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SallyBR_'s picture

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Yeap, I will be flying in one... to go to Europe on Friday. IN case you did not know, I am scared of flying, and would much rather go driving. Unfortunately, my car has problems with salt water. Never took the 747 before - huge thing. Guess it's one of the safest planes, though - any good experiences to pump me up? (skip the bad ones, please)

kai_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #31 of 127)

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Well, Peter, maybe it's age or lack of experience, but I'd sure like to get back to getting a huge thrill, like Adele--NOT mixed w/fear (ignorance was bliss)--from takeoffs and landings. Of course, it would probably be relatively quick and painless should an accident happen at either of those stages. What is anyone doing to augment safety at these danger points? Ever fly into SAN? One of these days that building in the flight path is asking for it.

Can wind shear happen w/out a storm or ground wind?

I'm guessing that 9 of the 10 or so flights I've taken had turbulance, but it was brief, intermittent, and akin to a bumpy road. Coming back from Vegas to SAN, however, we had to evade a jet's trail (he later said), but it felt and sounded like we hit a wall then we banked left FAST and fell hard, don't know how far. Of course I was thinking a day at COMDEX was hardly a fitting end.

It appears I've had more abnormal than normal flights.

I used to love roller coasters. Maybe there's hope. I have to fly the first week of Oct from SAN to CHS (Charleston SC) or maybe Myrtle Beach (MYR) and back, but the former has, I think, a nonstop. I think that would be safer by one less takeoff and landing. From a pilot's POV, do you have a pref, airport-wise?

I'm thinking I should aim for a 747, as well.

Should a pilot be required to disclose to passengers after flying or otherwise working, commuting, whatever, after x hours? Like 12? How can the flying public help get reasonable hours for you folks? Same goes for doctors (or is it interns). Is your copilot generally on the same sleep schedule?

In general, are you on autopilot except during takeoffs/landings?

How at fault are air traffic controllers compared to say, pilot error, (and I'm sure falling asleep doesn't often happen except in-flight, and, I hope, not often at that), for increased takeoff/landing danger? I knew one ATC who was way overworked, as were his "men" (last spoke w/him after dereg). Is their software the best, and are their networks heavily backed up?

I've heard that the seat near the exit is the safest if you need to escape (and are strong enough to operate it), but, couldn't you get more easily sucked out if it came open unexpectedly? Would a shoulder harness help? Are the seats bolted extra strongly in the area?

The absolute best flight I had was a smaller plane (held maybe 12?) from Atlanta GA to Dothan (I think) AL. The farmland! The puffy clouds! The rain! It was bumpy, but not scary. What a view :-) I think this pilot even tilted the plane slightly for our viewing pleasure at one point.

Thanks for all your help. I really want to get over this fear, which came w/knowledge and can only be overcome by more.

Well, [I'm glad] you asked :-) TIA!

Tracy_K's picture

(post #57237, reply #32 of 127)

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I have become somewhat of an anxious flyer myself over the last two years, with really no good reason... no bad experiences, etc. I just find myself looking around the waiting area as we are all waiting to board the plane and thinking about what the newscasters are going to say about me and my fellow (doomed) passengers after the fiery crash.

I've discovered that I can avoid this by hanging out in the airport bar until the last minute... two or three gin & tonics (gins & tonic?) later, and I barely notice the flying. Makes it easier to sleep, too!

:-)
Tracy

Marie-Louise_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #33 of 127)

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i in VERY stormy San Francisco, when a lightning hit the plane, in 1994
To make you feel even more like God was looking for you... years go by without any significant lightning storms around here.

Now, enough about being scared of flying-why are you going? To check out potential places for a sabbatical? Or just a regular vacation?

SallyBR_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #34 of 127)

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Why we are going....

interesting question... :-)
Alex is leaving on Friday, so we wanted to avoid having to come back home then. We arranged this trip to give talks about our work and check the possibilities of that sabbatical for next year.

SO, in a way it is a professional trip, that was launched for personal reasons.

We will have fun too, of course. But, another really really bad thing happened just when we finished arrangements - our former boss from Pasteur, a great scientist, committed suicide, so the trip to Paris will have a very sad and heavy tone to it. But we will go, and see all the other people we used to work with over there. They are basically devastated still.

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #35 of 127)

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Hello Kai,

Good of you to ask. Lots of stuff here so I may not be able to get through it all tonight. If that is the case, check in tomorrow for the rest.

"Can wind shear happen w/out a storm or ground wind?"
Yes it can. In fact lack of ground wind can amount to shear if you had a headwind all the way on approach and it disappears in the last few feet. The key to that is monitoring the wind all the way on final, listening to reports from previous aircraft, local knowledge of the terrain/geography, and if things start happening close to the ground (such as significant increase or decrease in airspeed or deviation from the glideslope) having no hesitation to go around (missed approach).

"Coming back from Vegas to SAN, however, we had to evade a jet's trail (he later said), but it felt and sounded like we hit a wall then we banked left FAST and fell hard, don't know how far."
I am guessing here but was this in a light (general aviation) airplane? When flying under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) as all airliners do, the controllers space us far enough apart to avoid what is called "wake turbulence" from the preceding traffic. And we are warned by phrases such as : "you are 5 miles in trail of a 1011, caution wake turbulence…"

"From a pilot's POV, do you have a pref, airport-wise?"
Oh yes. Give me the major centers any day. LHR (London), LAX, NYC and so on. Although very busy, the controlling is superb. The navigation facilities are second to none. By that I mean that they are equipped to have approved airlines land in weather conditions as low as 100 meters (300 feet) visibility. I could give you a list of spots I would rather avoid. They have poorly designed approaches, poorly trained controllers and poorly maintained facilities. Mostly they are in the third world.

"I'm thinking I should aim for a 747, as well."
Nice aircraft. Other wide bodies are also nice.

I have to go for now. Will continue tomorrow

Jean_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #36 of 127)

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That is funny! Me too. The family went for a bi-plane ride this spring and had side bets going on whether or not I would go. I fooled them all and loved it! I've had uncomfortable moments at the top of a flight of stairs though...and ladders...2 rungs is my limit. LOL

SallyBR_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #37 of 127)

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Roofing... just to show you guys that, although I am a wimp when it comes to planes, certain fears I was able to overcome - like going on top of the roof

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #38 of 127)

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(con't)

"Should a pilot be required to disclose to passengers after flying or otherwise working, commuting, whatever, after x hours? Like 12? How can the flying public help get reasonable hours for you folks? Same goes for doctors (or is it interns). Is your copilot generally on the same sleep schedule?"
Hmmm. Interesting question. Let me give that one some thought. A lot of complexities come into play with it. On the whole I like it. For a bit of background: the more restrictive limits are those imposed by the various collective agreements. And this does not help the folks who work for a smaller carrier, like the various affiliated feeders. They get worked to the maximum allowed by law. Having said that the US is not the worst when it comes to duty times. Surprisingly it is various pacific rim countries who have the most progressive outlook. Followed by the US and EU. And Canada is at the bottom of the barrel!
As far as being on the same sleep schedule, the answer is yes most of the time, but not necessarily. Let me give you an example that will illustrate most of this topic (under Canadian laws). A flight is scheduled to operate Vancouver to London. Departure 10 PM. One of the pilots has had to book off (pick a reason-accident at home, abscess tooth, whatever) at 7 PM. Crew scheduling calls in the reserve pilot to do the flight. Now this reserve pilot has probably woken up this morning around 7 or 8 AM. He/she will starting their working "day" at 9 PM (we check in for a flight 1 hour prior for flight planning and so on). Departure at 10 for a 10 hour flight. Fortunately our collective agreement requires an additional (relief) pilot due to the combination of length of flight and hours of operation. The law in this country does not. The relief pilot occupies the seat and does the work of the one taking a break.

"In general, are you on autopilot except during takeoffs/landings?"
Yes. There are variations on the theme. There are no airplanes (civilian anyway) capable of taking off on autopilot. When it is engaged is a matter of preference. Some do at 500 feet. Others at 10,000 feet and so on. Depends on the day, your mood, workload…Also I can state with some certainty that the autopilot is always engaged in cruse at high altitude. It simply does a better job there.
There is one time when the autopilots (we have two to three depending on type) have to be doing the job. And that is when we are conducting a Category 3 approach and landing. That refers to the landing visibility being down to 100M (300 feet). Our federal regulations require that in these circumstances the approach, touchdown, rollout and braking be conducted with said autopilots. Keep in mind that we ALWAYS have the use of the disconnect button if we don't like what is happening.
If you want I can go into what if feels like to do a Cat3 at a later time.



"How at fault are air traffic controllers compared to say, pilot error, (and I'm sure falling asleep doesn't often happen except in-flight, and, I hope, not often at that), for increased takeoff/landing danger? I knew one ATC who was way overworked, as were his "men" (last spoke w/him after dereg). Is their software the best, and are their networks heavily backed up?"
I have a great deal of respect for those folks. Their job is very, very demanding and I think that on the whole they get a raw deal. Here is the gist of a story I read in one of our trade journals. You have to keep in mind that all radar data and communications are recorded. The controller maintains a given distance between aircraft (the distance varies depending on the location - enroute, terminal, final approach and so on). He/she does this by giving directions for heading, altitude and speed. They create a bubble around you. Now picture the approach to a busy airport. There is a string of aircraft in trail of each other, all going to the same place. The controller has spaced them the required distance apart. Lets say its 5 miles here. If he/she places them farther apart for his comfort, then they would be less landings per hour there. So the pressure is to maintain the minimum distance. To achieve this he gives the pilots a precise speed to fly. Then some schmuk in one of the planes lets the airspeed vary by +/- 5 knots. And does not correct it. You can see that that magic bubble has now been breached. Not by much mind you. Perhaps 150 feet. But it is enough to trigger an alarm in the control center. "Loss of separation". The controller is relieved of his position pending an investigation.
The ratio of controller to pilot error? I don't know. I suspect it would be around 95% pilot error, IF those are the only two factors you are considering. The factors leading up to an incident or accident are complex indeed. More on that another time.
Software and backup. The best person to give you the straight goods on that is a controller. I keep reading that the FAA has been in the process of upgrading for some time. With setbacks. This is a government procurement process after all.

"I've heard that the seat near the exit is the safest if you need to escape (and are strong enough to operate it), but, couldn't you get more easily sucked out if it came open unexpectedly? Would a shoulder harness help? Are the seats bolted extra strongly in the area?"
The seats near the exits would be my preference. "strong enough to operate.." They weigh about 35 pounds. Remember you would not be using them like you were pumping iron in a gym. Once unlatched you place them out of the way. And they will not come open unexpectedly. The securing mechanism is designed in a way that the window (and doors for that matter) is pressing against the body of the plane, on the inside. In flight we are pressurized to about 8 psi. A window is about 48"x36". So at 8psi and about 1700 sq in of surface, you would need about 13600 pounds of force to open it.
So, no the seats are not bolted any differently there. The only difference in seats around the window exists are the ones directly in front of the window. Their recline mechanism is restricted so that the seat back cannot block the path to the window. Some airlines get around this restriction by placing that row of seats far enough forward to enable full recline.

Anything else? I will be on the road fairly often in the next while so may not be able to get right back to you.

Cheers,

Peter

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #57237, reply #39 of 127)

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Strangely, the missed approaches actually make me feel safer - it reminds me that there are people up front in the cockpit watching out very carefully for our safety.

No offense, MM, but if the flight attendant was able to walk up and down the aisle, it wasn't all that turbulent. Trust me, it can get much, much worse.

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #57237, reply #40 of 127)

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i It would help (me) to know some of these very very spooky things are just part of a normal flight.

ITA, kai. I think this is one of the things that's been helping me - not just intellectually knowing it either, but really being able to convince myself deep down. Hearing stories about other people's experiences makes a difference.

Thanks again for the additional info, Peter. This is really fascinating.

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #57237, reply #41 of 127)

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When the plane drops a few thousand feet quickly and unexpecedly, what is the best way to scrape your breakfast off of the ceiling.

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #42 of 127)

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with your tongue

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #57237, reply #43 of 127)

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That's one thing I have yet to experience, and hopefully never will, but it does bring up perhaps the scariest, most frightening aspect of flying - the food.
I've had a couple of decent enough meals on BA and Lufthansa, so I know it can be done, but why isn't it? And why, oh why, is one of the entree choices always pasta? There is nothing on god's green earth (to borrow a Chiffy phrase) more revolting than autoclaved airplane pasta!
OK, rant over, we will now return to our regular programming...

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #57237, reply #44 of 127)

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Or maybe more appropriately, what was I doing taking food on an airline in the first place.

Full-fledged's picture

(post #57237, reply #45 of 127)

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Well after reading that, please appologize to that pilot in Las Vegas for me. Upon a hard landing with bad cross winds, I replied upon departure, "Nice landing Steve McQueen" (he turned beet red)

Hoping it was not you,
Fledge

p.s. New Orleans International approach if pretty hairy.
p.s.s I got to walk inside an Antonov once. Pretty cool.

SallyBR_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #46 of 127)

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Ok Peter....

my question for you, and I am a bit afraid of your answer

Can a plane be brought down (aka CRASH) exclusively because of strong turbulence? I mean, has it ever happened?

On a related note: what exactly do you have to do during turbulence?
Because if I'm on a bumpy road, I grab the steering wheel tighter, I try to avoid the big bumps, you get the idea. In a plane, what exactly can you do? How much skill does it involve - in other words, is there a thing as a "bad pilot", who would be unable to control the plane under such and such circumstances?

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #47 of 127)

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i No offense, MM, but if the flight attendant was able to walk up and down the aisle, it wasn't all that turbulent

CM - no offense taken...but perhaps "walk" wasn't really the right phrase...she was pulling herself from row to row using the seat backs (the plane was descending rather rapidly). I really didn't think it was
b that
bad until she started her mumbling. You'd have had to have been there...she looked absolutely terrified. Didn't know if it was her first day, just a really bad day, or if she knew something we didn't.

TEC's picture

(post #57237, reply #48 of 127)

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Sally, a boyfriend once told me not to ask any questions that I really did not want to know the answers too. My question to you is do you REALLY want it answered and how will the answer help or hurt you? Just a thought.

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #49 of 127)

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CM- ready for an airline food story? My younger brother's first exW was a beautiful girl, blonde, and she had all the brains of the ladies in the blonde jokes. She was a stewardess (that was the correct phrase back then) for TWA, and one time she was telling us about the special meals they offered. Said they had diet, low-fat, kosher, etc., and she commented that on a flight once, a rabbi was on board and he had requested a kosher meal. She told him that she didn't know what made a kosher meal so special, and asked if it had been "blessed by the Pope, or something?"

To second your rant, however, is there some reason that airline food has to be so bad? I understand about reheating, etc., but when I read about the cost airlines pay for the food, it's apparent to me that somebody's getting gypped. I've nuked leftovers that actually were pretty tasty...can't someone figure out what foods take airplane cooking well, as opposed to those which don't? And do the caterers purposely wait until the rolls, bagels, sandwich bread, etc. is stale before they use it? Nothing could get that hard and stale in just a matter of hours if it were fresh to begin with. And has anyone else noticed that the food in first class is a poor reminder of what you used to get in coach? And am I the only one who hates to drink coffee in a plastic cup? (I used to write Bob Crandall about this periodically...the only rationale I ever got from an AA employee was that the plastic weighed less than china.) Okay, secondary rant over.

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #57237, reply #50 of 127)

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What I mean is that in some of the turbulence I've been in, she would have been smashed into the ceiling like MC's breakfast, over and over again.

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #57237, reply #51 of 127)

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LOL! Great story.
I'm glad I'm not alone. The roll thing would be very simple to solve - all they have to do is stop refrigerating them. Refrigerating bread (but oddly enough not freezing it) makes it stale. All the airlines need to do is keep the rolls in a separate, room temperature container and pass them out with the meals. So why don't they?

Peter, do you have to eat this stuff when you fly, or do you bring your own food?

Full-fledged's picture

(post #57237, reply #52 of 127)

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Now that's a GREAT question!

SallyBR_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #53 of 127)

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Airline food... Not too long ago, there was a thread about it in a cooking forum - apparently, some guy in charge of changing menus in some huge airline wanted to get some feedback about what would make customers happy... I thought it was a very interesting thread, and followed it as it grew, and grew, and grew - the funny thing is, the desires and expectations of people are SOOOOO different! At the end of the discussion, to me it was clear that it's impossible to succeed! If you think that re-heating food is what makes it bad and decide to go for cold buffets.. voila'! Lots of people would rather starve than go for it! And no matter the options posted, complains followed. I dunno - I think that maybe the secret would be to keep it simple, avoid going the fancy route. But, it is a hell of a tough job. A good friend of mine visited the kitchen of American Airlines back home - she was amazed by the "quality control" involved, in details that we do not really think about that much: meat has to be cut about the same size, as precisely as possible - you want to avoid having two guys sitting side by side and one gets a "good" portion, the other gets the short end of the stick... :-) Same is true for veggies, etc. Fascinating, Mr. Spock, fascinating

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #57237, reply #54 of 127)

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I have actually witnessed flight attendants on the ceiling as well. Not a pretty sight. Thank goodness for seat belts.

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #55 of 127)

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I just eat the salads and the fruit. The bread is tasty however.

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #56 of 127)

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I hear you, CM - actually saw a flight attendant hit the ceiling of the plane on a recent flight from Denver to Durango on a little puddle jumper. She told everyone to buckle up for turbulence, but didn't take that advice herself - she just sat in the front bulkhead row, reading a book. We hit a "bump" and she flew out of the seat, hit the ceiling, and landed back on the floor. The pilot then called to see what had happened, and she tried to claim that she was hurt when she got up to answer his call. Oh well. Never a dull moment!

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #57 of 127)

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Food police. Again. Because aircraft cabins have varying temperatures (especially during turn-round) all food has to go through cool chain - an outbreak of food poisoning at 40000 feet is not, definitely not, even remotely funny. And remember at that height with reduced pressures and funny air your taste buds don't work properly. I know that wine tastes entirely different at altitude to ground level, a friend of mine who selects wine for major airlines said that stuff that tastes dreadful at ground level is amazingly pleasant at cruising altitude, but the good stuff rarely works at height. Same is true for food.

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #58 of 127)

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Sally,

see TEC's post(#19) right after yours. Would you rather wait until you get back?

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #59 of 127)

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i stuff that tastes dreadful at ground level is amazingly pleasant at cruising altitude, but the good stuff rarely works at height. Same is true for food.

ashley - Does this mean that the airlines should cook food that tastes dreadful at ground level?

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #60 of 127)

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If it tastes reasonable (good is too much to ask) then why not. Problem is that recipes are developed on the ground!