6 Scary Secrets About Flying

Whether you like flying or not, there are some things better left unknown. That blissful ignorance is about to be shattered.

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1. Pilot’s spend most of the flight asleep
Being an airpilot is an extremely exhaustive job, so its no surprise that flight crews work naps into their work schedule. I remember once on a particularly bumpy flight to Atlanta, a pilot plopping himself down in the row behind me, pulling over a curtain, and going asleep. In these circumstances the co-pilot is flying the plane, but it has become increasingly often for pilots to wake up and discover whoever is supposed to be flying the plane asleep also. In February 2013 two pilots fell asleep on a flight over Hawaii, flying past their destination. The Air France disaster on flight 447 found the pilot asleep moments before the crash killed 228 people. The NTSB has called pilot exhausting an ‘insidious’ problem. So chances are when your attempting an inflight nap, there’s others-namely the pilots- who are way ahead.
2. Planes are filthy
Airplanes-from the blankets to the trays are ridden with germs and bacteria. Recent studies have shown  bacteria such as MRSA and E.coli can live on planes for days. Millions of people travel everyday, and planes dont always have enough time to be cleaned down and disinfected in between flights. So keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy. (excuse the pun)

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3. Plane water is filthy
Water for plane lavatories and even your tea and coffee come from the planes tank, which has been known to harbor bacteria such as E.coli and other harmful bacteria. So unless your water is coming from a sealed bottle, you should probably pass on the beverage.

4. Most of the time, pilot’s aren’t even flying the plane
Most commercial airliners are flown by computers (the autopilot), which means flight crews have very little to do after take off until landing. Arguably this may be safer as it reduces the risk of human error, but it also means pilots in the industry don’t get as much hands on practical experience with the aircraft they’re flying.

plane404_673848c5. Planes are old, but rarely get full inspections
During routine maintenance checks, only sections of the aircraft are inspected, as full checks can take months- which would result in a loss of business to airliners. In an extremely competitive and demanding industry, airline companies are always trying to reduce maintenance and fuel costs, even if this means postponing the maintenance of old planes (most of 20-30 years old) which have likely experienced wear and time, as some planes fly over 7 flights per day- thats 210 a month, thousands a year

6. Pilots don’t always tell you whats going on
“We tell passengers what they need to know. We don’t tell them things that are going to scare the pants off them. So you’ll never hear me say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we just had an engine failure,’ even if that’s true.” – Jim Tilmon, retired American Airlines pilot, Phoenix

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Come Fly With Me

2014 has a been a disaster for the aviation industry. According to statistics, 2014 was the most fatal year since 2005. The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight mh370 is still a mystery today, and coupled with the shooting down of another Malaysian airliner over a conflict region in Ukraine, and the recent Air Asia tragedy; the events of 2014 has proved just how complex and conflicted regulations within Airline industry can be.

8th of March– 239 Lives were lost in the MH370 inccident
17th July– 298 lives were lost in the second Malaysian Airlines inccident over Ukraine
24th of July– 116 lives lost in the Air Algerie crash near Gossi
28th December– 162 lives lost in the recent Air Asia crash in the Indian sea

(Data from aviation Safety Network)

Coupled with other incidents around the world involving smaller aircraft and fatalities figures, the total number of fatalities for 2014 is 1,320.

While 2014 is still far from being the deadliest year for flying, and is still one of the safest years to date; the above incidents (while all maintaining very unique and diverse circumstances) have resulted in the death of 100’s- friends, partners, children, parents- who should have arrived safely to their destinations.

As NTSB investigations are still ongoing, it can be presumed that factors pertaining to weather, airline error, pilot error and mechanical failure may have a played a part in one if not all of the events above. However, in this day and age, does it not seem slightly incredible that a passenger jet can be authorized to fly through a conflict airspace, and be subsequently shot down by military? That, despite years of training, a supposedly trained crew can lose control of an aircraft? Or that despite extremely advanced aviation and tracking technology, a commercial jet can simply vanish, all 239 lives with it?

Malaysian airline wreckage in Ukraine


Business is Business
It must always be born in mind that the commercial airline industry is a business, and when it comes to cutting costs and corners, airline giants are no strangers. To survive in an ever changing and competitive industry, Airlines are increasingly forced to find ways to reduce costs, but the extent to which these efforts jeopardize safety are ambiguous. Reducing fuel costs, maintenance costs and staff costs, will inevitably result in performance issues. Reluctance to recall faulty aircraft, or take longer routes to avoid bad weather on strict time schedules, all pave the way for discrepancies between safety and cost efficiency. This is not to imply that the industry actively seeks to endanger the lives of its flight crew and passengers; but rather that the events of 2014 have revealed, quite publicly, that airline procedures can be rife with error and poor judgement as result of the constant pressure to meet high demands, while maintaining low running costs.

We’ve all heard it before, “flying is the safest way to travel”. And, technically it is. but it depends on a significant number of factors, some of which are being unfortunately being compromised to meet business needs.

Flying is so many parts skill, so many parts planning, so many parts maintenance, and so many parts luck. The trick is to reduce the luck by increasing the others.

-David .L Baker