Questions Answered for Nervous Flyers

SO! A few weeks ago I had an idea to quiz my Dad about the ins and outs of the things that scare people the most about flying. He has been a commercial pilot for the last 30 years, and has flown on a number of different aircrafts all over the world. I don’t know if I’ve ever come across someone who loves their job as much as he does, so he was delighted to answer the questions that I put to him. I could see from the response to my Instagram stories, that SO MANY PEOPLE have a fear of flying to some degree. Some people are a little paranoid, like me, and some people find that their fear has stopped them from doing so much in life. I saved all of the questions and answers to my Instagram highlights, but thought that a blog post might be useful and easier to share in case someone isn’t on Instagram, or just because a link to a website is easier than an old Instagram highlight…. So here you go, below are the questions that you wanted answered! I hope you find them useful.

Q: If all engines failed, how long would the plane glide for before falling?

A: The chances of a double engine failure are incredibly low. There hasn’t been one in the last 10 years in commercial aviation. If it did happen, though, you can glide for three times your height. So, if you are flying at 10,000 feet, you can glide for 30,000 feet. This is plenty of time to land safely. Example: the plane landing on the Hudson.

Q: Turbulence – should we be worried that the plane will become unmanageable?

A: Absolutely not. An aircraft in turbulent air is like a ship in turbulent water. Pilots never feel as though turbulence are unsafe – just uncomfortable. It’s like a driver driving on a bumpy road.

Q: Why does the plane drop during turbulence sometimes?

A: This is when it flies through different air densities. Hot air is less dense than cold air. There’s nothing to be worries about – this would never cause a pilot to lose control. They are so used to it.

Q: What exactly is an air pocket?

A: This is just a pocket of air that is of a different density to the air around it.

Q: Are there signs of when we should all panic?

A: Only panic if the pilot tells you to start praying! Seriously though, most years, more people die on Irish roads than globally in commercial aviation.

Q: What would happen if a bird went through one of the engines, would the plane go down?

A: Firstly, the bird would have a graphic ending… Secondly, there’s two engines so if it did affect the engine – there is a back up. The chances of a bird bringing a plane down are slim.

Q: What’s the nearest another plane can get to you in the air? Could they collide?

A: 5 miles side by side and 1000 feet above and below. With modern air traffic control, this just doesn’t happen. Planes can see each other electronically on their screens.

Q: I’ve read different conspiracies of brace position, so I assume we are done for if it’s ever required?

A: I’ve heard these before too, and my Dad’s response – “loada bullsh!t”… Apparently it’s just protecting you against whiplash. He has never had to order it in over 30 years of flying.

Q: How dangerous is take off / landing during strong winds?

A: Pilots are trained to handle this. If it’s too dangerous, you will be rerouted for landing, or you won’t take off in the first place.

Q: Is it possible for a wing to break off the plane?

A: No.

Q: What actually happens if you don’t turn your phone on flight mode?

A: Nothing happens but you still shouldn’t do it. It’s just a safety precaution.

Q: Do pilots get a snooze on a long haul flight?

A: Yes they do. On very long haul flights, there are always two crews, so one crew sleeps while the other one flies and then they swap.

Q: If there was a terrorist on board, what is the actual safety procedure?

A: If there is a terrorist, the flight deck is sealed immediately. It’s called “closed door policy”. By law, all plane doors are bullet proof since 9/11. A terrorist will never get control of the aircraft and if there is ever a threat, the plane will be landed immediately in the nearest airport. They also would never get a gun on board anymore thanks to security measures.

Q: Is it true that there has to be at least two people in the cockpit at all times?

A: Yes, this is true.

Q: Storms are becoming more frequent here, is this something that pilots are concerned about?

A: Not at all. They have excellent weather radar systems to avoid storms and they are trained to handle bad weather too.

Q: Are pilots trained in how to handle “stalling”?

A: This is really really really rare. But yes, they are trained heavily in recovery methods and in stalling prevention.


My tips for bad flyers…

  1. Noise cancelling headphones are absolutely essential in my opinion. You know that sound a few minutes after take-off and it sounds as though the engine is turning off? I ALWAYS assume and expect us to start spiralling out of the sky to a gruesome death. Stick on a belter of a song and try and distract yourself from worrying engine sounds.
  2.  Stick with reputable airlines. I know there are a few in Asia who apparently have SHOCKING safety standards, so just do your homework on this. Mainstream carriers are all pretty sound though, we would have heard otherwise!
  3. As much as I hate to recommend this…but a glass of wine really does calm me down a little bit. If you don’t drink, Rescue Remedy could be worth investing in to.
  4. Sit in an aisle seat. As much as it is less comfortable, I always go for the aisle so that I can make a quick exit if I need to. Sounds crazy but I always feel a bit trapped and claustrophobic in the window seat.

Ok so there you have it! I hope you found this post useful, I really so think it can help a lot of nervous flyers. If you have any other tips or questions, don’t hesitate to slide into my DM’s – @niamh_osullivan.

Happy flying! And thanks Dad!!! x

Niamh xx

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