One might assume that a book subtitled "In Defense of Flying" would spend a reasonable amount of time allaying the fears of those who approach every flight with the unbridled optimism of a Kamikaze pilot.
Unfortunately, famed attorney F. Lee Bailey has approached the subject of air safety more from the angry stance of a prosecutor than a lawyer for the defense. No fewer than 100 pages of this 211-page volume are devoted to crash directions, attacks on the Federal Aviation Administration, criticism of the airlines and Bailey's own views on what's wrong with civil aviation. By the time he gets around to the pages lumped under the heading "Love of Flying," he has made a pretty strong pitch in the opposite direction.
At times, Bailey is interesting, provocative and stimulating: at times he is also superficial and overly general to the point of making careless, unsubstantiated claims.
"There are times," he writes, "when the profit-motive of the airline and the personal motivation of the pilot combine to create a situation where both the company and the man wink at the safety regs." Bailey cites as his source for that charge "every book or article ever written by an airline captain." This reviewer has been associated with air safety for the past 25 years and would find it extremely difficult if not impossible to cite a fatal accident either directly or even indirectly attributable to an airline's "profit-motive," or the "personal motivation" of a pilot.
Such wild accusations dilute the overall effectiveness, not to mention the veracity, of what could and should have been a far better book. For F. Lee Bailey, ironically, is a stalwart aviation booster, a skilled pilot in his own right, and has first-hand knowledge of many aviation problems. The most facinating part of Cleared for the Approach is his account of the formation of the professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) and its subsequent 1969 "sick-out" which tied the nation's air traffic system up in knots. Bailey represented PATCO in this bitter dispute, and while there may be some controller who do not regard him as the hero of the controversy, his version commands attention.
In such personal areas, he is at his best -- and therein lies the chief drawback of a book that seems to be haphazardly organized and loosely conceived. (Prentice-Hall, $9.95)