'Plane Truth' has author
By Kelly Feser Eells
"The Plane Truth" is
former Ojai resident and longtime flight attendant A. Frank Steward's
(A. Frank Steward, get it?) second book about the often madcap,
occasionally maddening world of a really frequent flyer.
Taking off where his first tell-all, "The Air Traveler's
Survival Guide" (2001), touched down, "The Plane Truth"
(2004) is, like its predecessor, more cockpit confessional than
instruction manual. Yet both books offer plenty of practical
tips, not all of them "air traveler" specific, either.
Indeed, "He who laughs lasts" is the sort of advice
jetsetters and homebodies alike can appreciate. They are also
the four words Steward lives by, as readers of either one of
his books soon discovers.
And if "The Plane Truth" - subtitled, "Shift Happens
at 35,000 Feet" - sounds a somewhat "earthier"
tone than "Survival Guide," it also sounds a more poignant
one: Steward dedicates the newer release to " the memory
of the fallen flight crew members of Sept. 11, and the unspoken
heroes on the days that followed."
Especially poignant is "Insecurity Revisited," a post-Sept.
11 look at air travel safety. "My first book," he writes,
"was released on Sept. 10, one day before the terrorist
events of 9/11. And in the chapter 'Insecurity,' I stated that
America's airports were a tragedy waiting to happen."
Steward goes on to say that, while "the timing (of 'Survival
Guide's' release) was unfortunate," he doesn't regret making
the eerily prescient comment. "It was a feeling shared by
many airline employees" at the time.
But going public with such a feeling - "pen name" notwithstanding
- wasn't without its drawbacks. "People would ask me how
I 'predicted' the tragedy," he recalls, "and I just
didn't want to be associated with anything like that. Here I'd
written this fun book, the kind I like to read when I fly
"Let's be frank: the whole airline industry, passengers
and employees, could use a deviation."
And "The Plane Truth" certainly fits the bill.
Steward's in-your-face writing style and "when life hands
you lemons, make lemonade" attitude make for a lively read;
he even "revisits" airport security issues on an up
note, concluding that "air travel is safer now than it ever
But it's also, he cheerfully adds, more of a hassle than it's
ever been, too: In addition to offering advice for getting through
the new airport security procedures as painlessly as possible,
e.g., "Pick one line and stick to it;" "Don't
cause a scene (if singled out for a head-to-toe 'scan'),"
he encourages travelers to "Be 'Frank.'"
Speak up when you witness a breach or lack of security. Nothing
should go unnoticed in this day and time. The life you save may
be your own but it may be mine as well."
"The Plane Truth," however, is mostly about people
- and Steward's met all kinds.
Though working in the "loftiest" industry in the world
is a surefire way to meet people from every walk of life, Steward's
been a dedicated "people watcher" for as long as he
After his graduation from Nordhoff High School "about 20
years ago," he moved to Germany, where he found work as
a member of a "private jazz band, playing everything from
nightclubs to opening ceremonies, but mostly German beer festivals."
He's also worked as a busboy, waiter, bartender and, very briefly,
for a newspaper.
"Robert Fulghum (a favorite author) said, 'You have to live
life in order to write about life.'"
Married to a commuter pilot - "she's the British Martha
Stewart" - and living in an "undisclosed mid-Atlantic
state" for the last decade or so, Steward is happily heeding
his favorite author's advice.
The Ojai Valley News
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