Flying can be a stressful time for some, and being 40,000 feet above earth is not for everyone, but there are some people who choose to do this on a daily basis. Pilots are an important part of modern day society, when air travel is becoming increasingly popular and in higher demand. When all the doors are locked, and we are trapped inside a metal tube with 200 other strangers for the next few hours, what happens behind the cockpit door remains a mystery.
Pilots keep secrets from passengers for many reasons, whether it is to maintain reassurance, or they simply just don’t need to know, here are 10 of the most common secrets and misconceptions of pilots.
10 Questioning the FAA
The Federal Aviation Administration, or the FAA, is the governing body of passenger airlines in the United States, and in fact, throughout the world. As passengers, all we want from a flight is to relax and arrive at our destination safely, so this is why we may not question some FAA regulations like pilots and other crew.
One regulation which has come under question quite regularly is the fact that we must have our seatbelts fastened whilst traveling 15 miles per hour on the ground, but can serve boiling hot drinks while at 500 miles per hour. This is not the only regulation that pilots question that we, as passengers, are not aware of, either!
9 Different meals
You are on a lunchtime flight, the meal service begins and you opt for the chicken and rice. The person next to you, the same. In the cockpit, you can almost count on the meals being different, and not just different from the other passengers, different from each other!
Yep, the pilot and co-pilot are often served different meals as to avoid any chance of food poisoning. It is a safety measure that will often slip past our minds, or one that we don’t put too much thought in to, but next time you have a meal on a flight, just think to yourself…what are the pilots eating?
8 Drink bottled water
Tap water is only available on some flights, but it is becoming increasingly popular on planes as it saves the airline some money, but at what cost? It has been reported that the pipes for the tap water and toilet are rarely cleaned, and the possibility or cross-contamination is ever present.
Pilots and crew will not tell you this, but they will never drink coffee or tea on a flight, nor treat themselves to a cup of refreshing tap water. Even then, bottled water for airlines is filled with chemicals as to preserve it at high altitude, so make sure you either buy a bottle of water at the airport prior to the flight, or just hold out until you arrive!
7 Oxygen masks
Oxygen masks are a critical component to saving a life in the event of an emergency. We can all probably recall the safety procedure speech from our last flight saying that the oxygen mask will drop down in the event of an emergency.
Well, this may be so, but what the crew will not have you know, and if you don’t know already, the oxygen will only flow for approximately 15 minutes before it runs out. While this may seem like not enough time, it is enough for the pilot to descend to a safe altitude.
6 Not enough fuel?
Ever conked out in the middle of the street because of an empty fuel tank? Yes, fuel is expensive and rising by the day, and airlines have the same mentality, but the consequences as a result of no fuel on a plane are far, far worse than in a car, as you could imagine.
It is not uncommon for airlines to refuel the plane with just enough fuel for the journey, sometimes there is an insufficient amount injected. There is no other reason for this other than to save money, but coming at the cost of the loss of life…not sure if that is the way to go.
A lot goes on in the cockpit that we will never know, but one pilot has spilled the beans regarding one, quite critical element of flying. He claims that ¾ of pilots are tired or hungry…or both!
He says that pilots are not given enough rest between flights and sometimes they are in so much of a rush to keep on schedule that they cannot even exit the plane for a snack in the airport, and no one wants a ‘hangry’ pilot at the helm!
4 Fasten your seatbelt
In the eyes of a passenger, when the seatbelt sign is turned on, we fasten our seatbelt and that is that. However, this can also be a very subtle mode of communication between the pilot and the rest of the crew.
The Morse Code, if you will, different from crew to crew, but if you hear 2 ‘dings’ and 2 flashes, it usually means that a take-off or landing will take place very soon, 3 ‘dings’ and flashes signals a warning message for turbulence. Or, if you hear a ‘ding’ and see a flash but the seatbelt sign is not illuminated, it could simply mean ‘I want a coffee’!
3 Using data mid-flight?
For many of us, our phone signal will not connect whilst we are in the heavens, but for some, it does. There has been a misconception around if you can use your data roaming while in-flight, and although it is not recommended, there has been no case in the history of aviation in which using roaming has interfered with the navigation instruments in the cockpit.
Pilots say that there have been instances where the signal has been somewhat interrupted, but not enough to cause any major problem…but it’s still not recommended so just keep it in your pocket until landing. Not hard.
2 Sneak peek
Most crews will allow children or aviation enthusiasts to take a quick peek of the cockpit, so long as it stays off the books. In fact, many pilots love it when people ask if they can take a look around the cockpit.
Airlines will have you believe it is a safety concern to let passengers into the brain of the plane, but let’s be honest, if you have passed security, especially in this day in age, it is more than likely safe to do so. So, if you have wanted to take a peek of the cockpit but been too afraid to ask, next time you fly, be sure to ask the crew!
1 Pilot or Co-Pilot
Another common misunderstanding is that a co-pilot is a young or novice pilot who is seeking experience before moving on to becoming a pilot. This is not the case, and both of the men or women behind the cockpit door could easily be the pilot as they both have experience and are fully qualified.
The only factor that determines who is the pilot and co-pilot is simply seniority, that’s it. In long-haul flights, pilots have been known to take it in turns to fly each leg. For example, one pilot may be responsible for the leg from Paris to New York, and the other will be responsible for the return flight.