“On the course Captain Keith answered every question I’ve ever wanted to ask”

What if the Pilot isn’t feeling well?

Fear of Flying

Each pilot is required by law to declare himself or herself fit to fly. Certain illnesses and medical conditions preclude a pilot from flying. On check in each pilot will declare him/herself fit to fly when asked by the other crew member. In the UK pilots use the I’M SAFE pneumonic.  Illness Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Emotion. 


What if the engines stop?

For what reason will all the engines stop. There would have to be something common to them all that would cause that to happen. The only common thing is the fuel and since each engine has its own fuel tank and supply that’s not going to happen. Sometimes birds might go into the engines but normally only one of the engines will be affected. A plane could fly long enough with a ‘rough’ engine to find an airfield to land at.

What if we land on water?

Any plane will float long enough for you to be able to escape from it. You must follow the directions of the crew and you’ll be fine. Do not inflate your life jacket until you know that you are clear of the plane.  

What if the pilot gets food poisoning?

Pilots both on and off duty have to eat different meals. We have to avoid anything likely to upset our digestive system… Sea food and mayonnaise for example. 

What if the plane gets hit by lightning?

That’s no problem at all. I’ve included information about lightning in your course. The plane acts as a thing called a Faradays cage so electricity can’t get inside and neither can it affect any of the instruments and systems on board.

What if the runway is too short?

The will never be too short because for each aircraft and each runway, according to the weather and wind so there will be a maximum weight at which it can take off. The pilots will calculate this weight from their manuals and tell the traffic crew what this weight is. The ground crew will limit passengers, baggage and freight to keep within this figure.

What if the plane is too heavy to fly?

Unless there have been mistakes by everyone concerned with the flight then this won’t and can’t happen. The computer will automatically check the fuel baggage freight and passenger weights the ground crew will check the engineer will check and so will the pilots so that is most unlikely to happen.

What if the pilot can’t see the runway?

By this I guess you mean that the weather conditions are foggy or the cloud is very low and obscuring the runway…for take-off or landing. In both these situations the pilot will know what the limitations are. If the pilot is flying by hand then the weather will need to be better than if the autopilot is being used. Typically you’d need to see about 600 yards along the runway and you’d need to see the runway from about ¾ of a mile if you were hand flying. With the automatic pilot connected (all 2 or 3) then you’d be able to land in the thickest of fog and the lowest of cloud. There is information about taking off weather limitations in the library.

What if there’s nowhere to land in an emergency?

From a pilots point of view we’d have to compare what you think is an emergency compared with what I‘d think was an emergency. The fact is that it isn’t necessary to land a plane immediately if there’s a problem. Planes have all sorts of backup systems to take over if the main system malfunctions. What you have to think of is the chance of something being so dramatically wrong that you’d need to land. And that chance is very very small. What you’re doing is worrying about the consequences of something that is very very unlikely. Think of the chances not the consequences.

What if someone tries to open the door?

They can try all day all night and they’re not going to get the door open. The doors are forced into place by the mechanism that shuts the door and then by the air pressure inside the cabin. It is impossible to open the doors in flight of a pressurised aircraft

What if we run out of fuel?

There are lots of reasons that a plane is very very unlikely to run out of fuel. First because we check the consumption throughout the flight. We carry much more than we need so that there would need to be a very big leak for a long time to put the plane in danger. We are also required to check the fuel used and the fuel remaining in the tanks every 30 minutes or so. The flight computer will also be calculating these things and will inform the pilot if there is a shortage. 

What if the pilot can’t see out of his window?

The pilot doesn’t need to see out of the window to land the plane.or to fly iy once it’s airborne….that can be doe by instruments. However there is a window in the cockpit which can be opened by the pilot in flight if the screen becomes damaged.


Is taking off dangerous?

No taking off is not dangerous. For a nervous flyer it will be a time of very high stress because to you it will seem like the point of no return. You will get the feeling that it’s impossible to get off or stop the plane and this will add to your high levels of stress. But if you have prepared properly you will be able to get over this short period of your flight. If you combine relaxation, breathing and visualisation techniques you will be able to deal with your anxieties bb

 Is turbulence safe?

Yes being in turbulence is safe. However you must have your seat belt on securely and pulled tight. When you are in turbulence say to yourself that “Turbulence may be uncomfortable but that’s not the same as dangerous.”

Is it hard fly the plane in turbulence 

Much to the surprise of most fearful flyers it’s not hard to fly a plane in turbulence. The control movements required to fly in turbulence are no different than the extra movements you’d make on the steering wheel of a car when you’re travelling over rough ground as opposed to the main road. There are no extra things to do or think about in turbulence when you’re flying a plane. In the same way that if you let go of your steering wheel the car will go in a straight line so the plane has built in stability which tends to keep the wings level and the nose in the same position.

How does a plane fly?

A plane flies because as the wing moves through the air the pressure ion the top of the wing reduces and causes suction, under the wing the pressure increases so the wing is sitting on a thick cushion of air.

Can the wings fall off?

No the wings can’t fall off because in effect they’re made in one piece and not bolted to the cabin structure. 

How do you know if the weather is going to be bad?

Before I even go to the plane I will have a comprehensive weather briefing with the operations department for a long flight or I will collect weather reports and forecasts if it’s a fairly short flight.

The weather reports will include the forecast weather at my destination and any of the diversion or alternate airfields I may need to land at.

Can I tell by the faces of the crew if we’re safe?

No of course you can’t but many fearful flyers use that as a guide to how they should be feeling. Remember the crew are ordinary people with the same worries that you have and maybe they’re wondering if their car will start when they get back to their base. 

What are those strange sounds I can hear? 

I wonder if you mean strange or unfamiliar. There are systems on the plane that need pumps and ‘things’ to work them…usually it’s a pump or a motor and these will make a noise as they operate …when you turn on the blower in your car it doesn’t surprise you for two reasons…first you know what it is and more importantly it’s you that turns it on. Imagine how you’d jump if while you were driving along the blower suddenly started or the radio came on. Don’t underestimate how ‘tuned in’ to everything you are when flying.

When I’ve flown on a long flight suddenly the engines make a louder noise. What’s gone wrong?

A jumbo type aircraft will be consuming about 3 tonnes of fuel an hour for each engine. After a few hours the plane will be every much lighter than when it took off. This means that the plane could climb to a greater height. This is advantageous because a plane uses less fuel the higher it goes…and even better it actually goes faster so as soon as a plane is able to climb at least another 1000 feet about its present height the pilot will ask Air Traffic Control for a higher cruising level…and when it stars to climb you’ll hear the engine noise increase as the power increase to climb.

Best wishes,

Captain Keith

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