What Your Pilot Won’t Tell You
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;