Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, for today it certainly is a plane as we’re chatting to aviation superman Captain Allright of British Airways about flying. We’re asking him all of our niggling questions (we’re sure he gets them all the time) and he’s taken the time out to patiently answer them all for us with his breadth of experience. Oh, and if you’re not such a great flier yourself, you might want to check out the British Airways Flying with Confidence course (next one in Dubai is March 14th) designed to help you beat your fears! Fasten your seatbelts mamas, cabin crew prepare for take-off.
What is turbulence and is it dangerous?
Turbulence may be uncomfortable but it’s never dangerous. It’s a perfectly normal part of flying caused by nature. Air has fluid properties and just like a boat stays afloat on a body of water, an aircraft flies because it rests on a body of air. If air is stirred up a little the aircraft experiences turbulence and will bump up and down – but the air underneath it does not go away. Aircraft are built to withstand any turbulence they may encounter and turbulence does not threaten the aircraft’s structure.
Clear Air Turbulence or CAT is the most common form of turbulence. Unlike the turbulence you may experience when flying through clouds, you cannot see CAT or detect it on radar. Pilots do receive forecasts of possible CAT areas, but mainly rely on reports from other aircraft. They can then consider options such as flying at a different altitude.
Do you think planes are flying in weather conditions perhaps they shouldn’t be? Is it safe for a plane to fly in a storm?
Trust the professionals. The pilots and the crew are rigorously trained and know what they are doing in the air. Air travel today is safer than ever before with one million people airborne every single second. Pilots undergo a rigorous selection procedure and are the most highly trained and tested profession on earth. British Airways pilots are subjected to rigorous simulator tests every six months.
What happens if lightning was to strike a plane?
Lightning strikes usually result in a loud bang, but have little or no effect on the safety as aircraft are well designed to deal with such events.
In fact, a strike usually has no effect whatsoever on the serviceability of the aircraft. This is mainly because all aircraft are fitted with static wicks that look like long pencils at the rear of the wing and tailplane. These wicks are designed to discharge any static electricity that the aircraft may accumulate.
What’s your favourite route to fly?
One of my favourite routes is San Francisco to London when I operate a night flight, as seeing the Northern Lights at altitude is just stunning. The approach into Dubai is nothing short of breath-taking as the skyline appears above the water.
How much does a pilot actually “fly” a plane? Are you really just drinking coffee in the sky?
Pilots very much fly the planes. We are in constant communication on open channels while in the air, and we are the most regulated profession on the planet. British Airways pilots are subjected to rigorous simulator tests every six months.
When was the last time you were afraid while flying and why?
Pilots don’t get scared while flying! We ‘e trained to deal with any situation that may arise in the air. Remember that aircraft are designed to be in the air. Pilots and cabin crew like to be in the air also; it’s a very normal, safe environment for them to be in.
However I was once a passenger on a flight which flew a go-around (a flight path typically taken by an aircraft after an aborted approach to landing) from low level, and I understood how frightening that could be for people who didn’t understand what was happening.
Please give us your personal tips for making traveling with kids easier. And please don’t say book business class because we aren’t all pilot’s wives!
The key to travelling with children is preparation. Limit some of the stress by doing as much as you can before arriving at the check-in desk. Pre-empt some queuing and any arguments about who sits where by requesting seats using the ‘Manage My Booking’ function on ba.com. It is easy for young ones to become bored on long-haul flights so bring some toys and games to amuse them.
When booking connecting flights, take some of the stress out of the airport experience by factoring in an additional 30 minutes per child to the minimum connection time. It’s always a good idea to leave a little more time than you normally would when travelling with children anyway. Rushing through airports is not conducive to a stress-free journey for anyone.
How can the British Airways course help nervous fliers to overcome their anxiety?
British Airways’ Flying with Confidence course in Dubai is divided into two sessions that include talks, group activities, slideshows and Q&A periods and seminars. With so many different nationalities living in the UAE, at some point most people are going to have to take a flight home or on holidaym or for a business meeting and this is when anxiety can arise. That’s why we take the time to address a lot of issues that participants suffer from. The first session is conducted by me, where I address the technical side of aviation. As some of the main reasons behind fear of flying is air turbulence, flight safety and aviation mechanics, I cover all of these issues.
The second session is carried out by a certified phobia counsellor, who walks the participants through the psychological aspects of a phobia and guides them on how best to deal with anxiety and feelings of panic. Tailor-made for the course participants, this part of the course provides tangible tools and exercises that allow attendees to deal with their fears head on. These tools can also be applied to other situations where they may feel fear or anxiety, and are not limited to a fear of flying.
Still a little nervous about flying or just have some questions of your own? Meet Captain Allright himself and sign up for the Flying with Confidence course starting on 14 March, to help you conquer your fear of flying. The day long session includes three hours of seminars, tea and coffee and lunch, priced at AED 1725. Book online with British Airways.