I add here a selection of the most common questions that I am asked either by passengers or friends.Aviation has a fascination for all of us, so I don't mind answering questions about my industry.

What is more important is that it keeps me in a job!!!


Why do the wings bend up and down in turbulence?


The aircraft manufacturers specifically design wings to "bend" to allow the aircraft to "ride" through turbulence with less stress on the aircraft and to give passengers a smooth ride.

How is the aircraft fueled and where is fuel stored on the plane?

Fuel is supplied to a jet plane via one of two methods. The older style is via fuel tanker trucks that park near or under the wing and pump the required amount of fuel into the tanks. The more modern method is for fuel to be transferred from a large underground storage tank via pipes to a truck that acts as a pump and quantity measure. This truck acts in a similar way to a fire truck attached to a fire hydrant.

Who do the pilots talk to?


Air Traffic Control (ATC). Air Traffic Controllers are the traffic police of the air. They direct an orderly flow of planes along the busy airways of the world, ensuring safe separation. Every airport where large jet aircraft operate will have Ground Controllers and Tower Controllers.

Prior to departure pilots will lodge a flight plan setting out the route they wish to fly. There is a world-wide standard format, so it doesn't matter where you fly ATC will understand the plan for your flight. When you are flying over a country your pilots will normally talk to ATC in that country. On long-distance over-water flights pilots use long range radio to talk with the ATC centre which has responsibility for the area in which you are flying. On these flight pilots will normally report to ATC about every 45 minutes.

Why do planes abort a landing and what happens?


Pilots will abort a landing for 3 reasons:

1...Air Traffic Control instruct the pilot to "Go Around". This is the aviation term for an aborted landing. The most common cause for this is the plane ahead has not vacated the runway quickly enough, or the plane on takeoff ahead has decided to stop.

2...The second reason is that the pilot on an instrument approach has not seen the lights or the runway when he/she reached the minimum descent altitude. See the page: Instrument Approach.

3...The third reason is that the pilot is not happy with something during the approach. Perhaps a warning light illuminates and he/she wants to check it out before landing, or the conditions such as wind (even windshear...more about that later) make it inadvisable to continue the approach.

What ever the reason to abort the landing, the pilot will apply "takeoff" power to the engines and rotate the aircraft to a nose up attitude and climb to a safe altitude and then (hopefully) tell you what the cause of the "go around" was. If a flight attempts to land in foggy conditions, this will involve an automatic landing using two or three autopilots, and commences a "go around" at a low altitude sometimes the wheels will touch the runway before the plane climbs out to a safe altitude. This is completely safe. Pilots train and practise these type of approaches constantly. In my airline I must practise this type of approach every 35 days.

Windshear..This is the term given to a rapid change in wind direction and speed at low altitude. There are two types, one will give a rapid increase in airspeed, the other will give a rapid decrease in airspeed. Both can cause very real problems. In my company any change in airspeed greater than 15 knots demands a go around. This is a very conservative amount. Frankly, I would rather climb out and have another attempt at landing when the conditions improve.
The cause of windshear can vary but is usually associated with thunderstorms.


Where do pets travel and how are they looked after?


Pets up to the size of large dogs travel in cages similar to those that you can purchase at your local pet shop.


Obviously I have never travelled in one, but I see animals being loaded into the cargo area and the cages seem to have enough room for the pet to move about. They are watered and fed before departure and left with food and water for the following sector. If the pet is travelling a long way such as London to Hong Kong to Sydney, it will be checked in transit, in this case Hong Kong.


On Boeing 747 and B767 aircraft the pets are kept in a special cargo area that is heated. As the owner of the most beautiful dog in the world I do keep a careful watch when I am carrying pets. The temperature range varies between 17 deg C (63F) and 23 degrees C (74F). That is a comfortable range.


They are in the dark. Their oxygen source is the same as that for passengers. The air conditioned air flows through the passenger cabin and then flows through the lower cargo areas and vents at the rear underside of the plane.  Your favourite pet will be comfortable and well looked after.

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