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16 Secrets Your Pilot Won't Tell You

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Reader's Digest interviewed 17 commercial airline pilots and asked them for the inside dope on what really goes on up there in that skinny metal tube 35,000 feet above the earth.

Here are some selected answers they gave:

1. “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.”

2. “We tell passengers what they need to know. We don’t tell them things that are going to scare the pants off them. So you’ll never hear me say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we just had an engine failure,’ even if that’s true.”

3. “The Department of Transportation has put such an emphasis on on-time performance that we pretty much aren’t allowed to delay a flight anymore, even if there are 20 people on a connecting flight that’s coming in just a little late.”

4. “The truth is, we’re exhausted. Our work rules allow us to be on duty 16 hours without a break. That’s many more hours than a truck driver. And unlike a truck driver, who can pull over at the next rest stop, we can’t pull over at the next cloud.”

5. “The two worst airports for us: Reagan National in Washington, D.C., and John Wayne in Orange County, California. You’re flying by the seat of your pants trying to get in and out of those airports. John Wayne is especially bad because the rich folks who live near the airport don’t like jet noise, so they have this noise abatement procedure where you basically have to turn the plane into a ballistic missile as soon as you’re airborne.”

6. “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.”

7. “There’s no such thing as a water landing. It’s called crashing into the ocean.”

8. “Is traveling with a baby in your lap safe? No. It’s extremely dangerous. If there’s any impact or deceleration, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose hold of your kid, and he becomes a projectile. But the government’s logic is that if we made you buy an expensive seat for your baby, you’d just drive, and you’re more likely to be injured driving than flying.”

9. “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.”

10. “There is no safest place to sit. In one accident, the people in the back are dead; in the next, it’s the people up front.”

11. “If you’re a nervous flier, book a morning flight. The heating of the ground later causes bumpier air, and it’s much more likely to thunderstorm in the afternoon.”

12. “We don’t make you stow your laptop because we’re worried about electronic interference. It’s about having a projectile on your lap. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get hit in the head by a MacBook going 200 miles per hour.”

13. “I always tell my kids to travel in sturdy shoes. If you have to evacuate and your flip-flops fall off, there you are standing on the hot tarmac or in the weeds in your bare feet.”

14. “Most people get sick after traveling not because of what they breathe but because of what they touch. Always assume that the tray table and the button to push the seat back have not been wiped down, though we do wipe down the lavatory.”

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

16. “We miss the peanuts too.”
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.
TAGS:  FLYING, AIR TRAVEL, WHAT????    SOURCE:   Reader's Digest

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