Ask a Pilot — Rene Answers Reader Questions

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This week on Ask a Pilot, pilot Rene answers questions submitted by our readers (you!):


Question:        Do you fall asleep when you are en route?

Answer:          Absolutely not.

This is strictly forbidden. If it’s late at night, we may turn all the lights up bright to make it easier to stay alert, or we may set the temperature pretty cold to help, but we will not fall asleep.

[Note: Rene flies shorthaul domestic flights, so there is no crew rest option as you would find on longer international flights.]

Question:        What is your favorite airport and why?

Answer:          Without hesitation, Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA).

There is a lot of activity for the pilots. The ground operations and movement can be absolutely crazy, and there are tight flight paths we need to follow. This makes it a little exciting, and both pilots have to be on their game. The air traffic controllers there are the best anywhere. They are what makes this airport work. Bottom line, it’s just fun from a pilot perspective.

Question:        What is the most common misconception people have about pilots?

Answer:          I have a few thoughts here:

  1. Some people think pilots always fly the same route, day in and day out. That is not the case. We have places we fly to frequently, but we do not have a set route.
  2. “Autoland” is not responsible for your good landing. Autoland is pretty firm and is rarely used. Unless the weather is extremely bad (e.g. you can’t see the wingtip when you are taxiing), the pilot makes the landing (one exception is when pilots are requested to use autoland simply to keep the system current). If it’s too windy, autoland isn’t even an option. So, if you had a good landing on a very windy day, that was a coordinated effort between the pilot and luck.
  3. Many pilots have other career options, have had other careers, or even have other businesses on the side. One benefit of the amount of time off we have is that we can pursue other interests.

And our final (and my favorite) reader questions this week:

Question:        Do you really use all those buttons?

Answer:          Yes.

Some will only be used if there is a system failure or an automation failure, but they are all there to be used if needed. There are definitely some buttons you do not want to have to use!

Thanks to our readers for sending in questions! Do you or your kids have a question for our pilot? He is happy to answer! Please leave us a note in the comments.

Didn’t see your question answered here? We had several reader questions about turbulence and will address those in a separate post. Stay tuned!

Check out other installments of our “Ask a Pilot” series here:

Ask a Pilot: Crew Pet Peeves

Ask a Pilot: What Unexpected Things May Be Happening on Your Flight

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