What Your Pilot Won’t Tell You

Reader's Digest (India) - - Bonus Read - B Y L I N D A G R AY

Skip the seats at the back un­less you want the worst air qual­ity and the bump­i­est ride. The most leg room and least tur­bu­lence are by the emer­gency ex­its in the mid­dle of the plane.

But, as they’re also the cold­est, I’d pick a seat one row fur­ther back.

If you sit down, belt up. Pas­sen­gers who wouldn’t dream of driv­ing down the road with­out a seat belt are quite happy to do with­out one when they fly. I keep mine fas­tened through­out the flight, so I don’t bounce off the roof if we hit tur­bu­lence.

I’ve had disc-jockey train­ing so my voice is re­as­sur­ing, and I choose my words with care. If an engine is on fire, I’ll say we’re fly­ing on re­duced power to stop you pan­ick­ing. But there’s re­ally no need to panic, be­cause there’s a 90% chance we’ll get back in one piece.

My shift can last 16¼ hours—and if the avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties have their way, I’ll be work­ing 22 at a stretch. No won­der 43% of pi­lots drop off to sleep in the cock­pit, or that a third wake up to find their co-pilot asleep.

I don’t like old planes. They’re safe enough be­cause ev­ery part has been re­placed, but mod­ern air­planes are bet­ter en­gi­neered and eas­ier to fly. If you’re look­ing for a com­fort­able ride, go for a Boe­ing 777.

Land­ing is of­ten the only time I fly. Most of the flight is on au­topi­lot, but land­ings are usu­ally man­ual be­cause they’re the trick­i­est part of the trip. I have to drop 200 tonnes of plane from 35,000 feet with­out power un­til 1000 feet, when the com­pany makes me switch it back on. But it’s fun, be­cause it’s what I’m trained to do.

Sorry it’s stuffy in here. I switch off the air­con­di­tion­ing dur­ing board­ing to save fuel, but even when it’s on, the air qual­ity can be poor. And on top of that, you could be sprayed with pes­ti­cide when you touch down af­ter a 12-hour flight.

Mo­biles do mat­ter. It’s not a myth that a mo­bile phone dis­rupts signals—put yours next to the ra­dio and you’ll see. I can hear it on the in­stru­ment-con­trol sys­tems and it can in­ter­fere with land­ings, so do me a favour and switch it off!

Sources: Com­mer­cial pi­lots in the UK and US; Bri­tish Air­line Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion;

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