An overview of Flying from Captain Keith

Flying is a subject that is normally surrounded in mystery. Flying is a normal thing to do for many people so I hope that everything on this site will help to normalise flying for you.  There's no doubt that it will be beneficial for you to understand the circumstances in which commercial planes operate. I'm going to explain how I see flying ... but first how do you see it?

You probably see flying as a risky environment where a lot of things are left to chance, or if not left to chance, surrounded by such unpredictable circumstances that it might as well all be left to chance. That is not true, nothing is ever left to chance.
Flying is not balanced on a knife edge … flying is normal.
BUT your feelings are different from mine. It’s your feelings that come to the fore, overriding all the facts, and often overriding common sense. But don’t worry, it’s normal to do that if you have a fear of flying.
Your reality  is very different from my reality.
I want you to keep an open mind and get used to the idea of believing the facts, rather than believing your feelings.

Before I learned to fly, I obviously believed that flying was safe or I wouldn’t have wanted to be a pilot. Flying is as natural to me as breathing. Though there are some fearful flyers who like planes, their passion is more technical than pure love. So I started at a great advantage over you! While I was growing up if anything ever happened that hit the headlines … and it did quite often before I learned to fly, I’d just ignore it and resolved that I wouldn’t let it happen to me.
After feeling and believing that flying is normal and natural the next thing that I take for granted is that planes themselves are safe. I have complete trust in any plane I fly.
When I fly a plane I fly it exactly the way it’s designed to be flown. It comes to me with a certificate of airworthiness and that’s the way I fly it … within those rules. And now I pass on that attitude and discipline to the pilots I train and the instructors I teach.

For me then flying is something
  • I love and take for granted.
  • I have reason to trust in.
  • I do in accordance with the rules.
As you can imagine the rules that govern airline operations are very different from the ones that we used to have at the flying club I taught at. But if I know anything about the way anxious flyers think about flying, they’ll start worrying about more than just the plane and the pilots. Click the next section called  London to Paris.

To explain how I feel about flying we’ll take an imaginary flight from London to Paris and see how we’d fly that and then we’ll change the route and describe a flight from London to New York. After that I’ll describe longer flights, and incorporate conditions that the average fearful flyers think are hazardous and then we’ll have covered most things on most flights on most occasions.
More complete articles are available on the Fear of flying site.Fear of Flying
Then I’ll describe small airports on good days and small airports on days you’d call bad days. I’ll talk you through flights across the Atlantic on two engines so that when we get to the end of this section you’ll know how we conduct every sort of flight and why none of them is different from any other flight.

They all have the same rules governing them. They all ‘fly’ the same way. We operate them all the same way and there’s no difference between an intercontinental flight and a short flight between two cities … other than the way you perceive them.
See the complete explanation on our Premium site.
There are routes between cities, countries and continents.
There are airways across the Atlantic Pacific and across the North Pole. See Premium.
That’s how I see it as a pilot!
A question that I am often asked is this … What do you do if the weather is cloudy? The answer is that I do the same as I usually do, and at night I do exactly the same as well. I fly a predetermined route looking at my instruments with the autopilot connected doing the ‘low skill’ work for me. This leaves me to do the higher skill things like managing the flight.

How far have we come for someone with a fear of flying? I hope we’ve come a long way even in these few sentences.

I hope we’ve been normalising flying. Civil aviation is a well-organised industry where everyone knows what they’re doing, and, they been trained to do it. Flying is normal to them, the procedures are well established and the things we do are day to day routine, well practised and rehearsed. Everyone works towards a common goal of keeping everything safe. Because everything is so routine if a problem does occur we fix the broken bit and carry on.
For example a technical delay to you means one thing and something quite different to those of us in the industry …  so where you worry, we get on and do. If your flight is late it’s likely to be something very simple…don’t imagine that the engines are faulty or something has fallen off.
Cabin crew serving passenger.

Cabin crew serving passenger.

We’ve considered a flight to Paris. What’s the difference if we’re flying across the Atlantic from London to New York?
This is what is different. We’d check in as a crew a little earlier, probably an hour and a half rather than one hour because the weather briefing may be longer. We’d fly along the airways … the only difference would be  … and that’s why sometimes you can see Greenland or Iceland when you fly the ‘same’ route and sometimes you can’t.  Go to Premium for the full description.

This is the sort of statement that I often hear. ” My friend’s friend told me that they’d  heard someone say that they heard a pilot say that it was a difficult airport to land at.”
First things first, it’s hardly a quote from the horses mouth. Next, there are no difficult airports – you can either land there or you can’t. See more on Premium
What adjustments to the flight would we need to make to ensure that a plane could take off from a ‘shorter’  runway?
Let’s go through it from first principles. See more on Premium
And yes, when it’s landing it will be flying slower than at a major airport so that it doesn’t use as much runway to stop as it does when it’s landing at it’s maximum weight.
The problem for you in all of this is that you can’t SEE any of these differences. A plane weighing 80 tonnes looks just like one weighing 50 tonnes and furthermore you can’t see the different speeds at which they’re flying … they all LOOK the same. I can tell you that the difference in distance to take off or land if a plane is at its maximum or minimum weight is considerable and the difference of 30 knots on the landing speed will make a great difference to the stopping distance. See Premium for more help.
Time to add some more things to our list of normal things.
See Premium for the complete description.
Just a word or two about two engine planes flying on routes where it used to be thought that a plane needed three or four to fly safely. if you go this through as we did before from first principles, you can find your own answers. e.g. Why did we use planes with four engines? Because the reliability of engines was not very good AND the power available from the older type … see Premium for more help.
That should be enough for now, to explain why you shouldn’t worry about flights that you feel are slightly different and perhaps more difficult.
We do the same things on one flight as we do on every other flight. I hope that reading about how I, as a pilot, feel about flying will help you to build your own knowledge and confidence to help you to overcome your fear of flying.

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