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airplane airline pilot air travel“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking from the flight deck. The skies are nice and clear today — which is good, since we only have enough fuel for perfect flight conditions. Oh, and please feel free to judge my flying skills based on the quality of our landing….”

Wait, what?

This isn’t the kind of in-flight announcement you’ll ever hear during a real flight — but it turns out that there are quite a few things your airline pilot may not be telling you. Reader’s Digest recently interviewed 17 pilots in the U.S. to get their insider take on airplane safety, flight delays and other aspects of air travel. The 50 secrets that the pilots revealed are sometimes funny, sometimes frightening — but they all offer a fascinating peek at what goes on in the cockpit at 35,000 feet.

Here are a few of our favorites:

“Pilots find it perplexing that so many people are afraid of turbulence. It’s all but impossible for turbulence to cause a crash. We avoid turbulence not because we’re afraid the wing is going to fall off but because it’s annoying.” – Patrick Smith

“I’m constantly under pressure to carry less fuel than I’m comfortable with. Airlines are always looking at the bottom line, and you burn fuel carrying fuel. Sometimes if you carry just enough fuel and you hit thunderstorms or delays, then suddenly you’re running out of gas and you have to go to an alternate airport.” – Captain at a major airline

“Most of the time, how you land is a good indicator of a pilot’s skill. So if you want to say something nice to a pilot as you’re getting off the plane, say ‘Nice landing.’ We do appreciate that.” – Joe D’Eon

“If you’re going to recline your seat, for God’s sake, please check behind you first. You have no idea how many laptops are broken every year by boorish passengers who slam their seat back with total disregard to what’s going on behind them.” – John Nance

“No, it’s not your imagination: Airlines really have adjusted their flight arrival times so they can have a better record of on-time arrivals. So they might say a flight takes two hours when it really takes an hour and 45 minutes.” – AirTran Airways captain, Atlanta

“Remember this before you complain about the cost of a ticket: Fares today are about the same as they were in the 1980’s.” – Patrick Smith

“Here’s the truth about airline jobs: You don’t have as much time off as your neighbors think you have, you don’t make as much money as your relatives think you make, and you don’t have as many girlfriends as your wife thinks you have. Still, I can’t believe they pay me to do this.” – Commercial pilot, Charlotte, North Carolina

What would you ask a pilot if you could?

–written by Sarah Schlichter

13 Responses to “50 Secrets Your Pilot Won’t Tell You”

  1. SeaMarmot says:

    I’d ask them about drinking on the job. Definitely heard some stories about the ‘old days’ of air travel, pilots enjoying a few Manhattans as they crossed the Atlantic and what not.

  2. SkyDog says:

    Where are the other 43 secrets?

  3. joe says:

    Why was it said that airfares are the same as in the 80″s? Bull………..in the 80’s they gave us service that was terrific and a meal to go with it.

    • John says:

      But Joe… You wanted low airfares. You can’t have everything. What else costs the same as in 1980?

    • Tom Mahoney says:

      The fare you pay is for transportation. All if any other goodies presented to you on board is just a benefit. The only reason meals where given was to past the time. Passengers would sit and wait for us (flight attendants) to arrive. It’s like sitting and watching a parade. Aircraft crew members spend more time training in safety than food, beverage and blankets. Remember we are there to save you’re a– not kiss it.

  4. Jaime Corbett says:

    What about air-renewal in the aircraft during the flight..? On long-haul flights (say 10 hours and over)the passengers and crew are necessarily exposed to the same air being re-circulated. Quite often one comes down with flu or other respiratory viruses after a long flight and I wonder if that air in the aircraft is contaminated by ailments of other passengers. I would suspect that it costs money to bring in “cold” air from outside and warm it for the comfort of the passengers and with airlines being careful about expenses would this be an area that they use to economize..? Also, does the Captain & Copilot use that same air or do they have their own supply..?

    • Bill says:

      Jaime,
      As an ex airline person I can tell you that there is constant exchange of air in the cabin. There is plenty of waste heat from the engines to warm the -40 degree F. outside air up to a comfortable temperature. The only time that it cost the airlines extra money to circulate fresh air is when the plane is sitting on the ground and running its Auxillary Power Unit (APU) to either run the airconditioning or the heaters. When the plane is at the jetway, it is usually plugged into the airport’s power and the APU is not running. The only restriction within reason on how much heated fresh air can be added in the cabin is the fact that the cabin pressure has to be maintained at the equivalent of about 8000 ft. above sea level (about 10.9 psi vs. the 14.7 psi at sea level). The air pressure at 35,000 ft. is only 3.5 psi so it has to be compressed by a factor of 3 times.

  5. Tylicia says:

    I have often wondered how air staff deal with mile high situations when two people decide to have their fun. Do they ignore this fact or tell people to keep it in their bedrooms?

  6. paul matteo says:

    Flying now sucks flight attendents are rude and on power trips. take the train slower but better service.

  7. Gerard Kelly says:

    I’d ask them about drinking on the job. Definitely heard some stories about the ‘old days’ of air travel, pilots enjoying a few Manhattans as they crossed the Atlantic and what not.

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