The Bizarre Secrets Pilots Keep From Their Passengers
Plane passengers are often too caught up in fears about crashing, fantasies about their destination or the struggle against boredom to worry about what their flight crew is doing. However, more fascinating things happen than passengers realize … and pilots and flight attendants like it that way.
Still, some pilots have been willing to share juicy details about what takes place within the cockpit. These are some of the interesting, unsettling, and bizarre behind-the-scenes secrets that pilots keep from their passengers.
Plane Parts Break … a Lot
Just like any other vehicle, planes sometimes break down. However, unlike other vehicles, you can't pull a plane to the side of the road for towing. If the plane is in flight and a part malfunctions, the airline must wait until the plane touches down to repair it.
Oxygen Masks Are Unreliable
Frequent flyers know that at the beginning of each flight, flight attendants must lead passengers through a somewhat obnoxious safety demonstration. This includes instructing all passengers on what to do in the event they need to utilize the plane's oxygen masks.
They Hide Engine Failure
If an engine fails on a flying plane, that seems like it should be pretty concerning, right? Experienced pilots don't think so. Modern planes are built to sustain themselves on a single engine. As a result, pilots won't panic a plane full of passengers if an engine isn't functioning.
Always Low on Fuel
Believe it or not, airlines never fill up a plane's fuel tank completely before leaving the airport. Instead, they put in enough fuel to get the plane from its starting location to its final destination. If a delay or an emergency were to arise, they would be forced to land at a closer airport to refuel.
Pilots Might Catch Zs
The majority of pilots tend to have fairly hectic schedules. After lengthy flights, short breaks, and long work weeks, it's hard to imagine having the energy left to do one's job. Unsurprisingly, many pilots try to catch some Z’s in the one place their passengers want them to be awake: the cockpit.
Updraft Is a Nightmare
Oftentimes, when a plane ride gets bumpy, passengers begin to fear that the vehicle is going to fall out of the sky. This simply isn't the case; in fact, turbulence is very common on flights. However, what isn't as common — but much more unsettling — is a weather phenomenon known as "updraft."
Dead Passengers Still Fly
Pilots often refer to their passengers as "souls on board." However, when it comes to deceased passengers, they're typically known by the pseudonym "Jim Wilson." Believe it or not, corpses travel on commercial flights all the time. Over 50,000 bodies are moved on planes every year.
Pilots Fend Off Boredom
Pilots may be super invested in their careers, but that doesn't mean they don't get bored while working. When they begin to zone out in the cockpit, many pilots turn to reading to keep themselves entertained. Legally, pilots are permitted to read newspapers in the air.
Buckle Up Your Baby
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, parents are allowed to keep children up to age 2 on their laps during flights. However, pilots and flight attendants strongly discourage parents from doing this. What makes it so dangerous?
A Striking Truth
Do you get nervous at the thought of flying through storms? The thought of a bolt of electricity striking your plane can seem pretty terrifying. However, if you have been caught flying in stormy weather, there's a fair chance that you've been struck by lightning.
'Airplane Mode' Can Be Essential
Flight attendants don't ask you to put away your phone during certain operations just to annoy you. Hitting the airplane mode button may be the difference between a successful landing and a crash. If a large batch of passengers were to make calls during a takeoff or landing, it could interfere with the navigation equipment.
Water 'Landings' Aren't Real
No pilot would intentionally "land" in a body of water unless it was safer than any spot on land. One of the most famous of these scenarios is that of Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III, who landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after birds crashed into the engines. However, these impromptu "water landings" are few and far between.
Planes Are Super Germy
Have you ever experienced post-flight illnesses? It probably isn't because you're sharing air with ill individuals in an enclosed space. Instead, it stems from an unfortunate lack of cleanliness on the part of the airline. While flight attendants typically wipe down the restroom between flights, they don't often have time to clean the passenger seats.
Your Electronics Are Dangerous
Besides flipping your phone's service off, flight attendants may ask you to put away all electronics before takeoff or landing. This isn't to keep you from the temptation of turning your data back on. Instead, it prevents turbulence from knocking your devices from your hands.
They Speak in Unsettling Codes
Pilots have their own language, and it's more than alphabet soup. When communicating with crew who aren't in the cockpit, pilots use coded language in order to keep messages hidden from passengers. While not all scenarios they code are threatening, there are some phrases that no passenger wants to hear.
90 Percent of Flying Is Autopilot
Flights are far less hands-on than you might think. The Telegraph reported that 90 percent of flights are completed by autopilot, with that last 10 percent being under the full control of the person commanding the plane. Still, autopilot doesn't mean that the plane is flying itself.
Flight Attendants Are Always Watching
Flight attendants often offer friendly greetings as you enter the plane. However, it isn't all a matter of courtesy. Rather, as passengers board, they study each face they see and take account of those who give off negative or troublesome energy.
Your Pilot's Landing May Be Their First
If you ask any pilot, they can tell you that the hardest (and most rewarding) part of flying is landing the plane. This is why pilots spend months in simulations just to practice their landings. However, the first time that they put their training into practice is when they've got a plane full of passengers.
Guns Are Allowed in the Cockpit
It may be hard to believe, but firearms are allowed in the cockpit of U.S. flights. Pilots who are registered as Federal Flight Deck Officers are allowed to carry a gun on an aircraft. Weapons can assist pilots in the event of a hijacking or violent criminal activity on the planes.
They're Severely Dehydrated
Most passengers want a pilot who is healthy, well-rested and adequately nourished to command their plane. Unfortunately, while pilots get some shuteye in the cockpit — and enjoy upgraded meals — they tend not to drink much water. Pilots have strict regulations on how much they can use the bathroom during any flight.
Co-Pilots Are Often Strangers
Hundreds of pilots within any given network are passed around between dozens of different planes. Chances are, they haven't worked with their co-pilot before. In other occupations, this could lead to miscommunication, conflict and chaos in a working relationship.
Your Ticket May Be for Another Flight
A large majority of people purchase plane tickets online ahead of their flights in order to ensure they have a good flight at a convenient time. However, forking out a significant amount of money for seats on a major airline may not be as rewarding as you think.
Pilots Despise Certain Airports
While we would like to think that our pilots are confident and comfortable with takeoffs and landings, this isn't always the case — especially in hazardous airports. There are certain spots around the country that pilots despise flying to, particularly Reagan National in Washington, D.C. and John Wayne in California.
Dimmer Lights Are a Life-Saver
There is a chilling reason for why airlines dim their overhead lights before landing. While it creates a peaceful atmosphere for anxious fliers, it also serves to adjust passengers' eyes to darker light in the event of an emergency.
Some Airplanes Have Bedrooms
If the prospect of your pilot or crew taking a cat-nap in the cockpit unsettles you, this will make you want to steer clear of flying altogether. Due to the demanding work hours of pilots and flight attendants (which can exceed sixteen hours), certain planes have built-in bedrooms for the crew to get some much-needed rest.
The 'Fasten Seatbelt' Sign Is Coded
Many passengers feel some annoyance when they see the "fasten seatbelt" sign ping to life. However, it isn't always because a jarring amount of turbulence is ahead. Pilots also use this panel to send secret messages to flight attendants.
Pilots Have Medical Conditions
Medical conditions, chronic illnesses and other physical or mental disorders don't necessarily disqualify someone from becoming a pilot. While airline pilots don't share their health history with their passengers, many of them suffer from long-term illnesses or are managing chronic disorders.
Plane Water Is Disgusting
When your flight attendant comes by with a drink cart, you may want to skip out on the refreshments. In 2009, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Aircraft Drinking Rule Act in response to an unsettling study on airline water.
They Leave People Behind
If you've ever raced to a gate to catch your flight, you know the jolt of panic that sets in when you realize you might miss the plane's departure. While we'd all like to believe that airlines have mercy on latecomers, the Department of Transportation has cracked down on tardiness.
Some Rules Confuse the Crew
While it’s no secret that the strict rules on airplanes can irk passengers, many regulations don't even make sense to seasoned airline pilots. US Airways Captain Jack Stephan told Aviation Humor: