A Pilot’s Explorations of the World’s Cities — with Mark Vanhoenacker

A Pilot’s Explorations of the World’s Cities — with Mark Vanhoenacker
View over Central Park in New York. (Peter Adams/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“When I did become a pilot, I realized that I was having an experience of the cities that was unlike any that I could have ever imagined … it’s a very evocative view of civilization,” says Mark Vanhoenacker, a commercial airline pilot, writer and the author of three books, including his latest, “Imagine a City.” He joined Riada Asimovic Akyol in a conversation about modern travel and “the kind of unique way a pilot might start to organize the world’s cities when we’ve gone to so many that it can sometimes be hard to keep track.” 

More than half of us live in cities, Vanhoenacker explains. By 2050, two thirds of the world’s population will do so. He has been to only around a quarter of the 548 largest cities on the United Nations’ list, but the breadth of this traveling has allowed him to notice the enormous changes in various cities throughout his 20 years as a commercial pilot. He cites, for example, the speed of change of the Gulf cities’ skylines and the transformation of accessibility in Delhi, thanks to the expansion of the subway network for the city’s metropolitan region. 

Listen to the conversation to hear the wider angle of “connections between different parts of the world,” the nuances of traveling as an ordinary traveler versus as a pilot or writer, and the effect such a job has on the perception of home. 

“Airplanes that actually allow us to physically be somewhere else have really changed our sense of the planet … that can’t be undone, and we should focus on the good things it does for us,” says Vanhoenacker. This episode is available wherever you listen to podcasts and on YouTube here.

This episode was produced and hosted by Riada Asimovic Akyol. 

Sign up to our mailing list to receive our stories in your inbox.

Sign up to our newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy