Secrets Pilots Won’t Tell You

Think you know what happens when you fly? Think again.

By Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest

It’s Not All Glamour Up in the Air

“When you get on that airplane at 7 a.m., you want your pilot to be rested and ready. But the hotels they put us in now are so bad that there are many nights when I toss and turn. They’re in bad neighborhoods, they’re loud, they’ve got bedbugs, and there have been stabbings in the parking lot.” -Jack Stephan

“Those buddy passes they give us? I give them only to my enemies now. Sure, you can get a $1,000 airfare to Seattle for $100. But since you have to fly standby, it will take you three months to get back because you can’t get a seat.” -Pilot, South Carolina

Here’s a Little More Free Advice

“Cold on the airplane? Tell your flight attendant. We’re in a constant battle with them over the temperature. They’re moving all the time, up and down the aisles, so they are always calling and saying, ‘Turn up the air.’ But most passengers I know are freezing.” -Captain at a major carrier

“I always tell my kids to travel in sturdy shoes. If you have to evacuate and your flip-flops fall off, there you are standing on the hot tarmac or in the weeds in your bare feet.” -Joe D’Eon

“Most people get sick after traveling not because of what they breathe but because of what they touch. Always assume that the tray table and the button to push the seat back have not been wiped down, though we do wipe down the lavatory.” -Patrick Smith

“The general flow of air in any airplane is from front to back. So if you’re really concerned about breathing the freshest possible air or not getting too hot, sit as close to the front as you can. Planes are generally warmest in the back.” -Tech pilot at a regional airline, Texas

“I know pilots who spend a quarter million on their education and training, then that first year as a pilot, they qualify for food stamps.” -Furloughed first officer, Texas

Behind the Cockpit Door

“Do pilots sleep in there? Definitely. Sometimes it’s just a ten-minute catnap, but it happens.” -John Greaves

“People tend to think the airplane is just flying itself. Trust me, that’s not true. It can fly by itself sometimes. But you’ve always got your hands on the controls waiting for it to mess up. And it does mess up.” -Pilot, South Carolina

“One time I rode in the jump seat of a 747 freighter, which carries cargo, not passengers. As soon as the doors closed, the first officer went in back and put on a bathrobe and slippers. No kidding. He said, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to wear a tie for a bunch of boxes.’” -Tech pilot at a regional airline, Texas

“We don’t wear our hats in the cockpit, by the way. On TV and in the Far Side comic, you always see these pilots with their hats on, and they have their headsets on over the hat, and that always makes us laugh.” -Joe D’Eon

“Remember this before you complain about the cost of a ticket: Fares today are about the same as they were in the 1980s.” -Patrick Smith

A Parting Thought

“Here’s the truth about airline jobs: You don’t have as much time off as your neighbors think you have, you don’t make as much money as your relatives think you make, and you don’t have as many girlfriends as your wife thinks you have. Still, I can’t believe they pay me to do this.” -Commercial pilot, Charlotte, North Carolina

Three Things Pilots Will Never Say

“We’re heading into some thunderstorms.” What they’ll say instead: “It looks like there’s some weather [or “rough air” or “rain showers”] up ahead.”

“One of our engines just failed.” What they’ll say instead: “One of our engines is indicating improperly.” (Or more likely, they’ll say nothing, and you’ll never know the difference. Most planes fly fine with one engine down.)

Well, folks, the visibility out there is zero.” What they’ll say instead: “There’s some fog in the Washington area.”

Airline Lingo

Blue juice: The water in the lavatory toilet. “There’s no blue juice in the lav.”

Crotch watch: The required check to make sure all passengers have their seat belts fastened. Also: “groin scan.”

Crumb crunchers: Kids. “We’ve got a lot of crumb crunchers on this flight.”

Deadheading: When an airline employee flies as a passenger for company business.

Gate lice: The people who gather around the gate right before boarding so they can be first on the plane. “Oh, the gate lice are thick today.”

George: Autopilot. “I’ll let George take over.”

Landing lips: Female passengers put on their “landing lips” when they use their lipstick just before landing.

Pax: Passengers.

Spinners: Passengers who get on late and don’t have a seat assignment, so they spin around looking for a seat.

Two-for-once special: The plane touches down on landing, bounces up, then touches down again.

Working the village: Working in coach.

Plus: Who’s Really Flying Your Plane?

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