THERE are two professions in which you can identify members by the tone of their voice. One is teaching. Those who deal with unruly kids all day never quite lose that twang of exasperation mixed with bossiness. The other is flying aeroplanes.

There is something instantly recognisable about the calm, authoritative voice of a pilot. It is at once reassuring and mellifluous. This is important. Nervous flyers need to think that the person in the cockpit has complete control of himself and his plane. Never more so than when the craft is in difficulty and passengers need reassurance. When part of an engine fell off a Qantas A380 a few years ago, the pilot calmly announced, without a hint of a tremor in his voice, “I do apologise. I'm sure you are aware we have a technical issue with our number two engine. We have dealt with the situation [but] I'm sure you are aware we are not proceeding to Sydney at this stage.”

Gulliver is willing to bet you read those words in exactly the same tone of voice that he did. One can recognise this authority even when...Continue reading