“That’s one of the toughest questions you can ask a pilot. Last year, I flew over Bali right around sunset, en route from Sydney to Singapore. The sky was deep blue above and red at the horizon; the first stars were out, and the silvery sea below us was dotted with the lights of fishing boats. I wondered if any of the sailors on them were looking up at the lights of our plane. I felt like I was seeing our planet for the first time.”
Clive Richardson, pilot and Executive Vice President of Operations in Europe for luxury private jet airline Flexjet
“The view out of the flight deck window never fails to captivate. You get to see things you and your co-pilot are the only ones to experience. Amazing sights I love are fascinating varieties of clouds whizzing past the window with sunlight reflecting off them. To see the Aurora Borealis in the deep night sky is incredible.”
What is your number one piece of advice for a nervous flyer?
Clive Richardson: “Speak to pilots and ask questions. Pilots know that many people are nervous, but we all want to make flying a positive experience and for people to travel confidently. So speak to your pilot if you can, or any pilots you meet in other spheres of life. They will explain everything that goes on to you, which can prove very reassuring for most people and make them feel comfortable and safe. At Flexjet, our pilots always meet our passengers before and during boarding to ensure we are available for anything. And indeed, passengers are welcome to see inside the flight deck.”
Hannah Wells: “Firstly, remember you’re not alone! An estimated one in six people fear flying, according to easyJet data. My number one tip to any nervous flyer would be to come and visit us on the flight deck or speak to the cabin crew about it, as we will do everything we can to try and put your mind at ease. We can answer any questions you may have, explain what is likely to happen during the flight, and talk you through any noises you may hear the aircraft making. easyJet also runs a very useful Fearless Flyer Course for anyone who is particularly nervous about flying and is keen to overcome their fear.”
How much of a flight is led by autopilot?
Mark Vanhoenacker: “The autopilot is engaged for the cruise portion of each flight, but it’s being directed by the entries we make into the navigation computers and other systems. For example, climbs, descents and turns to avoid weather are all initiated by the pilots. It’s accurate to say that we fly the plane ‘through’ the autopilot.”
Is turbulence dangerous?
Hannah Wells: “There is nothing to worry about if you experience some turbulence during a flight – it is normal for a plane to experience some movement in the air. Just think about it like a car driving on a road – some roads are smooth, while others are bumpy. So, during the turbulence, the plane is simply on the equivalent of a bumpy road. As pilots, we always endeavour to make the flight as comfortable as possible for the passengers. If we do fly into some turbulence, we can try to either climb or descend out of it or, alternatively, fly a different route.”
Do you get the chance to discover the destination when you arrive?
Mark Vanhoenacker: “Long haul pilots typically have a full day to rest, enjoy the sights, and pursue their hobbies. I’ve gotten back into swimming this year in a big way and I am enjoying discovering all the best pools in destinations like Delhi, Houston and Tokyo. Then, I’m usually off to a favourite café for breakfast and a browse of the news.”
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