An aviation autobiography by Peter Buffington
a book review by, JR Hafer, aviation writer
Squawk 7700 a book written by Peter Buffington is a tough book to read from an aviator’s standpoint. It is certainly a tough book to review from the same perspective. It made me angry, it made me defensive, and I read it with mixed feelings. I must be honest here. I was mostly angry at Peter Buffington the author and you will read why in the following paragraphs, so read on!
Webster defines Squawk: A loud harsh cry or a loud complaint. In aviation terminology Squawk refers to the transponder setting one sets a certain pre determined code or instructed by the air controller to identify your aircraft for aircraft separation in the air. The code 7700 is for distress or emergency code. Squawk 7700, therefore would be a loud harsh cry that something is wrong!
I was not aware of the pay scale and living conditions being as bad as it is for upstarts in regional airline pilot positions. Nor did I know about P-F-T Pay for Training (or pay for your own, on the job training) while flying passengers, which by ignoring this fact is endorsed by the Federal Aviation Administration. Wow that is an eye opener.
Jeff Skiles, who was the first office on US Airways Flight 1549 Airbus A320-214 called this book a timely, eye opening, “must read” and I was appalled at him for saying so. However, upon much reflection, perhaps he is “right on” with his statement. If a youngster with dreams of becoming an airline captain can be dissuaded by this book or any other I agree with him. To be an aviator one must want it badly. It must be so ingrained in their blood they would sacrifice anything to achieve their goal to become an aviator. Becoming an Airline pilot must be something you cannot NOT do…
At first I was very impressed with the author’s dream at such a young age becoming a pilot and who was pursuing his dream with tenacity and the way he attacked and completed his goals. As a young man it would seem he understood the phrase “anything it takes” to achieve the goal. In reality no one ever told Peter the facts of life about the “Grass is greener and the romantic side” verses real life and flexibilities.
As I read this book all I could see was the one side, the negative side of a disenchanted pilot that refused to bend or be flexible to gain his ultimate dream of becoming an airline captain. In other words he was not willing to “pay his dues” so to speak. I kept asking myself wonder what the other side of the story really was?
Peter Buffington evidently is a very good pilot and perhaps would make absolutely a fantastic FAA compliance or FAA Instructor check pilot, someone who insures everything is done by the book and at the stroke of the letter of the law pilot. But as he has found out he doesn’t understand how and why business needs to focus on the bottom line and make a profit. I am not saying at the expense of lives. That is an argument for another time and place.
I first thought as I read Mr. Buffington’s Squawk 7700 that this book is tantamount to someone shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater! Like I said it made me angry and defensive. My “knee jerk” reaction was this is some “Dudley do right, By the Book” guy who thinks he knows everything and looks for excuses to quit jobs due to unattainable high standards. It would seem the author continued to shoot himself in the foot and never would be happy in the field of aviation because all he could see was the negatives.
But then, I got to thinking I am being too critical and over protective. Aviation doesn’t need protecting. If anything it does need scrutinizing, and yes, by those who love aviation, who else better than the readers of this book? This is a niche book, written for aviators and yes indeed this is exactly the platform to address these issues.
Peter Buffington writes his flying sequences well and I enjoy reading them. I liked how he wrote about flying the ATR-42 and his description of San Juan is right on. Caribbean flying and lifestyle is tricky and Buffington related that fact very well.
I would love to read a flying novel written by Pete Buffington. I think he has talent as a writer and I would like to see him develop that talent. Perhaps he will pursue a new literary direction in aviation, with his vast knowledge and experience; he could be a certain success.
This book is absolutely aptly named “Squawk” 7700: A loud harsh cry or a loud complaint by one man who has been there and experienced aviation’s dark under-belly and come out to expose the deep dark truth to the unknowing world.
Squawk 7700, an aviation autobiography by Peter Buffington is a book that is arguably provocative and will anger a lot of aviation enthusiasts. However, it is instructive, informative and certainly should have been written. Whether it is about the shabby way pilots are treated or the negative way this book may be perceived. I think it had to be said and Mr. Buffington said it!
You will get angry, shout and swear, both at the author and at the industry.
No matter, I recommend you get this book and read it right away it!