Flying can be a nerve-wracking and unsettling thing to endure. Whether it’s your first ever flight, or you’re a frequent flyer, it’s something that you don’t get entirely used to. With our lives now in the hands of others, it’s only natural to develop some worrying thoughts and a level of curiosity.
The concept of flight is intriguing to most, with the idea that a giant metal machine carrying hundreds of people is able to fly high in the sky. There is a multitude of things that we as passengers have been curious about when it comes to flying, and what goes on within the aircraft.
Today, we get some revealing information from pilots themselves, who answer some of their favorite questions asked by passengers. Flying requires bravery, and finding out the answers to things we may have all been curious about will certainly give us the peace within us that we are all looking for.
1. Why do pilots fly on the same flight as passengers?
Sometimes, pilots need to get from one airport to another, thus you will find them traveling with you. They do remain in uniform, and with that, they are restricted from sleeping, eating, or watching movies in front of passengers. If they are seen doing any of this, it can lead to confusion amongst the passengers who may be wondering who is now operating the airplane, and it can lead to a time of panic. Although they may board the same flight as you, they typically are seated aside from passengers, in extra seats in the cabin, or at first class.
2. Do pilots ever sleep in the cockpit?
Statistics show that about 56% of pilots have fallen asleep during a flight at one time or another. Modern planes have the luxury of automatic mode, which operates for most of the flight, although traffic controllers still need to be in constant contact with the pilots. For longer trips, there can be up to 3 pilots or 2 crews that substitute and relieve each other for a resting period. This takes place in a special room, and while one pilot is sleeping, the other is required to always be attentive and in control, whilst communicating with traffic controllers.
3. How can someone access the cockpit if the door is blocked?
Curious passengers who tend to roam around on flights will often be intrigued by the idea of visiting the cockpit. This has been known to be accessible on flights to passengers who request to do so. However, you can only gain access with a special code that flight attendants carry, and you will be escorted there with them. The code is very important for flight attendants to have, in the case of an emergency where both pilots lose consciousness. Upon entering the code, it takes up to a minute for the door to open, and a pilot has the ability to deny entry at this time. Looking on the CCTV, if a pilot notices it isn’t a flight attendant, or it’s an unattended passenger or intruder, the pilot is able to block the door completely, restricting access to the area.
4. What do pilots eat during the flight?
Some of us may be wondering what type of food the pilot gets access to during a flight. Pilots actually have a separate menu from passengers, featuring a number of dishes they can pick from. Based on what the captain picks, the co-pilot must choose something else, to avoid any potential food poisoning or reactions from the both of them. They take turns eating, and will generally eat in the cockpit on special desks. Some airlines provide the pilots with the same food as the passengers, so it varies depending on who you’re flying with.
5. Can pilots have facial hair or piercings?
Depending on the airline, pilots may be restricted from having facial hair. This is due to pilots needing to secure and properly wear an oxygen mask at a time of emergency, and facial hair can get in the way of it being fixed tightly on their head. Another reason why pilots may be cleanly shaven is to project a clean-cut image. There is no actual law against facial hair or piercings, and it changes from airline to airline.
6. Why are there spirals in the turbines?
Most of us are unaware of how aircrafts are designed, or why they have been designed a certain way. There are hundreds of pieces that come together to form a functioning aircraft, one of which is a turbine. If you ever got too close to one while it’s on, you could be pushed meters away and potentially get injured. There have been a number of record accidents this way, and the modern turbines now feature spirals that indicate whether the engine is on or off, to avoid further hazards.
7. What happens if all the engines stop working?
If this happens, aircrafts shift over to a mode where engines are now working at “zero leverage”, much like when a car’s gear is set to neutral and can still move when going down a hill. Very seldom has an engine completely failed on a flight, but even in the event of that happening, there is a way to relaunch the engines. Even better, a plane can still land without the engine running. Airplane crews have unfortunately faced this on a number of occasions and they were able to still pull off a successful landing with no casualties.
8. Which is worse: hitting a bird, being in a hailstorm, or getting struck by lightning?
When it comes to lightning, it isn’t unusual for this to happen, and can often even go unnoticed. Rarely does it lead to blackouts on the aircraft, and even if so, pilots are trained to reboot all electronics on the plane, and everything goes back to normal. As for a hailstorm, it’s undoubtedly dangerous, with ice pellets hitting the aircraft while flying at top speed, which can lead to exterior damage, however bad weather is easy to spot and avoid. When it comes to birds, they are the biggest threat. If they by any chance get caught in the turbine, this can destroy it or cause a fire. They can even crack windshields that aren’t strong enough to contain the collision. Luckily, airplanes feature special noise generators to scare away birds and avoid such a mess.
9. Which is safer – A rough landing on the water or on the ground?
Unfortunately, we can sometimes play out life-threatening scenarios in our heads, and how they may go down. In the case of an emergency landing, we can’t help but wonder where exactly we’d land, and what would happen. Depending on the plane model, it is almost always better to land on the ground. When landing on water, there’s the threat of a plane flooding quickly, and people could drown. Considering its density and consistency, the impact would be greater upon landing as well, and statistics prove that the chances of survival when landing on the ground are significantly higher.
10. How long do the oxygen masks work for?
They typically work for about 10-15 minutes, which is enough time for the pilot to descend to an altitude where you can breathe normally again. The oxygen masks provided to pilots are made to last longer, as they are in control of the aircraft, and they need to remain focused at a time where everyone’s lives are in their hands.
11. Why don’t they give parachutes to passengers?
Contrary to popular belief, parachutes on a flight at a time of emergency may not even save your life. Most people don’t know how to put one on properly or land safely on their own, and considering the height and speed of the plane, it wouldn’t be safe to just jump out. Some passengers come equipped with parachutes as their carry-on, however, a good parachute can end up costing you as much as a good car. This is something to keep in mind when wondering why a parachute isn’t an option at a dangerous time on a flight.
12. Why do planes sometimes make circles before landing?
When we’re finally ready to land, sometimes the aircraft begins to take unexpected turns that we may be wondering about. This is a normal routine for pilots, as they’re targeting their landing spot and adjusting accordingly. There may be an object or animal in the way even, or they may be avoiding strong winds. In some cases, they may be instructed to land on a different runway, to allow the urgent landing of another plane.
13. Can a plane land in automatic mode?
Fortunately, in modern aircrafts, there are control systems featured that can guide the plane down from an altitude of up to 1,000 feet to its ultimate landing on the runway at the airport. Pilots have the option to choose the automatic landing mode if they’d like, but it can only be activated by the pilot themselves, with monitoring and guidance at all times of operation. The plane gets guided by an instrument landing system prior to landing, with the assistance of the radio tower at the given airport which instructs the landing point and makes changes if necessary. Even if the plane was completely out of power, the system would still function and allow the descent from above, to a safe landing point controlled by the pilots.
14. Can an ordinary person land a plane?
Surprisingly, for modern planes, there’s a good chance. Flight attendants have succeeded before without training, with the help of computer systems that guide and land the plane. You will always receive instructions from the landing team over the radio, so the given individual will essentially never be alone in this process.
15. If a baby is born onboard, which country’s citizenship would they receive?
This is decided between the country of the registered airline, the exact location of the country in which they were conceived over, and the country in which the plane has landed. Most people pick the first option, however, the decision can ultimately be decided by the airline, taking the law into consideration. Some airlines will even offer a wonderful option for the baby, with the opportunity to fly for free to any part of the world for the duration of their life.
16. Are we supposed to applaud pilots?
This isn’t a necessity, however, pilots do enjoy the recognition of a successful landing, and sometimes even wait at the exit to say goodbye to each passenger, with the opportunity to shake their hand, or even offer them a snack or gift for their services. This is a nice way to show your appreciation to the individual who successfully and safely got you to your chosen destination!