air travel, cockpit, airlines
All questions on this page are answered by Captain Les

Q & A Page for Passengers
Air Travel and Flying

We receive a lot of air travel & flying related questions from our readers. Here are some of them:

When you submit your question you agree to have your question published if we find it useful to your fellow readers. All questions will be personally answered by Les, even if your question is not published. Only your first name and initial will be published, never your email or any other information about you. Please submit your own question HERE.

Captain B757

Wilson F. submitted this question:

What can you do when another passenger’s kid keeps crying or screaming during a flight for a long period of time?

Do you think there should be regulations to protect another passengers’ peace?

Wilson F.'s question answered:

That’s an excellent question and a very common occurrence, but very difficult to answer.

There is not a whole lot you can do, except asking the parent or guardian to try to calm the child. If that fails, then ask the flight attendant for help. If that does not solve the situation, we just must deal with it, trying to ignore the situation as much as we can.

Regs to protect passengers’ peace and quiet: It does not sound achievable. That sounds like a question for a lawyer or a law maker.  Am afraid we are stuck inside that tube for the duration of any flight.

Consuela G. submitted this question:

I sometimes see flight attendants lift this plate up on the lavatory door. Why do they do that?

airplane cabin lavatory door slider

Consuela G.'s 's question answered:

That metal plate covers the external lavatory door opening and closing mechanism. 

It lifts a spring mechanism by pulling the plate up with your finger.

It serves two purposes:


Procedures require a flight attendant to lock the lavatory doors for takeoff and landing.

That prevents passengers from going in there during critical phases of flight when everybody is required to remain seated with the seat belt fastened..


It also functions as a means for the flight attendants to enter a locked restroom door anytime, to i.e. go in and assist a person who may need help for any reason after locking the lavatory door.

Each lavatory has a flight attendant call button for assistance if needed.


Anita W. submitted this question:

What is that opening with a plate that protrudes out of the body of the airplane? 

Outflow valve
Airplane outflow valve.

Anita W.'s question answered:

That is an outflow valve, found on all cabin-pressurized airplanes. 

In the air: To keep a cabin pressurized, air is constantly coming into the cabin via engine air. Before the air is delivered to the cabin it’s processed through a series of stages, until perfect for human breathing and temperature comfort distribution.

After cycling and recycling through the cabin for a few minutes that air goes overboard, being replaced with new fresh air. This is a constant cycle.

The outflow valves (typically one forward and one aft on the airplane body), regulate how much air is allowed to leave the airplane, to maintain correct pressurization so that we can breathe normally and to stay in comfortable temperature surroundings while flying.

On the ground (as in the pictures) the outflow valve is fully open, since the plane is not pressurized. The higher we climb the more the outflow valve will close to maintain correct pressurization. On landing the outflow valve will go fully open again. This ensures the airplane is not pressurized on the ground.

A ground-pressurized airplane would not allow the cabin doors or overwing exits to open to exit the airplane.

You can read more on that HERE, if desired.

Old type outflow valve
Another outflow valve, older type.

Raunaq W. submitted this question:

Why are ultra long haul flights booming again?

Raunaq Q.'s question answered:

As new technology has developed, with airplanes capable of flying longer distances the ultra long-hauls have become a reality.

Research among the airline’s route planners also show that most passengers prefer the convenience of nonstop flights, as opposed to changing flights on long-haul trips.

It wasn’t long ago that a 12-hour non-stop flight was the limit of time an airplane could stay in the air without stopping for refueling.

The cons of these types of flights, however, is that it’s hard on our bodies to be stuck in that “metal-tube” for ie 17 hours at a time.

Thus, the development of the long-haul capabilities has also contributed to another development of renewed super-sonic flight capabilities, coming to us in the near future.

You can read more about that HERE, if desired.

Andre M. submitted this question:

Do pilots for major airlines have an obligation to report about other pilots if that pilot confide in them of mental stress from the job and personal life that could endanger passengers?

Andre M.'s question answered:

Major U.S. airlines have great programs in place for this possibility, including my own airline, called the EAP (Employee Assistance Program).

Additionally, the ALPA Pilots Union has their own department within each councel to help any pilot with this, if ever needed.

This assurance of help for any pilot in need encourages the individual pilot to self-report to a strictly confidential phone number 24/7.

When a pilot needs help

IF a pilot does not self-report, then any fellow pilot observing i.e. a stress, mental, or alcohol problem is obligated to approach his pilot brother or sister in need in confidentiality, to try to help and convince the affected pilot to go self-report. This is an immediate intervention-mandatory procedure.

Here’s an example from real life: Pilot A notices that Pilot B has a stress, mental, or alcohol problem, showing up unfit for flight duties (perhaps drunk?) at the hotel the morning of departure.

Pilot A pulls pilot B aside, and says, «hey B, why don’t you call in sick for your trip today? You are not doing well. And please call the Union for help too.»

In 9 out of 10 cases pilot B will «call in sick» to crew scheduling, followed by an immediate EAP call.

Following treatment the pilot may return to flying once found fit by the doctor and the FAA. But, he will receive mandatory continuous F/U to ensure he has recovered fully.

When a pilot does not seek help voluntarily

pilot stress solutions

IF a pilot does not self-report, then each pilot observing the problem is obligated to call the EAP on behalf of the pilot needing help. The reporting pilot’s name remains anonymous in the system outside of the EAP folks and the Union officers, who are sworn to confidentiality.

So, it’s still true that you never «backstab» or tell on another pilot. However, in today’s airline world every airline pilot out there appears to like this new set-up for safety. It’s proven effective, and it has truly helped a few affected pilots recover fully.

Now there are even procedures in place for handling a dangerous pilot with degrading flying skills. Similar to a stress, mental, alcohol, or a drug problem, those procedures are set up to correct the situation nicely too.

Hope this answered your question.

Peter A. submitted this question:

Is it true that you can automatically land and take off the airplane by computer? Or, is it all flown by hand? If so, is that safe?

Peter A.'s question answered:

Autoland: Yes, sometimes we autoland the airplane, if the runway we land on is approved for auto landings.

An autoland is actually required to be done if the weather at landing is down to minimum visibility requirements. 

For safety reasons, the FAA also requires other criteria be met prior to starting an autoland approach, such as: 1) a max wind speed/crosswind allowance, 2) current crew qualifications, and 3) airplane specific equipment requirements.

Auto takeoffs: No. Takeoffs are all done by manual hand-flying. The autopilot, however, may be  engaged shortly after takeoff, if desired.

 Is it safe? Yes, absolutely! It is 100 % safe, as long as all procedures are followed correctly.


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