Airplane secrets

Flying machines demystified.

Two new publications written by pilots help demystify the inner workings of airplanes. Plane Spotter ($8; available at airports or from www.planespotter.com), a laminated pocket guide to commercial jets, includes size breakdowns for different aircraft and descriptions of planes' moving parts. "My copilots are always blown away by it," says the guide's cocreator, Southwest Airlines pilot Ford Frazier.

And if you've ever had an anxious question about flying, Patrick Smith has provided the answer in Ask the Pilot (Riverhead Books; $14). Addressing everything from how many gallons of fuel are burned flying across the country (7,000) to what happens when lightning hits midflight (essentially, nothing), Smith's book puts panicky minds at ease. ―Ryan Brandt