Skip to content

Things Airline Pilots Won’t Tell You

September 12, 2012
A collection of stories written by pilots
I’m an airline pilot flying domestically under the banner of a major airline.  Most people are unaware of how much of their flying is done by a “regional” airline.  Regional airlines today fly a huge percentage of the actual seat miles flown for their Major airline partner (Delta, United, US Air, etc.).  However we are paid a fraction of what the major airline pilots are paid, and even these major airline pilots are paid significantly less than their counterparts several years ago.
Many regional airline first officers make the same as your friendly pizza delivery driver.  (It is typical for most of them to make no more than 16K/year the first year.)Here are a few things we won’t tell you:-Don’t drink the coffee.  The potable water the aircraft is serviced with is absolutely disgusting.  Chemicals are inserted into the water tanks to prevent bad things from growing, but the bad taste of the coffee isn’t the coffee–its the chemicals…

-We don’t know where we are most of the time…  (kidding for the most part)  In all actuality there are much more sophisticated avionics units on most small general aviation aircraft.  Those units display many aspects of geographic awareness where most of ours simply display the route that we programmed in the flight management computer before departure.  We can tell you how far away we are from the next navigation facility and where we are in general terms, but aside from that and what we can see out the window, we typically only have a general idea of where we are when at cruise altitude.  Of course we all carry maps, but not too many of us will open the map and follow our progress on a 3 hour flight.  (That all changes as we begin descending toward the airport.  Situational Awareness is extremely important then.)

-We forget about the fasten seatbelt sign all the time.  When you look up at the sign (and disregard it typically) and it has been illuminated for the last 45 minutes in smooth air, we simply forgot.  Lots of guys will leave it on all the time.  However, sometimes we do have reports of choppy air ahead and will leave it on until we either experience it or take a wild guess that the air ahead will be smooth.

Some of us carry guns.  This is certainly public knowledge, but Federal Flight Deck Officers can carry a firearm in the cockpit.  Lots of protocol exists to ensure that the training, concealment, and utilization is standardized.

They never announce, “That was close !!” As in, a near mid-air encounter with other air traffic.Only from personal experience and asking the pilot as I disembarked from the aircraft, can I relate this story.Landing at Newark airport in 1986, I was sitting in a window seat about mid section, left side of the plane. I was looking out of the window for a good view of NYC. After seeing that, I was watching the area around the airport as we came in to land. We were about 300′ altitude, or less, and all of a sudden I was stunned to see another plane taking off. It was very close as it took off, nearly underneath our plane as it was climbing out. I don’t know how close we were, just that I could see the passengers in the windows of the other plane close enough to see if they were male or female. My view only lasted about 5 seconds, but I thought they were my last! When I got to the front of the plane and the pilot was standing there I said, “That was close…?” He said, “No, not really.” Very calmly.

I wonder how often that happens, and I bet they NEVER tell the passengers that piece of news!

Most pilots won’t tell you that “air traffic control delays” aren’t really ATC’s “fault”; these delays would be better termed “overscheduling delays”.The vast majority of what the airlines and system term “ATC delays” are actually from a pretty simple supply-and-demand situation.  There’s too many airplanes (demand) trying to land in a limited number of arrival slots (supply) at a given airport over a given time period.Airports have what are known as “arrival rates”.  A standard, one-runway airport with well-designed taxiways (including “high speed” taxiways) can safely handle, in good weather, around 60 operations an hour- one per minute.

This can be 60 landings in an hour, or 60 takeoffs in an hour, or 30 of each, or whatever combination you want to come up with, but that’s about the limit.

(This is a bit of an oversimplification with really good design, you can usually depart faster than arrive, but bear with me for now.)

So say you’ve got this airport, and say it’s got more than enough gates for all the airlines and planes that want to use it.  The only limiting factor is that 60/hour number, right?

Yeah- until crappy weather shows up.  Now they can only land 30 planes per hour.

Unfortunately, the ATC system- run by the FAA- does not regulate how many flights can be scheduled into an airport.  (That’s what deregulation gave us.)  So the airlines that operate in there all schedule as many as they think they can get passengers for.

So during this hour, the airlines have scheduled 60 arrivals, but only 30 planes can land because it’s a cloudy, rainy day.

What happens to the other 30 flights?  They get delayed.

And who delays them?  ATC.

And what do the airlines call these delays?  “Supply and demand delays”?  “Weather delays?”  Nope.

“ATC delays.”

But the reality is that they’re overscheduling delays.  If the airlines and/or the airports would limit the number of flights to the BAD weather limits, the number of delays in the system would be massively shrunk.

That the Airbus A320 is known to have routine cockpit power outtages.  And that this plane that you are on right now, which is among the most popular in the world, might not be fixed!

Such as United Flight 731 which “had no way to communicate with air traffic controllers or detect other planes around them in the New York City area’s crowded airspace.” [1]That “France-based Airbus told NTSB investigators in 2008 that 49 electrical failures similar to the Newark emergency happened on its planes in the U.S. and abroad before that episode. Nearly half involved the loss of at least five of six cockpit displays.” [1]And…that a mere 46 hours and $6,000 is the only thing holding back every single plane in the air from this crucial upgrade due to “economics”

The Airbus A320 family includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321 models — passenger jets with 100 to 220 seats.

And you wonder why I take trains and boats????

Note: these came from other people and I don’t guarantee 100% accuracy
Advertisements

From → other, screw ups, trivia

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: