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November 23rd, 2010
Thirteen Things Your Pilot Knows But You Don't

If you're flying somewhere this holiday, you already know what you'll have to deal with getting through security.  But "Reader's Digest" asked 17 pilots from around the country to list things the average passenger doesn't know . . .

#1.)  Pilots Wish the Airlines Would Let Them Carry More Fuel.  They basically only carry enough to get you wherever you're going.  And even a strong headwind can force a pilot to land at a different airport to refuel.  

#2.)  Pilots Are Exhausted.  Sometimes they have to work 16 hours without a break, which is even more than a truck driver.  And unlike a trucker, a pilot can't pull over and take a nap.

#3.)  Sometimes a Smooth Landing Isn't Possible.  Especially if the airport has short runways.  Some of the worst are at Chicago Midway, Reagan National, and John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California.
--But normally, how you land is a good indicator of a pilot's skill.  So if you want to say something nice to them when you're getting off the plane, say, "Nice landing."  Apparently they actually appreciate it.

#4.)  There Really Is No Such Thing As a Water Landing.  Unless your pilot is Sully Sullenberger, it really does mean "crashing into the ocean".

#5.)  Turbulence Isn't What You Should Worry About.  It shakes the plane around, but it can't really cause a crash.  And the whole reason pilots avoid it is because it's annoying.
--The REAL thing to worry about are massive air pockets.  Pilots can't see them at night, and hitting one is like hitting a speed bump at 500 miles an hour.
--If you've ever heard about turbulence that was so bad it threw people against the ceiling . . . it was actually an air pocket.

#6.)  You Shouldn't Worry About Lightning Either.  Most pilots have been in a plane when it was struck by lightning, and it's really not a big deal.  Airplanes are built to take it.  There's just a loud boom, a flash of light, and that's it.

#7.)  There Is No "Safest Place to Sit".  In some scenarios, it's safer to be in the front, and in others it's safer to be in the back.  But honestly, your chances of surviving a crash are basically zero, no matter where you're sitting.
--But the SMOOTHEST place to sit is near the wing, and it's bumpiest in the back.

#8.)  If Flying Makes You Nervous, Book a Morning Flight.  When the sun heats up the ground, it makes the air choppier.  And you're much more likely to fly through a thunderstorm in the afternoon.

#9.)  Using Your Cell Phone CAN Cause Problems.  If one person makes a call, it probably won't do anything.
--But if a DOZEN people make a phone call at the same time, it can screw with the instruments and make the pilot think the plane is at a higher altitude than it really is. 

#10.)  If It's Too Cold, You Should Say Something.  Flight attendants always think it's warmer on the airplane than it actually is because they're constantly moving around.  And they're the ones who tell the pilot whether it's too hot or too cold.

#11.)  They Don't Use the Autopilot As Much As You Think.  Planes can fly by themselves SOMETIMES, but pilots always have their hands on the controls. waiting for the plane to mess up . . . which happens all the time.

#12.)  Pilots Don't Wear Their Hats In the Cockpit.  They do in the movies, but in reality they have to take their hats off so they can put on their headsets.

#13.)  Flight Attendants Have a Name For Making Sure You're Wearing Your Seat Belt.  It's commonly referred to as the "groin scan" or the "crotch watch".





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