Pilot answers the questions that scare nervous flyers most

Easyjet pilot Chris Foste answer questions about the things that make passengers nervous

Flying can be an extremely traumatic experience for some people, so much so that they would rather avoid even getting on a plane.

One of six people are said to have a fear of flying.

If you stop to think that you are being lifted thousands of feet into the air and travelling thousands of miles, you can start to see where these people might be coming from.

If anything goes wrong there really is nothing you can do. Thankfully plenty of precautions are taken and flying is safer than taking a car journey.

A pilot has taken time out to answer a range of questions from nervous flyers which he hopes will help to put their minds at rest.

EasyJet pilot Chris Foste spoke to the Liverpool Echo to reassure nervous passengers over some of the most common fears, and also answered some of the things that just seemed quite strange to the rest of us.

What would happen if you accidentally left a mobile or ipad on during take off?

In reality, nothing to be concerned about. Aircraft control systems are so sophisticated now, that they wouldn’t cause any interference.

The regulations date back many years to when we didn’t even have things like ipads.

The laws are starting to be relaxed – you can now use your devices in flight safety mode – and I think we’ll see more changes over the next few years.

Is it possible for someone to open the door while in the air?

No absolutely not. The aircraft is pressurized and the doors are what we call ‘plug doors’, which prevents them from being opened until the pressure is released.

Can turbulence make a plane crash?

The chance of turbulence bringing down an aircraft is incredibly remote. Turbulence causes discomfort, much like driving down a road with lots of potholes does, but it’s not dangerous or unsafe. An aircraft is built to withstand several times the force of turbulence you’re ever likely to experience.

Is it possible for a plane’s engine to ‘stall’ mid air?

A plane’s engine could fail, but that’s an extremely remote possibility because the amount of care and attention that goes into maintaining an engine is incredible.

Most pilots are unlikely to ever experience a technical fault with their aircraft in their entire flying career, let alone an engine failure.

Why do you have to put your tray table up during take off and landing?

We plan for every eventuality and if we had to abandon take off for some reason – which again, is very unlikely – a tray table could cause a passenger injury if it was left open.

And why do you have to have your window shutter open?

If we had to evacuate the aircraft it’s important that the cabin crew can make sure there are no hazards outside. Keeping the shutters open gives them that visibility.

Why do the lights sometimes go out just before take off?

We do that when we’re taking off in darkness and it’s so our eyes can quickly adjust to the outside light, should we need to abort the take off.

That happening is extremely unlikely, but we need to be prepared for every eventuality and having the lights dimmed means our vision will adjust more quickly to the light outside.

When the plane is starting to climb, suddenly it can sound like the engine’s cut out – what’s that all about?

We reduce the thrust of the aircraft, because it doesn’t need as much power at that point, and the nose is lowered and the shape of the wings changes, to make the aircraft more streamline for the next part of the journey – that all reduces the noise level.

Some people feel their stomach drop when that happens – a bit like when you drive over the brow of a steep hill – and can find that worrying, but it’s a perfectly normal thing to happen.

What would happen if the pilot took ill during the flight?

There are two pilots at all times, so the co-pilot would be promoted to the role of captain very quickly and this is something we practise regularly in the flight simulator.

There’s a false myth that co-pilots aren’t as well trained as pilots, but we train to the exact same standards. It’s just that generally speaking co-pilots aren’t as experienced.

The cabin crew are also trained in first aid, so if I were to take ill, they would firstly move me away from the controls and then begin to treat me.

What happens if a plane gets struck by lightning?

Aircraft are built to withstand being struck by lightning and other weather interference. But we also use tools and instruments such as weather radar to avoid bad weather, so the chance of being hit by lightning is remote.

Is it safer to fly in the day or in the night?

There’s absolutely no difference.

How close can you get to another plane without it being dangerous?

Around 1,000ft is the closest, which is still a huge distance. But when you’re on a plane it’s deceptive – another aircraft can look much closer than it actually is.

Are pilots allowed to eat and play music during the flight?

During take off and landing it’s a very sterile environment with no non-essential conversation. You’re entirely focussed on flying the aircraft.

If you’re on a longer flight, perhaps down to the Canaries, it gets a bit more relaxed once you’re in the air but there’s still a lot of monitoring to be done and various checks, plus you’ve got air traffic control talking to you, so you’re never sitting there with your ipod on.

Sometimes the seatbelt light comes on when there doesn’t seem to be a reason – why is that?

It’s just us being cautious – we might have been told another aircraft has experienced turbulence ahead for example. Our primary concern is everyone’s safety, so if there’s a risk we will put the light on, but sometimes by the time we get there the turbulence has gone.

Do you ever get scared?

I’ve been asked this many times and the answer is no – hand on heart. I’ve been flying since I was 16 and there’s never been a single occasion where I’ve felt scared in the air.

What’s it like to fly into Liverpool and see everything from the air?

The view really is nice – there’s so much history in the city and to see the Mersey as you come in is pretty special.

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling

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