10 things your pilot won’t tell you
DENVER — We’ve all wondered what’s happening behind that locked door on our flights.
What was that bump? Did one of our engines just stop running? Is this going to be a rough landing?
Thanks to the folks at Reader’s Digest, we now have answers to some of those questions. The magazine scanned the country looking for answers to some of our most burning questions when it comes to commercial flights and the men and women behind the controls.
And they got a lot of them — 29 to be exact. Below, we’ve highlighted 10 of our favorite answers. Click here to get the other 19 at RD.com.
1. Nervous flier? Book a morning flight
Heating on the ground later in the day causes bumpier air, and that often leads to a bumpier landing
—Jerry Johnson, pilot, Los Angeles
2. Looking for a smooth ride? Sit over the wing
A plane is like a seesaw. If you’re in the middle, you don’t move as much.
—Patrick Smith, pilot and author of ‘Cockpit Confidential’
3. FAA rules don’t always make sense to us, either
When we’re at 39,000 feet going 400 miles an hour, flight attendants can walk around and serve hot coffee. But when we’re on the ground going 5-10 mph, they’ve got to be buckled in like a NASCAR driver.
—Jack Stephan, US Airways captain based in Annapolis, Md.
4. Turbulence is rarely – if ever – a sign of trouble
It’s all but impossible for turbulence to cause a crash. We (pilots) avoid it not because we’re afraid the wing is going to fall off, but because it’s annoying.
5. Airlines force pilots to carry less fuel, which could impact your flight
Airlines are always looking at the bottom line, and you burn fuel by carrying excess fuel. But sometimes if you carry just enough fuel to make a trip and then run into a storm you have to fly around or just a general delay, suddenly you’re out of gas and you have to land at an alternate airport.
—Anonymous pilot at major airline
6. The truth about losing an engine
You’ll never hear, “One of our engines just failed.” Instead you’ll hear, “One of our engines is indicating improperly.” But it’s even more likely you’ll hear nothing and never know the difference. Most planes fly fine with one engine down.
—Anonymous Captain at a major airline
7. Your pilot might be sleeping
Many airlines allow their pilots to be on duty for 16 hours without a break. With that being the case, sleep occasionally happens (in the cockpit). Sometimes it’s just a 10-minute catnap, but definitely, it happens.
—John Greaves, airline accident lawyer and former airline captain, Los Angeles
8. Beware of tray tables and buttons, not recycled air
Always assume the tray table and button to push the seat back have not been wiped down. Basically assume everything but the lavatory has not been wiped down.
9. You won’t know a pilot’s skill level until you land
Most of the time, how you land is the best indicator of a pilot’s skill. So if you want to say something nice to a pilot as you’re getting off the plane, say, ‘Nice landing.’ We appreciate that.
—Joe D’Eon, pilot at major airline who produces FlyWithJoe.com podcast.
10. One of the country’s most dangerous airports is in Wyoming
At some airports with really short runways, you’re not going to have a smooth landing no matter how good we are: John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Jackson Holein Wyoming, Chicago Midway and Regan National in Washington DC are among those airports.
Bonus: There’s no such thing as a water landing
It’s called crashing into the ocean.
—Anonymous pilot, South Carolina