most of his life. This means a lot to me. Don’t try to defend something you don’t understand. Lesson learned, okay?

  • This is an excellent post and may be one that is followed up to see what happens

    A pal emailed this link the other day and I will be excitedly hoping for your next piece of writing. Carry on on the top-notch work.

  • Discovered your website via bing the other day and absolutely love it. Keep up the great work.

  • @DSan: Do you honestly think this book aimed at children is a risk to the safety of airplane passengers??? That a child is going to storm the cockpit and cause the plane to plummet to the ground, killing everyone aboard? Seriously?!?