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17 Things Pilots Want All Anxious Flyers To Know

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Almost everyone loves to travel, but not everyone loves to fly.

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When you're entrusting your life to absolute strangers behind the cockpit door, it can get pretty terrifying. So we asked pilot Avelino Mendoza, who has over 35 years experience flying with commercial airlines, to share some facts that should make nervous flyers feel calmer.

1. Travelling by plane is safer than by land transport.

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The US National Safety Council calculated that the odds of dying by motor vehicle crash is 1 in 113, while by air and space transport incident, it's only 1 in 9,737.

2. There's more than enough fuel loaded on the plane for all kinds of changes to the original flight plan.

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Besides the fuel needed to get the flight from point to point, the plane also carries destination fuel (when there's air traffic at the landing airport), holding fuel (when the plane has to reroute to another airport), contingency fuel (when it has to avoid massive cloud formations), taxi fuel (used while the plane is on the tarmac), and discrepancy fuel (decided by the pilot).

3. There are always at least two members of the crew in the cockpit for the duration of the flight.

So if one becomes incapacitated, someone is still in control of the flight.

4. And in most cases, long haul flights have a third or fourth pilot, so don't panic if the captain takes the vacant seat beside you.

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By law, pilots are only allowed to work eight hours from check-in to check-out.

5. Each pilot is served a different meal to minimise the risk of food poisoning.

6. Mid-air collisions are rare these days, because modern aircrafts have voice commands that blare in the cockpit if there are any other planes nearby.


Commercial jets are equipped with systems that can detect mountains, airplanes, and large solid debris in the flight path. When the plane is 10 miles from another plane, pilots are warned by a voice saying "traffic, traffic, traffic...". And when traffic is within five miles, the voice actually directs the pilots where to go.

7. There are air traffic controllers on the ground that monitor the flight from take-off to landing.

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8. Pilots are required to fly at least 200 hours before they can qualify for a commercial airline.

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And before they can be promoted to the captain's seat, they need to have accumulated 1,500 hours of flying the same aircraft.

Note: the number of hours varies from airline to airline.

9. Pilots are required to have medical tests periodically.

The frequency varies across different airlines, but all pilots are required to undergo a full medical check-up at least once a year, while captains do so every six months. Additionally, they have to go through a rigorous psychological test when they apply for a job with an airline.

10. Their flying skills are also reviewed every six months.


Pilots go through a aircraft system proficiency test with a simulator every six months, plus another test during an actual flight every year.

11. The doors of the cockpit are locked at the beginning of the flight and can only be opened by the pilots inside.


Following the September 11 attacks, aviation laws prohibit anyone except the flight crew to enter the cockpit during the flight.

12. At least two people - a mechanic and a pilot - are required to circle the aircraft to spot for any damage before it's cleared for flight.

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13. In most cases, the body of the aircraft can deflect lightning.

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Even if the lightning punctures a hole into the plane's body, it won't be enough to depressurise the cabin.

14. Auto-pilots can counteract almost all weather disturbances.

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15. Airplanes have several computers built into their system as fail-safes.

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16. Even if all the engines stop running, a plane can still land safely.

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Planes don't just drop from the sky like a rock when the engines fail. There's always enough time for pilots to glide the plane down to the nearest safe spot.

17. And planes can also land safely even if the wheels are broken.

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And you don't even need a body of water to do so! For airplanes, landing on water is as solid as landing on the ground. If the plane is near a runway, ground staff spray foam so there's less friction.


#3 was amended to say "members of the crew" instead of "pilots", because pilots are human too, and sometimes when they need to go for a wee, a flight attendant waits in the cockpit with the other pilot.

In #6: airplanes have at least two systems that can detect external bodies while on the air.

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