The questions you’ve always wanted to ask an airline pilot


Interior view of a commercial aircraft cockpit. Source: Shutterstock

OVER 35 million commercial flights take off a year. This translates to around three billion passengers and an average of 9,700 planes in the sky at any given time.

You probably wouldn’t be able to guess by looking up at the sky, but millions of passengers are whizzing above our heads all the time.

Air travel is indisputably the safest way to travel.

Catastrophic events, such as the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and more recently the Havana plane crash killing 110 people, made headlines because of the rarity.

But safety statistics aside, there are still some niggling questions about aviation which don’t seem to be answered very often.

Travel Wire Asia spoke to a pilot with over 30 years of experience in the industry about whether electronics can crash a plane, what happens when lightning strikes and other industry secrets.

As our pilot is still serving Malaysia with his aeronautical skills, he asked for his identity to be kept hush-hush and instead be referred to as Captain Malaysia.

Right you are, Captain.

What’s the deal with the Mile High Club?

Source: Captain Malaysia

According to a study of 2,000 passengers who fly more than once a year, nearly 17 percent have had a sexual encounter on a plane. And by that, they mean more than just kissing.

“It happens once in a while, and to be honest, we can’t do much,” Captain Malaysia told us.

“If they’re spotted going in (the toilet) together, the cabin crew can say something, but if they come out one by one, well there’s nothing we can do.”

The “Mile High Club” is a memory for a few and a fantasy for many. Another stamp in the passport and a bizarre bragging right.

Depending on which country the airline belongs too, those belonging to the club may have committed an offense.

In many countries, it falls under the public indecency and obscenity acts. But Captain Malaysia believes if you’re not disturbing anyone, it wouldn’t particularly matter.

Will lightning bring down a plane?

Long story short: No.

“Nothing happens,” Captain Malaysia told us. “We have dischargers which are all around the plane.”

“As it (the lightning) travels through the air, it creates a static discharge, you can usually see the entry and exit points of the lightning as there will be a faint burn mark on the plane,” he explained.

Captain Malaysia added that for just a moment the electronic panels in the cockpit may blank out as the electricity passes through, but they soon rectify themselves.

Do UFOs exist?

Source: Captain Malaysia

The chances of seeing a UFO are way more likely up in the skies than on the ground beneath clouds.

But disappointingly, “No, UFOs don’t exist.”

With almost 40 years of flying under his belt, Captain Malaysia has never seen anything he can’t explain.

But that’s just one man’s experience…

What can cabin crew do about disruptive passengers?

Source: Captain Malaysia

“Some airline cabin crew are taught martial arts, so they’ll be the first to come and help,” Captain Malaysia explained.

Under the 1996 Civil Aviation Act, crew members have the right to restrain disruptive passengers.

“We have to give them two warnings first, but if they persist and become abusive, the crew can use force. We even carry handcuffs on board, but the captain must give their permission for them to be used first.”

In these cases, these are passengers that have had too much to drink and wind up in compromising predicaments.

When the plane lands, the police will be waiting on the runway to deal with the passengers.

Why can’t we use electronics during take-off and landing?

Source: Captain Malaysia

The results of using electronic devices onboard simply aren’t conclusive enough to rule what kind of effect they have on a plane.

“The worst thing that could happen is that a powerful device near the cockpit could let off a strong magnetic signal,” said Captain Malaysia.

This could alter the controls of an aircraft, but it also comes down to passenger safety.

“The rules are in place so you pay attention. They (cabin crew) don’t want you to be distracted,” Captain Malaysia added.

“You’re supposed to be aware of your surroundings but if you’re listening to music or watching a film, you won’t be aware of an emergency.”

Are you less likely to die at the back of a plane?

Source: Captain Malaysia

The age-old rumor states sitting at the back of a plane could save you in a crash, but what does the expert say?

“I can’t say for sure, but when a plane impacts it is always from the front part. The middle is where the fuel tanks are, so if a plane crashes there is always a chance of an explosion,” he told Travel Wire Asia.

“But if everything goes to plan, the middle of the plane is where you want to be. It feels the least turbulence.”

So, there you have it. If you’re discreet enough, you can join the exclusive Mile High Club and in a case of an emergency, you’ll want to get away from the wings.

But ultimately, the cabin crew are there for your comfort and safety, not to destroy your fun.

So listen up, buckle up and don’t fear a thunderstorm.