If you’re a nervous flier, you probably read all sorts of things into aircraft safety and functionality. The fact is, however, that only the pilots really know what goes on up there in the sky. That’s why we spoke to some, anonymously of course, to put your mind at rest and learn just what happens once they’re in the cockpit….
The Risk of Takeoff
You may have heard that takeoff and landing are the riskiest times for an airplane; it’s true that takeoff does have some risks, but the chances of something bad happening is very rare, according to our pilot sources. The risk comes from a heavy plane, full fuel and flying at low speed with the engines on full power, but that’s precisely why pilots practice potential engine failure in a flight simulator regularly. The chances of an engine failing are still very unlikely.
Turbulence is Not a Safety Concern
If you’re scared of flying, you probably hate the feeling of turbulence, picturing all sorts of potentially disastrous situations. The truth of the matter, however, is that turbulence, while unsettling, isn’t anything to worry about. Airplanes are subject to incredibly intensive testing before they’re approved for public flights, proving they can survive more than a little bit – or even a lot – of turbulence.
Why You Really Need to Turn Off Your Cell Phone
It’s not a piece of advice for nothing. While it is unlikely that a cell signal could interfere with equipment, it’s always better to be careful. Always keep your cell phone turned off or on airplane mode to diable wireless features. Laptops and MP3s don’t interfere with airplane equipment but you are asked to put these away during takeoff and landing so you can both listen to the safety announcements and so they don’t become an accidental projectile.
First Officers Aren’t Assistants or Apprentices
There’s a common misconception that a first officer is more of an apprentice, or less senior than the captain. That isn’t necessarily true. Co-pilots are trained to do everything the captain can do, including operating all airplane equipment and dealing with emergencies. In fact, many pilots with years of experience often prefer to stay first officers in order to be able to work better schedules.
Pilots and Co-pilots May Not Know Each Other
Your pilot and co-pilot may have only met that week, or even that day. Most pilots don’t fly with the same crew, and they don’t always like one another. That said, however, protocol is sacrosanct in the cockpit and if there was ever a disagreement, the captain’s word would be final.
The Cockpit is Never Left Unattended
Once you’re at cruising altitude, the pilot doesn’t have to watch out of the window like a hawk; they only need to look out during landing. The autopilot can manage a lot of the strain, leaving the pilots free to read a newspaper or do Sudoku, whatever keeps them fresh and alert. The cockpit is never left unattended, however, even if they’re not needed at any particular time. On long-haul flights, extra crew is added to allow everyone to get enough sleep, while still maintaining vigilance in the cockpit.
Autopilot Will Never Replace the Real Thing
While autopilot can help with vertical and horizontal navigation, speed control and other elements of the flight, every pilot knows that it can never replace the real thing. Not even accounting for human thought processes and reactions that may be needed should anything go wrong, the autopilot is only ever a help and not a replacement. Every model of aircraft is also different, and pilots will undergo hours and weeks of training before being allowed to fly a new model.