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13 Things Pilots Won’t Tell You

Most of us never get the chance to talk to the pilot, but who hasn’t wondered what’s going on in the cockpit during all those hours of flight time? Here 13 things pilots won’t tell you.

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1. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Peanuts

One thing your pilot won’t tell you: 

We miss the peanuts too. All of those other snacks are just not the same.

 

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2. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Under Pressure

Another thing pilots won’t tell you:

I’m constantly under pressure to carry less fuel than I’m comfortable with. Airlines are always looking at the bottom line, and you burn fuel carrying fuel. Sometimes if you carry just enough fuel and you hit thunderstorms or delays, then suddenly you’re running out of gas and you have to go to an alternate airport.

 

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Photo: Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

3. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: We Tell You What You Need To Know

One more thing pilots won’t tell you about engine failures: 

But we don’t tell you things that are going to scare the pants off of you. So you’ll never hear me say, “Ladies and gentlemen, we just had an engine failure,” even if that’s true.

 

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4. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: We’d Like To Wait, But We Can’t

Here’s one thing pilots won’t tell you about waiting:

The Department of Transportation has put such an emphasis on on-time performance that we pretty much aren’t allowed to delay a flight anymore, even if there are 20 people on a connecting flight that’s coming in just a little late.

 

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5. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: We’re Exhausted

Another thing pilots won’t tell you about their work hours:

Our work rules allow us to be on duty 16 hours without a break. That’s many more hours than a truck driver. And unlike a truck driver, who can pull over at the next rest stop, we can’t pull over at the next cloud.

 

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Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Make Sense

One thing pilots won’t tell you:

Some rules don’t make sense to us either. Like the fact that when we’re at 39,000 feet going 400 miles an hour, in a plane that could hit turbulence at any minute, flight attendants can walk around and serve hot coffee and Chateaubriand. But when we’re on the ground on a flat piece of asphalt going five to ten miles an hour, they’ve got to be buckled in like they’re at NASCAR.

 

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Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Bumpy Landing

One more thing pilots won’t tell you about that bumpy landing: 

At some airports with really short runways, you’re not going to have a smooth landing no matter how good we are!

 

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8. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Directions

Here’s something else pilots don’t tell you about asking for directions:

We’re in so many airports that we usually have no idea.

 

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9. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Weather

Something pilots won’t tell you about weather delays: 

This happens all the time: There will be a weather delay in the departure city and the weather there is beautiful. Then I’ll hear passengers saying, “You know, I just called my friend and it’s beautiful there, too,” like there’s some kind of conspiracy or something. But in the airspace between the departure city and the destination, there’s a huge thunderstorm.

 

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10. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Plane Labels

One more thing pilots won’t tell you: 

You may go to an airline website and buy a ticket, pull up to its desk at the curb, and get onto an airplane that has a similar name painted on it, but half the time, you’re really on a regional airline.

 

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11. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Training

Another thing pilots wont tell you:

The regionals aren’t held to the same safety standards as the majors. Their pilots aren’t required to have as much training and experience, and the public doesn’t know that.

 

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12. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Landing Skills

One more thing pilots won’t tell you:

How you land is a good indicator of a pilot’s skill. So if you want to say something nice to a pilot as you’re getting off the plane, say “Nice landing.” We do appreciate that.

 

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13. Things Pilots Won’t Tell You: Arriving “Early”

One last thing pilots and airlines don’t tell you:

No, it’s not your imagination. Airlines really have adjusted their flight arrival times so they can have a better record of on-time arrivals. So they might say a flight takes two hours when it really takes an hour and 45 minutes.

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SOURCES: 17 pilots from across the country, including an AirTran Airways captain from Atlanta; Joe D’Eon, a pilot at a major airline who produces a podcast at flywithjoe.com; a US Airways pilot from South Carolina; Jack Stephan, US Airways captain based in Annapolis, Maryland, who has been flying since 1984; Jim Tilmon, a retired American Airlines pilot from Phoenix, Arizona.