The hustle and bustle of getting to the airport and making your flight often overshadow the crew that gets you to your destination. What goes on behind the cockpit doors is a mystery to most flyers, but here are a few things pilots want you to know.
1. Pilots don’t work with the same crew every flight.
Unlike a regular job where you work with the same team of coworkers, flying a commercial airplane doesn’t come with that same consistency. Although pilots can ask to fly with certain crew members when they make their scheduling bids, requests are filled based on seniority. Captains and copilots may not have even met each other prior to your flight.
This can be good and bad. Generally, the pilot and copilot get along swimmingly, but other times, the two personalities don’t mesh, leading to a tense atmosphere in the cockpit and a lot of silence, save for when the pilot makes announcements through his Bose A20 headset. Despite that tension, rest assured that the captain and first officer always follow protocol to ensure a smooth, safe flight.
2. Pilots aren’t constantly looking out the windshield.
Once the aircraft is airborne and at cruising altitude, there’s no need for the pilot or copilot to fix their attention on the world outside the windshield. While they do need to stay in contact with air traffic control and monitor the general status of the aircraft, for the most part, pilots spend most of their time reading, filling out crossword puzzles, or relaxing.
During extra bright days, pilot sunglasses may not be a big help, so your pilots may actually cover the windshields with a map or newspaper. The fact is that with autopilot and all the other calibrated equipment, a pilot doesn’t need to look out his window in order to fly, at least until landing procedures.
3. …but autopilot isn’t everything.
Although autopilot does help with things like speed control and vertical and horizontal navigation, it doesn’t replace a pilot’s skills, experience, and knowledge. You can’t step into the cockpit, press a button, and expect the plane to fly itself. In fact, transitioning to a different model of airplane requires an extra class and simulation training. All the items you can find in a pilot shop don’t make up for a good, well-trained pilot.
4. Delays and gate changes are no fun for anyone.
Sudden delays and changes require a lot of extra work for everyone involved. Many passengers are under the misconception that pilots enjoy delays because it means extra pay for them. Even though pilots are on the clock, they don’t enjoy being delayed. They have plans of their own as well.
5. It’s actually important to turn off your cell phones and electronics.
It’s unlikely that a cell phone will interfere with aircraft equipment, but the mere possibility of it means it’s worth erring on the side of caution.
Turning off all your other electronics during takeoff and landing has other implications. Larger electronics, like laptops and portable DVD players, can become dangerous projectiles. MP3 players should be turned off so you can listen to all the safety instructions without distraction.