The next time you fly, consider how many dings the fasten your seatbelt sign makes. You'll hear it but you won't know what it means. And that's exactly what pilots want because they use the seatbelt sign to share secrets to the flight crew without leaving the cockpit. This is something that only pilots and their crew are privy to, but would never share with passengers.
That's because pilots are notoriously secretive about many things, and this includes what they do in the cockpit. It's just part of the job, and it's also a way to keep passengers calm throughout the flight. If the plane got struck by lightning, the pilot would never use the intercom to tell passengers that. Instead, the pilot would appease them by saying the flight is proceeding normally.
Some of what they do in the cockpit violates protocol, so those are things they won't share too. For example, pilots are up in the air for a very long time, mostly between 14-16 hours, and that makes them very tired. They are absolutely prohibited from sleeping while in the cockpit during a flight, so they violate protocol and take naps, which leaves them refreshed to fly the plane.
In the course of a flight, there are many secrets and white lies, and airplane myths that only a pilot could corroborate, but would never share. Will using your phone bring down the plane? What is the real reason why you have to put electronics away before takeoff? Do pilots actually fly the plane, or do they put the aircraft on autopilot? If these questions interest you, you're in luck, as we've shared with you 25 things pilots do in the cockpit and which they don't want passengers to know about. We've also included the reasons behind what pilots say or do during a flight.
25 They Sleep In The Cockpit
What pilots don't want passengers to know is that they sleep in the cockpit up in the air, and that's because it's prohibited. Airline regulations do not allow pilots to sleep while flying.
But that's kind of ridiculous, especially if the flight lasts 11 hours or more, so they occasionally take a power nap.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has never put in writing whether or not pilots can sleep, and yet, if pilots take short catnaps, this refreshes them. Even sleep studies believe that these naps are beneficial for pilots.
24 Their Uniform Commands Respect
Pilots in uniform often command respect while they're at the airport or on the plane. The uniform is so stately that they often look like stars when people at the airport stop to shake their hands or smile at them.
They are also saluted and people call the pilot "captain".
There's just something about the uniform that causes these reactions, something nostalgic, something that was caught on camera in Catch Me If You Can where Leonardo Dicaprio played a glorified pilot. But pilots don't want you to know any of this because then passengers will believe they have glamorous jobs when that's not true.
23 They Don't Eat The Garbage Served To Passengers
Pilots don't want you to know that in the cabin, they don't eat the same airplane food that passengers consume. That's because passengers might seem that that's not fair. But it's an essential rule that pilots must follow.
On every flight, the flight attendants serve pilots special meals in case the airline food shipment turns out to be contaminated.
This is to ensure that pilots don't get sick, like from food poisoning. And pilots can't share food because if one gets sick, the other needs to be in good health.
22 They Are Seriously Dehydrated
Many pilots limit themselves when it comes to drinking liquids. And that's because there are very strict protocols for a pilot to use the lavatory during flight.
But they can relieve themselves as long as a flight attendant takes the pilot's seat in the cockpit, ensuring there are two members of the crew on the flight deck.
But all of this adds up to stress on the urinary tract. Pilots don't want you to know that it's rare for them to go to the bathroom because that means they are seriously dehydrated, which is a serious problem and which can lead passengers to worry whether or not the pilots are okay.
21 They Can Actually Talk In The Cockpit
Pilots never reveal whether or not they can talk while flying in the cockpit. They don't want us to know because then passengers might think they're having conversations all the time and having a good time when they should be controlling the plane.
But the reality is, they only have to hold off talking if they're below 10,000 feet, and then they can only talk if it's directly related to operating the airplane.
The National Transportation Safety Board often reviews pilots to see if they are in compliance because if there was an accident or incident, they will know that the pilots weren't conforming to the rule.
20 They Don't Want Us To See The Computer In The Cockpit
Many believe that pilots don't actually fly the plane and instead watch a computer do their job for them.
That's why pilots don't want you to see the computer in the cockpit because they have autopilot on.
Nevertheless, the pilot and co-pilot are often busy, as there's always something they have to do or look out for. They have to deal with routing changes, communication and navigational issues, and monitoring fuel burn. Just because they don't have their hands on the wheel all the time doesn't mean they're not flying the airplane.
19 They Use Autopilot
To lessen the fear of passengers, pilots don't want you to know that in the cockpit, they put the plane on autopilot within seconds of taking off. That's because modern computer technology in the cockpit makes the pilots feel unnecessary.
The computer is such an integral part of the flight that it doesn't need human intervention.
But again, this is not to say that pilots don't fly the plane; they are often busy with work that we've listed in the previous entry, and they do things computers can't, such as taking off or landing.
18 They Read In The Cockpit
Pilots are permitted to read newspapers during the flight in the cockpit. That's because newspapers contain many short articles and the pilot won't be distracted for a long period of time.
But what pilots don't want passengers to know is that in the cockpit, they actually read books or novels while the plane is in autopilot.
It's a secret because books are banned. But especially during long flights, pilots violate that rule. The reason books aren't permitted is because pilots may get too swept away in a story and end up failing to monitor the flight deck at regular intervals. They also don't follow procedure when they use iPads for their personal use, like playing games on them.
17 The Plane May Be Light On Gas
This is one point that pilots have to keep secret while in the cockpit. Otherwise, if it's known, it may cause cabin havoc. It's the fact that the plane may be light on gas. Due to widespread cost-cutting of airlines, pilots may have fuel that's only enough to reach the destination.
Pilots also don't want you to know that this savings measure means that there's little room for unplanned events, like inclement weather.
We don't understand this at all, but it shines a light on the fact that some planes land more quickly than anticipated to fill up.
16 Planes Get Struck By Lightning All The Time
Pilots don't want you to know that it's perfectly normal for a plane to be hit by lightning. If you think that it will send your plane to the ground after you hear a big booming sound and flashes through the airline's windows, the pilot will use the intercom to appease passengers that the flight is proceeding normally.
If they say they just got hit by lightning, that would just put passengers in panic mode.
So it has to look like this lightning bolt is rare and not common. And besides, airplanes are built to handle lightning and storms.
15 We May Not Be On The Airline That We Paid For
You may have bought a plane ticket with a major airline like American, Delta, Jet Blue, and many others. However, what pilots in the cockpit don't want you to know is that you may be on a flight you didn't pay for. What happens is that on occasion you're flying with a regional carrier that has been outsourced by a big-name airline.
If you knew that a regional airline is flown by new pilots without significant training, or that regional airlines don't get scrutinized by outside sources such as the FAA for safety measures in the same manner as the larger airlines, well, you may just end up asking for your money back, fearing for your life, or even forcing yourself into the cockpit to tell the pilots off. (You can't, but that's another story).
14 Their Airplane's Water Source Is Gross
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Aircraft Drinking Rule Act in 2009 after their study found that most airplanes' supply of water was not clean at all and that their tanks were old and contain bacteria. And we now know why flight attendants only serve us bottled water.
And pilots in the cockpit have never dare tried drinking plane water.
So never order a drink with ice cubes, whether that's scotch on the rocks or Coke with ice. The airplane's ice is derived from their water supply, and so the ice may get you sick.
13 We Can Actually USE Our Phones
Until your phone has no signal, you can use it on your flight. That's what pilots don't want you to know while in the cockpit. But the common sentiment is that you must disable electronics because their signals interfere with navigational instruments and can cause a crash, according to The Telegraph UK.
This is simply not true if a few people are on the phone, but if there are many, this can lead a false reading on the instrument panel.
That's why flight attendants want you to disable your phone. But what many don't know is that the main reason to put your electronics away is that of turbulence or a bumpy landing, which can cause your laptop to fly out from the tray table and hit someone in the head.
12 Not All FAA Rules Make Sense
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates civil aviation and its primary mission is to "ensure the safety of civil aviation." But according to many pilots, some FAA rules just don't make sense.
Here's one of them that Jack Stephan, a US Airways captain, shared to Aviation Humor: "Like the fact that when we’re at 39,000 feet going 400 miles an hour, in a plane that could hit turbulence at any minute, [flight attendants] can walk around and serve hot coffee and Chateaubriand. But when we’re on the ground on a flat piece of asphalt going five to ten miles an hour, they’ve got to be buckled in like they’re at NASCAR.”
11 Some Pilots Have Medical Conditions
The FAA's medical requirements need pilots to pass medical examinations every six months and possess a first-class medical certificate. The FAA has strict rules for pilots, but you can feel safe and sound on a flight because of the vetting. But a would-be pilot with mental health issues like psychosis, bipolar disorder or severe personality disorder, according to the FAA, automatically disqualifies the pilot and prohibits them from flying.
However, many pilots have conditions that are treatable and those with disorders can fly a plane after rigorous evaluation.
So pilots don't want you to know that in the cockpit, their co-pilots may have a disorder. If they did know, well, you know how that will turn out!
10 They're Barely Making It
Contrary to public belief, pilots not only do not live glamorous lives, but they are also woefully underpaid. According to CNBC a pilot can make $20 an hour, but only while in flight.
Or they are paid as little as $20,000 a year. This actually puts them slightly above the poverty line, which is what pilots don't want you to know.
If their salary was revealed, pilots worry that they will no longer command respect from people. Pilots even have a secret that they would never share with people outside their profession: they apply for food stamps to make ends meet.
9 They Worry About Updraft
When a plane experiences turbulence, it becomes bumpy due to changes in the air pressure outside. This is when passengers start fearing for their lives because it feels as if the plane is going to go down in flames. But this is absolutely not true. Turbulence doesn't damage the aircraft. Which is why pilots are more concerned about updraft, which is when warm, moist air moves upwards during a T-storm.
If it collides with the plane, it can push a plane upwards into the sky, which leads it to reach altitudes that are dangerous.
Airlines minimize this occurrence by canceling flights and pilots keep mum about updraft so as not to scare flyers.
8 How Long It Really Takes To Get To The Destination
Have you noticed while flying that there are fewer delays these days? Well, that's due to the Department of Transportation, which vigorously manages on-time flights so much so that you can't delay a flight anymore.
What pilots don't want you to know while in the cockpit is what they say over the intercom, that your flight will take, say, two-and-a-half hours when in reality it only takes two hours.
The reason why is so that pilots can have a much more impressive record concerning timing and having fewer delays.
7 They Love Landings
While pilots play a limited role these days in flying, they would never want passengers to know about this fact.
They also don't want you to know what they do in the cockpit, which is that they enjoy landing the plane.
They live for it because it's the only time they are using their skills and their difficult, extensive training without being computer-assisted. If this was ever found out, passengers could easily infer that this is the only thing they actually do. That's not true, of course.
6 They Speak In Code
Pilots don't want you to know they are speaking in code to the rest of the crew who are not in the cockpit. According to The Cheat Sheet, pilots use them to avoid passengers from going into panic mode. When they say "air pocket," this is a more calming way to say there's turbulence ahead.
"Code Bravo" is a phrase used when there's actual danger and they don't want passengers to know.
But the chilling secret code you never want to hear is "7500" which means the plane is or will be hijacked.