Ask the pilot #1

Do you always study the weather forecast before flying? Sit quietly and watch everything that goes on around you on the plane? Do you shake at the slightest sign of turbulence, get suspicious of every sound signal and feel that little sweat running down your face? If this is how you experience your flights, then maybe this post is for you.

With that in mind, we asked our pilots to respond to our concerns. And here are their answers.

The plane always takes a long time to take off after boarding. At some airports, we wait more than half an hour. Why? Shouldn’t everything be ready?

The airplane doesn’t take off until it complies with a set of safety and operational control mandatory procedures on all flights.

Besides the time required for loading and boarding, all instruments and engines get tested, all parameters get reviewed, and the pilots go through the several checklists.

There is a checklist for each moment of the flight: a checklist before closing doors; a checklist before taking-off; a checklist after taking-off, and a checklist on several other moments of the flight until the aircraft lands.
It’s a complete list of procedures checked by the pilot and the copilot. The word you hear with more frequency on the cockpit is “check”.

How often do you do this when driving your car? If you’re an airplane pilot, you’ll do it, even if it’s mentally. But if you are a used driver, your answer will be “none”, right? For this reason and many others, the airplane is the safest transport in the world.

And when it finally looks like we’re going to take off and, out of nowhere, the plane is immobilized on the runway for an incomprehensible time?

We almost bet you haven’t felt that this year, and the reason is simple: there is less traffic at airports, therefore, less waiting time.

In addition to the safety procedures described above, and whenever the wait before take-off seems to take a long time, it may mean that pilots are waiting for permission from traffic control to take the runway and take-off.

At busy airports, there are planes in line to take off and a strict schedule to do so. It’s as if there was traffic in the skies, but it’s not the drivers controlling distances. That task is for air traffic controllers. It feels so good to know that there is always someone watching for us.

Also, airports and airspace are sometimes very congested and air traffic control, which is responsible for directing the safe movement of aircraft arriving and departing from airports and along air routes, restricts take-offs, usually delaying the exit from parking to ensure a safe separation between flights.

*Foto by SATA Azores Airlines’ Captain Vítor Lopes