So lately I've been seeing a lot of Reddit-rip articles about all the things people hate about air travel, airplanes, etc. A lot of the frustration I saw was about stuff that may be either misunderstood or that we don't have any control over.

In an effort to continue educating the public about the cool and mysterious world of commercial aviation, I ran an different AMA that yielded some interesting questions that I enjoyed answering (to the best of my ability). It was fun so I figured I'd see if there were any more questions out there that I can help with.

Trying this again with the verification I missed last time. Short bio, I've been flying since 2004, have two aviation degrees, certified in helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, propeller planes and jets, and have really been enjoying this airline gig for a little over the last two years. Verification - well hello there

Update- Wow, I expected some interest but this blew up bigger than I expected. Sorry if it takes me a minute to respond to your question, as I make this update this thread is at ~1000 comments, most of which are questions. I honestly appreciate everyone's interest and allowing me to share one of my life's passions with you.

Comments: 4637 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

caffeinecrave1824 karma

Are all pilots required to wear aviators?

Sneaky__Fox852585 karma

Yes. It's hidden deep within federal aviation regulations 14 CFR 121.682 and all pilots are briefed on it when they're in their new hire initial training.

m1dlife-1derer1795 karma

What effect does it REALLY have if I don't put my device in airplane mode?

Sneaky__Fox853647 karma

It can cause interference with our radios, both audio and navigational. On rare occasions we'll have a lot of static on the radio, we'll stop and make the announcement to remind everyone their phone needs to be in airplane mode and that if that doesn't solve the problem we'll have to return to the gate for maintenance. Reeeeeaaally quick the interference goes away. Go figure.

You want your phone in airplane mode too. Once we climb above ~5000 feet your phone isn't gonna pick up any cell signal anyways so it's just gonna spend the rest of the flight draining your battery searching for cell service.

Edit: it seems I'm getting a fair amount of hate for this answer. I don't claim to have a telecommunications degree and know how radios are supposed to interact (or not interact). My comments were based on the mythbusters episode someone else referenced and firsthand experience with scratchy radios. The captain said "I know what this is," and made the PA reminder about phones. Within ~20 seconds the static was gone. The flight attendant said it looked like every other passenger was messing with their phones. So entirely possible it could have been more coincidence, seems more cause/effect to me.

27E181475 karma

How much of a flight is automated and how much of it is actually you piloting?

Sneaky__Fox852617 karma

It depends on the day and the person flying. I generally prefer to hand-fly the airplane up to about 10-15,000 feet before engaging the autopilot. Then you turn it off when you're landing. So on a day when it's nice and you feel like flying, figure 30-40% of the flight is hand flown, the rest is autopilot. Some days you don't feel like working as much and turn it on earlier and off later, but it's always off for takeoff and landing.

Other people turn the autopilot on when you're 600' above the ground (our company standard minimum AP engagement altitude), then snap it off when we're 200' above the ground, so they fly on autopilot for 95% of the flight.

evangael1435 karma

Do you know what all the buttons do? Have you pressed them all even once?

Sneaky__Fox852588 karma

A) Yes, and if I forget they're all labeled so.... hooray cliff notes!
B) No, there are several that never get pressed. In fact my company even has one button, the "High Power Schedule" button that kicks the engines up to their maximum possible thrust rating that we refer to as the "Get Fired" button. Usually the ones that don't get pressed are for emergency use only. Fortunately there are very few real life emergencies.

stiffy420364 karma

High Power Schedule

maximum thrust is only possible using this button?

Sneaky__Fox85982 karma

No, it's possible through other means (like advancing the thrust levers far enough). The button was explained to me as being more of a maintenance function than a flight function and can put undue stress on the engines (which are leased, not owned) so that's why it's the "Get Fired" button.

Alan_Smithee_1394 karma

Do they give you “Ladies and gentlemen, ah, this is your, ah Captain speaking” PA lessons?

Sneaky__Fox852748 karma

Well ahhhhh, you have to pick your spots ahhhh, so that everyone knows you're still speaking ahhhhh while you look for more pointless information to tell everyone like ahhhh the wind speed and direction at the destination.

coryrenton1252 karma

Which commercial planes do you think is the best/worst designed from a pilot's perspective? Are there any military or special-use craft that you think would convert well to commercial use?

Sneaky__Fox851629 karma

Man, that's not an easy one to answer. I don't even know where to start on this one really. I haven't flown enough different airliners to have a truly informed answer, but Boeing refusing to update the cockpit of the 737 due to type-rating issues hasn't ever sat well with me personally.

Not that that particularly matters for anything and I'm sure there are thousands of 737 pilots who would tell me to shut the f*ck up, it's fine how it is. The cockpit(s) of the Airbus line is so much better from a pilot perspective. It's all sleek, and push button with actual space to move around, while the 737 cockpit is a direct rip from the even older 727 and is roughly the same size as my CRJ regional jet cockpit. Airplane generally flies just fine when there are competently trained pilots at the controls but that's the best answer I can give you there.

The only military craft I could see having a viable civilian market (that doesn't already HAVE a civilian market like the CH-47) would be the V-22 Osprey. The rest more prioritize power and performance (rightfully so) over efficiency, so making money with them becomes significantly harder. Companies like money. So... yeah.

dammitqueenie1203 karma

Do you really have to eat a different meal than the co-pilot?

Sneaky__Fox851728 karma

Haha I'm lucky if I get any food in-flight to begin with, let alone worrying if it's different than what the other pilot is eating. I currently do not do the super long-haul cross-planet flights that entitle me to crew meals, so I can't personally comment on whether that's true or not. I think it's up to each company's individual policy.

_evoges756 karma

What’s your opinion on people who applause after landing?

Sneaky__Fox851958 karma

I know, I know other passengers hate that and think they're fools, but... I mean, most of us pilots have huge egos from doing what we do. We're up front there probably applauding ourselves in our own heads. Either that or cringing at how we fucked up that landing, better do better next time. So.. whatever, thanks for the support I guess. Haha

zblobfish746 karma

Do you let young kids take pictures with you in the cockpit?

Sneaky__Fox851431 karma

Absolutely. We all remember when WE were those kids. You'd be hard pressed to find the grumpy, crusty pilot who's gonna pass up the chance to share our love of aviation with a kid and maybe create a life changing memory.

We can't have people in the cockpit anymore during flight (thanks 9/11), but talk to the flight attendants about it during initial boarding, or talk to them in flight about doing it after everyone else gets off.

LoudTsu707 karma

I understand they pay commercial pilots horribly and overwork you to a dangerous precedent. Any truth in that?

Sneaky__Fox851632 karma

This was 100% how things were as recently as 2013. A regional airline first officer could expect to make $16-20,000/year and probably be on food stamps. This all changed though after Colgan Air 3407 crashed in Buffalo and killed everyone on board because the pilots were over-tired and not paid enough to have gotten a hotel the night prior.

Since then, in 2014 Congress and the FAA enacted duty limit rules covered under Federal Aviation Regulation 117. We now have a maximum duty shift and a minimum 10 hour rest cycle. At any point if we feel unable to safely perform our duties we call our companies, inform them, and they are legally obligated to relive us under fatigue rules.

Also Congress raised the minimum requirements. Previously only the captain needed to have his ATP (Airline Transport Pilot certificate) with 1500+ flight hours, and the first officer could have just a commercial certificate and 250 hours. Now BOTH pilots must have 1500+ hours and an ATP, which means the pool of available candidates shrank significantly. Nowadays even the first officer pay is enough to live on, pay your mortgage and buy groceries, and NOT have to have food stamps. If you click the AMA link in the original post I kinda delve into airline pay more deeply. I'm not 'rich', but I can pay my bills ok. It's worlds better than it was even a decade ago so no complaints here.

Tyler2191740 karma

My friends Aunt was a flight attendant on that buffalo flight. Went to the funeral, felt like all of United executives were there.

Edit: Donna was her name. Really lovely woman.

Sneaky__Fox85689 karma

That's awful, sorry. The flight is literally THE case study all new airline pilots learn about prior to actually becoming airline pilots.

JonnyBravoII684 karma

I fly on mostly Airbus planes and generally sit towards the front. As we are on final approach, maybe 2-3,000 feet up, I always hear a warning bell of some sort from the cockpit. Wha is that signifying?

Sneaky__Fox851153 karma

You're probably closer to the ground than you think and in reality probably only a thousand to a few hundred feet above the ground. My guess would be that's the autopilot disconnect alert and you're hearing the audio warning associated with the pilots taking manual control of the airplane for landing. Can't say with 100% certainty, but that would be my best guess.

NalaBandit639 karma

Do you have a favorite airport?

Sneaky__Fox851445 karma

Chicago O'Hare. 1) Because that's home and there's always the hope that the trip is over and my weekend is about to start. 2) because they're really, really structured and predictable. You know what runway you're going to land on and what flight instructions you're going to get 10 minutes before they announce them to you, which really assists in planning and makes for a more relaxed flight.

stiffy420593 karma

What's the nicest airplane you had the pleasure flying?

Sneaky__Fox85914 karma

AH-64D Apache Longbow. She's a bit of a maintenance queen, but goddamn if she wasn't a fun bird to fly around in. In all honesty, the CRJ-700 is a pretty nice, pilot friendly airliner too. Been a long time since I flew a 'meh' airplane.

Zer0Summoner509 karma

She's a bit of a maintenance queen, but that's not really my problem, that's the enlisted guys' problem


Sneaky__Fox85401 karma

Accurate. Thank you. haha. And SOMETIMES it was my problem like: "Goddamnit Sergeant, why isn't that fixed, you said it was gonna be! I wanted to go fly! Now I've gotta go pretend to do work for a few more hours." Hahah

APicketFence568 karma

Have you ever enacted Sky Law?

Sneaky__Fox85886 karma

I have not. Sorry. Most I've ever had to do was have a customer service representative meet the plane when we got to the gate because a lady had an uncooperative service animal (we quickly learned the animal was fine and perfectly trained, the dumb woman just didn't know how to command the dog properly. Customer service rep figured it out in seconds).

actualvsliteral534 karma

Whenever I enter an aircraft, I always touch the plane before I enter. It’s my odd ritual. Do you and/or other pilots have rituals that you do before entering? If so, what?

blarghusmaximus302 karma


Sneaky__Fox85530 karma

This. 20 minute flight or 3 hour flight, pee before departing. hah

t_sully_480 karma

What’s the strangest interaction you’ve had with a passenger on a flight?

Sneaky__Fox851034 karma

I really really wish I had a classic witty story here to wow everyone but I really don't. As a pilot I don't often have a lot of passenger interaction other than saying "Have a nice day" as they get off my airplane.

I suppose my "weirdest" interaction came after a flight from Hayden, CO to Denver. Single runway airport, and it was snowing so after everyone was aboard we told them we'd have to de-ice. The Hayden de-ice crew was efficient and had the whole plane sprayed off and complete in less than 5 mins. Then we taxied to the runway and waited maybe 5 more minutes for a landing aircraft to clear the runway before we took off. Normal 20 minute flight into Denver, got to the gate quickly, and everyone was getting off. I was saying goodbye to everyone and this 40-ish looking lady was coming towards the front with an expression on her face that normally leads to a "oh thank you so much for a nice flight" type comment.

Instead when she gets to me she leans in and literally snarls at me "You should do a better job telling us what's going on!!" and stomps off the plane. Given that we DID tell everyone what was happening during de-ice and we got them to the gate right on time, I was too stunned and confused to even respond with anything other than "Uhh....". Clearly I'm witty, right? And then she disappeared up the jet bridge.

Not an all-time story by any means, but currently it's the best I have. Hope that works for you.

ShaggyIQ462 karma

I’m 16 and I want to become a pilot, I know the basics of how a airplane works and I know the function of every button in a 737 cockpit. Is there any tips you have for me and for others that also want to be a pilot?

Sneaky__Fox851638 karma

Congrats man. Biggest tip would be to map out your desired end state and figure out what steps you need to take to get there. It'll keep you from getting distracted, or pulled off track, or even just getting lazy and comfortable. Do some reverse planning, i.e. (generic example, not my personal goals)

I want to work for FedEx. Mountain Air Cargo has a feeder program to FedEx. To get to MAC I need 1500 hours. I will flight instruct to get those hours. To instruct I need my CFI and commercial license. Before that I need to get my Private. I can go to __X__ school to get those licenses. I need _Y_ grades to get in, and _Z_ grades to qualify for scholarship. I need to buckle down and study, etc.

rnielsen776371 karma

More nervous taking off or landing typically?

Sneaky__Fox851173 karma

Nervous on neither really, landings are the more stressful I suppose if you force me to choose one. Takeoffs are pretty uneventful, you push the thrust levers forward and hope nothing breaks.

Landings are the most fun part of the trip. It's the chance to hand fly the plane like I've done my whole career prior to the airlines I always take it as a personal challenge to try to get the smoothest landing possible. I don't necessarily always succeed, but I like to think even my personal 'bad' landings are no worse than average.

That said, sometimes the weather around the airport can get a little dicey and you're jockeying the power levers and trying to stay on the glide path through bumpy and gusty cross-winds that are trying to push you off the runway alignment. I personally refer to those as "rodeo approaches" because you've gotta tame the bucking airplane the whole way down.

Chooseyourusername27284 karma

Do you trust the FAA to put safety first?

It seemed apparent that after the first 737-Max crash that pilots were speaking up about issues. Then the second happened and they still didn’t take action. It feels like they were shamed in to grounding planes by other authorities unilaterally taking action before them.

There are other instances but the max one seems most topical and relevant.

Sneaky__Fox85357 karma

For the most part. The FAA is just a collection the same over-tasked government workers you'll find in every branch of government, only these ones care and know more about aviation. They do their best, but they're also all humans who can get burnt out, overworked, and sometimes lose interest.

There's just not enough people to respond to every single report that comes in. Especially since I'm guessing a lot of the complaint reports went to a wide smattering of individuals and everyone was so busy there was no sit down meeting for everyone to compare notes. Hard to get everyone on the same page of the playbook if one person is talking baseball while another is talking hockey.

Chips_n_Dip272 karma

Have you ever flown with Kareem Abdul Jabba- I mean, Roger Murdock?

Sneaky__Fox85348 karma

He got kinda testy when I implied he took it easy on defense....

AliquidExNihilo258 karma

How much sex actually happens in the air?

Sneaky__Fox85545 karma

Given that I've been doing this for half my life and still am not in the mile high club? Not enough. Hah! Also those other answers

ToxicPilot202 karma

Bruh take your lady to Denver. Problem solved.

Sneaky__Fox85106 karma

Good point.

darkestsoul223 karma

Have you ever seen any UFOs or heard chatter over the radio about other crews seeing anything strange?

Sneaky__Fox85413 karma

I have not. Sorry. I think I've seen more shooting stars than the average person because I spend more time above the clouds, but that's it.

Salsa_de_Pina173 karma

Waffles or pancakes?

Sneaky__Fox85650 karma


Not really, just said that to be different. Waffles, preferably with fried chicken and maple syrup.

icatn171 karma

How come no pilots ever know where the coffee pot is... or the creamer... or the cups?

Sneaky__Fox85464 karma

Because the flight attendants yell at us if we come into "their" galley and mess around with things. Some of them can be mean and scary.

Also I don't drink coffee. I'm one of those weird pilots like that.

ep3ep3120 karma

How much extra training do you need to be able to land at SAN ( San Diego ) ? Living here, it looks like quite the difficult landing with the notorious parking garage right before final. Also have you ever landed here when the winds caused the runway landing directions to be reversed?

Edit: If anyone is curious, here's a video. Our airport is located downtown and quite the spectacle to witness from the streets.

Sneaky__Fox85179 karma

None. it's not even discussed. We're going to let the autopilot lock onto the two radio landing aids, called the localizer (left/right guidance) and glide slope (up/down guidance), and either let the autopilot fly it down as low as possible, or use the information those two landing aids give us in order to maintain proper ground clearance for a safe landing at all times.

I have not personally landed in San Diego yet, though I'd very much like to. I like a challenge like that approach presents and my college room mate couldn't say enough nice things about BEING in San Diego, so I'd like to see the town.

evangael109 karma

One more: when you get home, does your SO call you "captain"?

Sneaky__Fox85345 karma

Sometimes, if I've been good. Or Bad ;)

1320Fastback106 karma

How quickly if you had too could you start up your airplane and get airborne? Assuming like zombie apocalypse was happening, your fueled and not waiting for clearance or taxi instructions.

Sneaky__Fox85145 karma

From cold, dark airplane to wheels up, assuming there's nothing in the way and we've already been pushed back from the gate.... call it maybe 10 minutes if you sped through the checklists and only hit the flight critical stuff.

nocallerid106 karma

How long does it cost to get licensed? And how much? How long did it take before you landed working on a commercial airline?

Sneaky__Fox85290 karma

It takes a while and costs a bit. I went to a 4-year college aviation program starting back in 2004 that cost me about $57,000 in student loans and got me up through my Commercial Pilot Certificate. If you go through a Part 141 flight school like that, you're eligible to get your ATP at 1000 hours, instead of the 1500 hours needed by most pilots. I chose option 3 and went military so I was eligible at 750 hours flight time. The downside to my approach is it took me 10 years to get here. My college peers are several years ahead of me in their respective careers with United, American, Delta, Southwest, etc, though I am completely paid off on my student loan debt.

Pick your poison basically. Time or $$. It's gonna cost you a fair amount of both.

nightninja87101 karma

When was your oh shit this i really am a commercial pilot moment ?

Sneaky__Fox85351 karma

First real landing with passengers aboard. I'd never botched a landing in the sim yet in my brain I kept having to repeat "This is real, don't fuck up. This is real, don't fuck up. This is real, don't fuck up." I landed a little harder than I wanted (due to simulator training not being 100% equal to real life) but other than that it was just fine. And I rapidly got better at landing once the training captain stopped laughing at me and gave me some pointers.

McJumbos98 karma

how was your first flight?

Sneaky__Fox85194 karma

Fun as hell. Had an instructor fly us up and down the Chicago skyline when I was in high school. Doomed me to a career in aviation right then and there.

MauraMcBadass86 karma

A few years ago, I was working in a print shop in Los Angeles. We had a customer bring in a rolling bag for us to embroider his name and title (pilot) on. He didn’t completely empty the bag out, so I had to do it before we loaded it on the machine. The bag had, among other things: lots of those tiny plastic wing pins, flight maps, deodorant, and about 20 condoms.

My question is- was that your bag, and if yes did you leave all of that in there intentionally so we would know you’re a pilot who does sex a lot?

Sneaky__Fox8581 karma

It was not, but yeah, that guy was probably bragging. That's funny shit

stiffy42078 karma

where is flight mh370?

Sneaky__Fox85168 karma

Bottom of the ocean somewhere. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine.

gkaplan5959 karma

How do you start a commercial plane? I mean, is there a key you turn or like a button you push?

Sneaky__Fox85174 karma

Push some buttons, move some levers in the proper sequence. Microsoft Flight Sim is almost distressingly accurate, and directly contributed to the guy stealing one of Horizon's Dash-8 planes a summer or two ago out of Seattle. He died. You might remember.

xSnowmanx1846 karma

When should passengers actually “worry” when it comes to things like turbulence?

Sneaky__Fox8579 karma

I went pretty in-depth on this in the other AMA that I linked above if you wanna check it out, but consider it like driving over a pot-holed road. It's bumpy and the ride sucks, but it's not gonna crash you.

Beardedrugbymonster43 karma

I'm deathly afraid of flying though I've done it a handful of times. Are there really backup engines for the backup engines??

I was getting ready to fly home once and this ex airplane mechanic told me that a couple of days before my flight, to chill me the fuck out.

Sneaky__Fox85282 karma

No, there are 2 engines and that's about it (minus the few existing 3 and 4 engine planes still in service, 747, A340, etc). The plane is capable of flying with a single engine operating, and honestly in the simulator that's what we spend probably 70% of the time training on. This simulator time happens every 9 months, so we do train for it.

There is a 3rd power source called an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) that provides electricity and air conditioning, that in actually IS a small engine, but it's not a flying engine. It's more of a jet-powered generator than anything else.

The mechanic was just trying to calm your anxiety, so good for him. Seriously though, we can fly just fine on a single engine, and even if that one were to fail for some reason, in the US you're pretty much always within gliding distance of a viable airport. Don't stress, we got this.

DrJawn28 karma

Do the flight attendants ever have a drink with a handsome passenger after their flight? asking for a friend

Sneaky__Fox8578 karma

Having seen a few flight attendant Youtube videos, the answer isn't "never" but most of the flight attendants I've worked with are more embarrassed for the guy hitting on them than they themselves are embarrassed. Not saying it's nice or right, but it's what I've observed.

Usually the only thing on their mind is getting to the hotel and either A) finding something to eat IMMEDIATELY, or B) crawling into bed until it's time to start tomorrow.

Sorry to burst your bubble. Things that HAVE gotten extra attention/appreciation from the flight attendants are simple gestures of appreciation: a $5 Starbucks gift card, bringing them coffees, or small (sealed) bags of chocolates. If you're looking for a possible opening move.... you could do worse. Obviously a gamble though because you don't get to see the flight attendants before boarding so shoot your shot if you got one. haha.

SavioVegaGuy26 karma

Have you ever been in a submarine?

Sneaky__Fox8524 karma

No, but I think that would be an interesting experience.

CleanReserve418 karma

There's a lot of stories circulating about Boeing products-tools left inside structures, even a ladder in a tail assembly. What is being done about this?

Sneaky__Fox8537 karma

I mean A) that's more construction rather than operation so I can't speak to it personally, B) though all mechanics strive to never be "That Guy" but every now and then tools get forgotten about and left where they shouldn't be. We're all human, we get tired and make mistakes we don't want to. I don't want to see tools where I shouldn't be seeing them so hopefully they're improving their control systems and procedures. I don't know how much more insight I can provide on this one, sorry.

Alan_Smithee_12 karma

So you’re a co-pilot currently?

Sneaky__Fox8584 karma

For about 3 more days, yes. Upgrading to Captain later this month... if I don't f*ck it up. Hah

BuffetOfBeav5 karma

Are pilots as sexually promiscuous as everyone says? And if so...what’s a lady passenger gotta do to get her pilot’s attention?

Sneaky__Fox854 karma

Depends on the individual pilot. Some yes, some no. And a good pickup tip would be to
Step 1) ask the flight attendant either as your board or as you get off if you could see the cockpit. She'll probably turn and ask us up front if we're cool with it.
Step 2) if you get to go up there, just slip your number to the pilot you're interested in with a note saying "if you're staying in town tonight, gimme a call" or something like that. ;)

spentmiles2 karma

You hear gun fire and shouting behind you. Then someone starts kicking the cockpit door. What do you do?

Sneaky__Fox8511 karma

For security concern reasons I'm not comfortable answering this question to the public, but after 9/11 I don't think any pilot's going to be giving up control to anyone else.

Wwollof-16 karma

Do you question the competence of female co-pilots?

Sneaky__Fox8521 karma

Nah man. I've flown with female pilots both in and out of the military. They're no different than male pilots other than they get people asking them questions that a male pilot never has to deal with, or assuming they're the flight attendant. Usually they have to work a little harder to prove they're equal too so sometimes that can develop into a chip on the shoulder over the years. There are good female pilots, and less good ones, same as with guys. Simple as that.