Even after 15 years in the job, it still amazes me the number of myths that still seem to circulate around being a pilot and how aircraft work in general. According to some of the stories, we all get free flights, have perfect vision and don’t suffer from jet lag as badly as passengers. Some of these … Continue reading 8 myths about being a pilot, debunked
Last week, aviation enthusiasts from across the country descended on London Heathrow to watch British Airways’ last 747-400s depart for their final resting places. The recent retirement of the aircraft leaves some very large shoes to fill. The 747 has been a core staple of long-haul travel for the past 50 years. The aircraft was the pioneer for long-distance … Continue reading Evolution of an airliner: From the 747 jumbo jet to the 787 Dreamliner
Last week it was reported that an A319 just airborne out of Chicago O’Hare had to make an emergency return to land after the flight deck windscreen was smashed by hail. Whilst images in the media portrayed a dramatic event for those on board, how serious really was the event? Dealing with thunderstorms and severe … Continue reading Smashed windshield — how pilots deal with cracked glass
Last week, it was reported that the incorrect loading of a Prague-bound A321 out of London Luton Airport caused “takeoff issues” for the pilots. A last-minute change was made to the aircraft operating the service, from an A320 to a longer-bodied A321. However, the passenger seating was not changed, meaning that there were more people towards the … Continue reading A balanced approach: How weight and loading are critical for takeoff
Everyone hates a delay. Passengers are late for connecting flights, airlines get fined and pilots miss yet another family event. There are no winners — except for maybe the retail outlets in the terminal. It’s even more frustrating when the delay is due to a technical problem with the aircraft. Airliners are machines and machines break. They … Continue reading How pilots keep track of aircraft defects
Despite the huge reduction in demand for passenger flights over the past few months, the requirement to transport freight still exists. As there are fewer passengers, airlines are turning to freight to make a profit on the flights that they are operating. With fewer flights operating between key cities, the cargo space onboard these limited services are … Continue reading How aircraft transport dangerous goods
Commanding an emergency evacuation is one of the most serious decisions we can make as a pilot. It is also one of the most stressful. Invariably it has come about from an unexpected event, for example, an engine fire on the takeoff run. The key to a successful outcome is to be able to think calmly and … Continue reading How do pilots control an emergency evacuation?
“Using the autopilot” is a bit of a vague statement that needs to be clarified. Firstly, we need to ask the question, “What does the autopilot actually do?” On a modern airliner, there are various levels of automation available to the pilots. Some are emergency systems only activated if the safety of the aircraft becomes … Continue reading What happens when pilots have to fly without an autopilot?
The overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Perth was just like any other for the crew of a Boeing 747-200 in June 1982. At 37,000 feet above the Indian Ocean, south of Java, all was well. That is until the crew and passengers began to notice a haze appearing in the cabin. Even though smoking was still … Continue reading How pilots deal with volcanic ash encounters
“It’s good to talk”, so we were told by a 1990s advertising campaign by a telecoms company. Talking constitutes a large part of our communication with each other, but in a digital age, non-verbal communication its making up for an ever-increasing proportion of how we interact with each other. This is particularly true for pilots … Continue reading How pilots and controllers communicate digitally