March 18, 2015

Ask the Pilot - Questions Answered

Finally! I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to get this posted! The Pilot hasn't been around much so it's been tough to sit down and go through all of these awesome questions! I can promise you quite the in-depth interview though! Enjoy!

What's your craziest passenger story? It was a snowy day in Cleveland. I don't remember where we we were going but we were running a little bit behind schedule and we were boarding everyone up. The first person on the flight was an older lady. As she was boarding, I was in the jet way behind her and she asked me where the bathroom was on the plane. She asked me if she would have time to use the bathroom and I told her that she would have plenty of time because she was the first one on. So about 10 minutes goes by and the flight attendant came over and said that we had a passenger stuck in the bathroom. In this plane, the bathroom door is usually on a slider and it's very easy to get it off so I ran back to the plane to see what I could do. When I arrived at the bathroom, the lady had knocked the whole door off the hinges and the door was stuck and she couldn't get out. So I was trying to open the door and I just couldn't get the door open so we had to call Maintenance to open the door. So I was back there holding the door because it was literally falling on her and the bathroom was in complete darkness, so this poor old lady was in complete darkness in the bathroom of the plane. Maintenance finally got the door open and got her out and while I was going back to the flight deck, I saw that there was an ambulance outside the door and when I asked what was going on, they told me that one of the grounds crew had fallen out of the cargo bin and was getting checked out. He turned out to be ok, but we ended up being delayed after all of this.

What are your favorite routes? I wouldn't say I have a favorite route, I generally like to do flights that are about an hour or an hour and a half because it keeps me occupied and there isn't a lot of downtime in the air. Anything along the East Coast is usually a fun, good route, or flying over some major cities.

What are your favorite airports: DCA (Washington Reagan) and RDU (Raleigh-Durham). (Me: Really? Raleigh? Him: Yea, Raleigh has a beautiful terminal). I also like DEN (Denver) and as much as everyone hates EWR (Newark), I love flying in and out of Newark because it's an active airspace, the controllers (air traffic) are really good and there's just a lot happening at the airport, which makes it fun.

What is it like to work in the aviation industry? It's a grind. It's a very small industry. You can never really step on anyone's toes because one day they could be your First Officer, the next day, they can be your Captain. It's always changing, which makes it interesting. Right now, there are so many changes going on in the industry that every day there's a new challenge.

What has been your worst flight ever? I don't necessarily have a worst flight, but I do have a worst day. The whole day ended up being a duty day of 16 hours total. There was a lot of weather that day and we had a lot of delays. With all of the delays and weather, we had just picked our way through some thunderstorms and landed in Newark and we were coming close to timing out (at the time of this flight, FAA regulations only allowed pilots to be on duty for 16 hours in one day...that has since changed to 13) and we had to fly from Newark to Kansas City, going around thunderstorms and we probably pushed back from the gate around 11pm. It's about a 3 hour flight to Kansas City and it was just a long day, and a long flight to make it all the way to Kansas City, being very tired and having to fly around a lot of weather, which is challenging. I just remember landing that night and it was definitely one of my biggest challenges, fighting fatigue and weather. (The EWR to MCI flight was his 4th flight of the day...pilots can fly as many as six flights in one day).

How safe is flying? It's very safe. It's probably the safest it's ever been. There are newer aircraft and pilot training is very extensive. (I can vouch for this...despite having a 4 year degree in aviation, transitioning to a commercial job and upgrading sends him off to training for an additional two months at a time!)

What's your favorite thing about flying? The control (he hate being a passenger on a flight), the freedom, I like the rush of taking off and landing, it makes it really enjoyable. 

Do you have the same routes you fly routinely? There are some routes that I tend to fly more than others, but my schedule changes every trip so I don't fly the same routes.

Do you ever get confused with the runways flying into an airport you aren't familiar with? There are times that it can be confusing, but we all have airport diagrams and back up instrumentation that helps us identify the correct runways.

Have you ever had a close call? No. (Thank God!)

Are you ever afraid due to weather conditions? No, because if it isn't safe, we aren't going.

Do you fly with the same crew or other pilot? Usually we fly with the same crew for a 'pairing,' which is a trip, it could be a 4 day trip, otherwise you can go months without flying with the same person.

Do you fly out and back home the same day or do you stay overnight? Where do you stay and how do you get there? I do both. (His trips can last anywhere from 1 to 4 days, or 0 to 3 nights). We usually stay at hotels, sometimes by the airport or sometimes in downtown locations in major cities. Either the hotel transportation or a car service will take us to the hotels. The hotels are all planned in advance by the airline. We have a set list of hotels that we stay at, and if we end up in a location unplanned, we have a third party vendor that locates hotels within the vicinity and gets us rooms.

How often do you have to get a physical? I have to get mine once a year but anyone over 40 has to get one every six months.

Have you ever used your cell phone in flight? No, because you never have service in the air anyway, and we aren't allowed to have our cell phones on while in the flight deck.

What made you want to become a pilot? From a young age, you know, my first trip on an airplane, going to an airport when I was young, just getting on a plane, the whole experience was a blast. It was something I really liked, looking up at the sky; playing baseball as a kid, you're always looking up to the sky and seeing all these planes flying overhead, it's just...the thrill of flying is something I've always had, something I always thought I'd be good at. Now that I am a pilot, every day is different. It's never the same, but it is what I thought it would be and to train so hard for so long and finally being here just makes it...achieving your goal is just so great.

When did you become a pilot, I'm assuming post 9/11 but are you ever just...scared? I started my training in 2005 and became an airline pilot in 2011. My training was very intense and thorough. I got my training from probably the best school in the world, so there's never been a time where I was afraid. You train so much that flying becomes a reaction, an instinct.

If you have a long flight, what do you do the whole time? Are you constantly working, looking at monitors, etc? A lot of our work is done on the ground before we ever take off but the busiest times are taxiing, take off and landing. These are the times where we're really active on the radios, hand flying the plane (versus auto pilot) and making changes to the auto pilot. Once we reach cruising altitude, there are very few changes so a lot of times, we just talk to each other about everything and anything or go over company materials.

So, there you have it! Thanks to everyone who submitted questions! This was a great set of questions and we had a lot of fun getting this post together!


  1. These are great questions and answers. Tell him I'm a lil less afraid of flying now. Just a lil but hey, that's something right?

  2. This is a great inside look into a pilot's life. Thanks to the pilot for being nice enough to answer :)

  3. I loved this idea for a post and it was so fun getting his take (and yours) on some of these. I also like that my question was the first one. Just sayin ;)

  4. That was so interesting! I can be an anxious flier, so I love reading things from a pilot's perspective. That story about the bathroom door is crazy!

  5. I'm so excited to finally read this! What a great post, I really enjoyed learning more about a job that I find fascinating!


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