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Home > Fear of Flying > After the Air France A330 crash, flying on the Airbus A380 freaks me out! Please answer these!
After the Air France A330 crash, flying on the Airbus A380 freaks me out! Please answer these!
Flying - Fear of Flying
Sunday, 07 June 2009 05:22

Hi Captain Lim,

Your website is amazing and I am kind of getting more comfortable about flying... all thanks to you alt

I appreciate the help you are providing to the fearful flyers. This, in my eyes, is a unique and a great social work!!! Thank you alt

People say and I do agree with them that air travel is one of the safest means of travelling!! But I still do fear an air crash - more because of the horrifying death (drowning, exploding, burning, suffocating etc)

I am flying from Toronto to Dubai on the 15th June 2009 and back to Toronto on the 29th June . It is Emirates Airlines (Airbus A380) - non stop 14.5 hours.

I am totally dreadful about flying! Especially after the Air France crash this week, I simply can't get over it!! I am going to fly over the Atlantic and it freaks me out even more now!!

My questions:-

1. For how long is the autopilot engaged?
2. When on autopilot, is there still a pilot in the cockpit?
3. When on autopilot, is there anything at all the pilot has to operate? How alert are the pilot while on autopilot?
4. How reliable is the autopilot function?
5. How does it respond to the weather conditions?
6. Is the autopilot on also in the event of a turbulence?
7. What are the chances the autopilot would simply go off?? Could that lead to a crash???

A few other questions:-

8. What does cabin depressurization mean?
9. Is there any way I could get the route an aircraft is going to follow?
10. What are the chances my plane would collide with another on air?

I know these are too many questions, but I insist on you answering all of them for me as soon as possible. My next flight is just a little over a week and I will be so much at peace if I get answers to those queries or rather fears!!!

I would highly appreciate!!

Thank you so much...

Sara Saqib.


Hi Sara,

Below are the answers to your questions:-

1. For how long is the autopilot engaged?

Depending on your captain, it is possible for him to switch on the autopilot as soon as he gets airborne (around 100 feet above ground level) from Dubai and leaves it on until he carries an auto landing on the runway at Toronto. (Toronto-Dubai-Toronto) So that is less than one minute after airborne or 14 hours and 29 minutes - 99 % of the flight time on autopilot! Of course the captain may may want to hone his flying skill and elect to do a manual landing instead. In such a case, he would then disconnect the auto pilot below 10,000 feet (or even lower) to carry out the landing himself rather than let the automation do it for him.

2. When on autopilot, is there still a pilot in the cockpit?

Regulations require that there must be at least a pilot at the control in the cockpit at any one time. During the take off and landing, there are usually 2 captains and two copilots in the cockpit. The additional crew is the relief pilots who would retire to the crew bunk (bed) to sleep during the cruise. They would take turn to fly the plane on a “50:50” basis.

3. When on autopilot, is there anything at all the pilot has to operate? How alert are the pilot while on autopilot?

There are many things the pilot has to do when the autopilot flies the plane. He has to communicate with the people on the ground, manage the plane, be the troubleshooter in case of mechanical failure, maneuver it in difficult weather conditions or any other situations that would require direct human intervention.

Yes, pilots are supposed to be disciplined and have to be very alert (very subjective question!) Apart from that, any auto pilot failures would trigger loud warnings to alert the pilots.

4. How reliable is the autopilot function?

Auto pilots are very reliable. They have been certified to even land the plane with zero visibility! Even with one autopilot failure, the second one takes over without any problem.

5. How does it respond to the weather conditions?

It responds very well to weather conditions. In extreme cases where autopilot trips in bad weather, the pilot takes over. He is trained to do that!

6. Is the autopilot on also in the event of a turbulence?

Yes, it is recommended to have the autopilot on in turbulence.

7. What are the chances the autopilot would simply go off?? Could that lead to a crash???

As mentioned earlier, when one autopilot fails, the other autopilot takes over. When all fail, the pilot merely takes over. It would not lead to a crash. Pilots are trained and paid to do that!

8. What does cabin depressurization mean?

All modern jet planes have pressurized cabin.

Why? Because, when it is pressurized, it can cruise at a higher altitude, thus saving a lot of fuel. Yes, flying high comes with a price – lack of oxygen. Climbers to the 29,029 feet Mount Everest must carry oxygen or else they would not be able to scale to the peak. So, in order to ensure that there is enough oxygen for the passengers to breathe, the cabin must be pressurized.

How is that? Well, as one climbs, the air becomes thinner and the amount of oxygen decreases. So when the cabin is pressurized as the plane ascends, it has the effect of squeezing the air back together and recreating the denser oxygen-rich conditions found on the ground or something closer to it.

So pressurization also makes it more comfortable for you as it allows for gradual equalization of your ears as the plane climbs to the cruising altitude. When you are in a pressurized cabin, it is almost like as if you are inside a balloon. The cabin expands slightly when pressurized by the air from the engine compressors and contracts when depressurized.

Cabin depressurization is almost similar to a balloon leaking when all the air side get sucked out. On 27 July 2008, a 17-years old Qantas Boeing 747 flying from London to Melbourne suffered depressurization when, according to the investigators, an exploding oxygen bottle probably ripped a hole the size of a mini-van on the right side of its body, forcing it to make an emergency descent from 29,000 feet to 10,000 feet at Manila.

Lest it worries you, all pilots are trained on the emergency descent procedures. It takes about 5 minutes to descend from 35,000 feet to 10,000 feet where oxygen is no longer required. The oxygen from your drop-down mask will last approximately 15 minutes and you still have about 10 minutes to spare!

So it is important to pay careful attention to the emergency demonstration while you are flying in the air. Losing pressurization is not by itself dangerous (as shown by the Qantas Boeing 747 above where there were no casualties) but what is most damaging is depressurization caused by explosives!

9. Is there any way I could get the route an aircraft is going to follow?

The Dubai to Toronto flight routing may vary from day to day. It depends on the weather system over the Atlantic. It would generally fly a "curve" or Great Circle route across Europe towards the Norwegian airspace. Thereafter, it flies across Iceland, South of Greenland, and then heads towards the Canadian territory into Gander and Montreal Control before Toronto. If you have a map, that would be the general direction.

10. What are the chances my plane would collide with another on air?

Air collisions are rare. However, there is equipment on board your A380 known as TCAS (Traffic Collision and Avoidance System) that alerts the pilots of any impending head-on traffic in order for them to take the necessary avoidance action. Yes, I know of a case where it has failed - between the Boeing 737 and a Legacy 600 business jet over Brazil in 2006. In that case, the TCAS on the business jet was inadvertently switched off!

Below is a You Tube video of an Emirates Airbus A380 landing at the Toronto Pearson International Airport.


Emirates Airbus A380 landing at Toronto


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Comments (10)

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...
This is why i love capt. lim's website. These questions and answers are awesome! Thank you!
Calif. , 11 Jun, 2009
Plane safety
Hi Sara,

in addition to Captain Lim I just want to make you aware that traveling on an Airliner jet with a perfectly trained crew is much more safer than traveling on a taxi from the airport to your hotel.
Emirates is known as one of the best, most trustworthy Airlines on the market and you can be sure, that their crews are on the same top level.

The pilots in charge are extremely well trained both handling expected and unexpected circumstances, if it is with engaged or disengaged Autopilot.
Holger , 11 Jun, 2009
Thanks!!
Captain Lim, Thanks a lot for your answers!! I feel so much more better now!!

Though another question has emerged.. how is the depressurization caused? What are the chances it would happen to an aircraft as good as A380? How is the explosive depressurization caused??

Extremely thankful for your help.

Would highly appreciate if you could answer this for me too.
Sara , 13 Jun, 2009
Palne Safety
@Plane safety

I do agree that the Emirates Airlines is one of the safest ones to fly on. I have been flying on Emirates since forever! I love it. But my weird fears... I am finally trying to overcome them.
Sara , 13 Jun, 2009
emirates
Mmmmm...until the pilots reduced their maximum take off weight by 100 tonnes(?)and so set engine power accordingly.
Nearly not got off the ground and crashed.
mrbee , 18 Jun, 2009
right
toattly right about that.

smilies/grin.gif
a380 pilot , 02 Mar, 2010
awkward on long flight!!!
hi capt...

me n my hubby r planning a europe vacation.... so, we'll be flying turkish airlines from s'pore to rome via istanbul.... the problem is that i just saw an article stating that turkish airlines has 14 crashes in record, whereby the most recent incident was in 2009!!!

we have always been awkward on flights (the last one being a 4.5 hr flight)... so, i simply can't put my thoughts to ease when i think bout all the possibilities..... 11 hours to istanbul...... as much as i look forward for the vacation..... still very, very awkward....


pls help!!!

thanx a bunch...
zoe , 09 Apr, 2011
Awkward on long flight!!!
Hi Zoe,

I know why you feel awkward about flying – this is because of your hidden fear of air travel – please read “I am so scared to fly…” see here.

I repeat - everything we do in life involves some level of risks and that flying is just one of those small risks. I hope you will digest what is written in my answer to the above topic.

I quote an article from my friend in the USA, Robert J. Boser, editor of AirlineSafety.Com, who wrote,

"I guess the most important thing I can say is that news headlines have nothing to do with actual risk. If you judge your risk of injury or death by the latest headlines in the news media, you will always have much more fear than is justified by statistical reality.

The size and repetitions of such articles has no correlation to the actual risk of being involved in such accidents. The intense competition for market share in all forms of the media seems to dictate that certain types of stories receive more frequent front-page exposure. The general public, hearing such stories time and time again, begin to believe -- apparently without thoughtful analysis -- that media repetition correlates to actual risk. It doesn't.

MIT professor, Arnold Barnett, a statistical expert in the field of aviation safety, researched the New York Times front page stories, for the period of 1988 and 1989, and found:

"1.7 murder stories for every 1,000 homicides, 2.3 AIDS stories for every 1,000 AIDS deaths, .02 cancer stories for every 1,000 cancer deaths and 138.2 plane crash stories for every 1,000 airplane deaths." (Catherine Trevison, of The Oregonian, Feb. 6, 2000, edition)

Barnett, judges the actual risk of one person being involved in a fatal airline accident, to be once every 19,000 years, provided he flew on an airliner once each day of those 19,000 years. He bases that estimate on what actually happened in the domestic U.S., during the 1990s.

Trevison ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it his e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) also notes that:

"Measured in deaths per mile, American commercial airline flights are 22 times safer than car travel. More people die in three months of traffic accidents than in 40 years on commercial jets. More Americans die each year falling from ladders, drowning in bathtubs and freezing to death than by flying."

Thus, fear of flying is based on emotions, not rationality. "

If it makes you feel any less awkward, you have a choice of flying in a better airline from Singapore direct non-stop to Rome such as Singapore Airlines or perhaps Alitalia...

I wish you and hubby a happy flight to Romesmilies/kiss.gif

(This answer is also in the Main Page)
Captain Lim , 10 Apr, 2011
...
hi sirrrr,
i hav qstn that "why we always open the left side door of aircraft on the ground"
smilies/shocked.gif
Rakesh , 01 Oct, 2012
...
why we always open left side door while aircraft is on ground
Rakesh , 01 Oct, 2012

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