All Your Questions About Flying Answered

by | Jun 1, 2016 | Flying | 4 comments

All Your Questions About Flying Answered

by | Jun 1, 2016 | Flying | 4 comments

Flying has to be one of the most unnatural ways of travelling. It’s easy to wonder how something that weighs a few tons can actually lift off the ground and soar. You probably have plenty of questions about these magical flying tubes called aircraft and I hope to answer all your questions with this post.

If by the end of the post you still have questions, please do send me an email and I’ll try to answer them all!

Boarding Related
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Why is the pilot going around checking the plane when the passengers are boarding? Is there something wrong?

There is nothing wrong and this is a standard procedure. Before taking off, a pilot needs to do a visual check of the structure of the plane. This happens every time a plane is going to be used.

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What is that weird white mist coming from the ceiling, is it smoke?

Sometimes you can see a sort of mist coming from the ceiling when you are boarding an aircraft. This happens in warmer places and it is just the air conditioning working – pretty much like when you open the freezer door and that cold air comes out.

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Why are flight attendants moving every trolley and opening canisters before boarding?

You might even think that we are looking for something or we are just cleaning the plane. If you see the cabin crew opening every canister and move the trolleys around, they are just doing a security search and are checking if there is anything on board that shouldn’t be there.

Emergencies Onboard
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What happens if there is a fire onboard?

Ask any pilot what is the thing they dread the most on an aircraft and they will tell you the same answer – a fire. If you imagine that there are tons of fuel and a lot of flammable things (carpets, seats, bags, oxygen bottles) you can understand this answer. The cabin can quickly be filled with smoke and the situation becomes life threatening. If there is a fire onboard, you will see the cabin crew run around to grab the extinguishers and fight the fire, the pilots will be informed and they will do an emergency landing. The safest place to fight a fire is on the ground.

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What if one engine fails?

Engines are important to generate thrust to lift the aircraft off the ground, but when you are at 30,000ft the most important thing to keep you up in the air are the wings. The engines are there to push air and keep a steady altitude.

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What if both engines fail?

One engine failure is a rare event, but a failure in both engines are almost impossible to happen. You have more chances to win the lottery twice than experience this. Let’s imagine that this actually happens, you probably won’t feel much of a difference. The aircraft can glide for quite some time. Without the engines, it won’t be possible to keep a constant altitude so it will slowly get lower and lower. Still, the aircraft can still stay up and glide to the nearest airport for an emergency landing.

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What if some system fails?

An aircraft is an amazing machine and incredibly safe. If something actually fails there is always a back up so you can keep flying without any problem.

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What if the back system up fails?

If the backup of that system that failed, fails, there is another backup. That’s another reason why flying is so safe, there is always a backup for the backup.

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But what if the backup of the backup fails?

Let’s imagine that you are a very unlucky person and every system and backup system fail. Know that the pilots are extremely experienced and they spend hours in the simulator practicing all sorts of emergencies. They will be trained to deal with pretty much anything that happens to the aircraft. So don’t worry, you are in good hands.

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What if a pilot get sick while flying?

A medical emergency can happen to anyone even the crew. If a pilot falls ill and won’t be able to fly, the cabin crew is trained to deal with a total pilot incapacitated scenario and are able to provide basic life support as needed. There are always at least two pilots in the flight deck (a captain and a first officer) and either one of them can land the plane safely on their own. If a pilot is ill, the other pilot will divert the aircraft to get medical help for the other pilot.

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What if there is a decompression?

Often when people think about a decompression, they are imagining a Hollywood style one with things being sucked out from the aircraft and falling from 30,000ft. This is very unlikely to happen and is known as a rapid decompression. You will hear a loud bang, things flying, mask dropping and misting of the cabin.  In a slow decompression, you might not realise that something happened until you see the masks dropping. Pilots can see if there is any issue with the pressure in the cabin and will act quickly to descend low enough where the air is breathable and then divert to the nearest airport. Either way, you are in good hands and the whole crew are trained to deal with the grimmest scenarios.

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What if I get sick on board?

The cabin crew are extremely good first aiders and not only know the basics of first aid, but they also know how to use oxygen and how to use a defibrillator. There are plenty of people that in a previous life were paramedics or nurses and are now flying as crew. Again, don’t worry you are in good hands.

Aircraft Related
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What if a wing drops out of the plane?

A wing dropping out of an aircraft is pretty much impossible because they are part of the fuselage so don’t worry you won’t see any wings falling off anytime soon.

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What if we get hit by lightning while flying?

You might experience this and it can be quite scary if you are a nervous flyer. But, you have nothing to worry about. An aircraft is built to withstand lightning strikes. You might see a bright flash (as if someone was taking a picture) and then a bang. Other than the occasional flick of lights the aircraft will continue its course without any issues. After landing the aircraft might stay on the ground for a while longer while an engineer comes and checks if everything is fine so the aircraft can fly again.

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Why do the doors in the toilet have ashtrays if we can't smoke on board?

The ashtrays are part of the minimum required equipment for an aircraft according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s(FAA) which means that an aircraft can be grounded if an ashtray is missing. If someone is caught smoking inside an aircraft, the crew needs a safe place to sub out the cigarette safely to prevent a fire.

Take-offs and Landings
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Why do the window blinds need to be up for take-off and landing?

There are a few reasons why this is a requirement. From the crew seats, we have a very small window with a weird angle, we can’t see much while seated. The passenger’s windows are big and you have a better view from outside. If something happens, you, as a passenger, will see it and alert us before the pilots. Also, if the captain asks us to go along the cabin and look at something in the wings for some reason, it will make it easier for us to do so. Finally, in a case of emergency, it will also allow you to see outside and people from outside to see into the cabin, this will be useful for the emergency services to rescue anyone that might be trapped inside.

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Why are the lights dimmed for take-off and landing?

This is for a safety reason. In the unlikely event of an evacuation, your eyes will be already adjusted to the light outside the aircraft and you won’t lose precious seconds, because you are blinded by the light,  to get to safety.

Airport
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Why do my ears feel funny after take-off and landing?

At 30,000ft you can’t breathe normally, there isn’t enough oxygen and after a few minutes, you would pass out. That’s why the aircraft is pressurised. Is this change of pressure that makes your ears feel funny or blocked.

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Every time I fly my ears get blocked and hurt, how can I solve this problem?

Because of the change of pressure it’s normal to get your ears blocked, but often they ‘pop’ and you can hear again. Although if you have a cold and your sinus is blocked, the air won’t be able to pass and you get your ears blocked and even feel some pain. A trick to unblock your ears is to chew gum, drink water, yawn or pinch your nose and blow. You can also apply a decongestant spray before take off if you have a stuffy nose. When you see a flight attendant do funny faces like opening and closing the mouth pretty much like a fish, they are probably just trying to unblock their ears.

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The airplanes are really low when they are landing in some airports, is this a disaster waiting to happen?

Every airport is different and each has their own rules and characteristics. Even though it seems a bit risky, everything is good and there isn’t really a risk of hitting something. The aircraft has an anti-collision system that lets the pilots know if they are too close to something. The Airbus even talks to the pilots and says things like “pull up, ground ahead.”

Onboard Related
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What if I get stuck in the toilet?

The toilets in the aircraft are quite small and make a scary noise when you press the flush button, so it’s normal that you might be afraid of being stuck inside one. Inside the toilet, you can find a call bell button, use it every time that you think something is wrong and you need assistance from the crew. Don’t worry if the toilet is locked because the crew can unlock the toilet from the outside and provide any help that you need.

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How do pilots fly in the hours of darkness? Don't they need to see where are they going?

The pilots are able to navigate with just the aircraft instruments. They know if the aircraft is off course and make adjustments as they go along. For landing the pilots will need to see the runway, luckily they are quite easy to spot with all the lights on each side of the runway.

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What if someone tries to open the door mid flight?

At 30,000ft with a pressurised cabin, it’s impossible to open a door because of the difference in pressure inside the cabin and the outside. Also, the doors of the aircraft open first inward and then outward – this makes the doors act as a cork in a bottle.
If the Hulk is travelling on the same flight as you, he might be able to open the door, but the difference of pressures will keep the door shut tightly.

Other Questions
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How can I get a job as a Flight Attendant?

Do a quick search on google and you will find all sorts of sites with job offers. If you really want to become a flight attendant you can improve your chances of getting the job if you have experience in customer service.

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