First off, let me introduce myself. I am 23 year old American male who absolutely LOVES to fly. I have been an aviation enthusiast for most of my life, and have seriously considered becoming a commercial airline pilot. However, I recently have become a nervous flyer. I used to love the feeling the power of the plane as it took off, and I even thought turbulence was fun (although I hate roller coasters).
Being an aviation enthusiast I also was very interested in airplane crashes; how they happened and all that. I studied about many crashes, and it always seemed that a series of small problems all converged on the doomed aircraft.
Even after all that, I was still very comfortable flying. However, after a flight I took last year out of LAX, I was on a small jet (Embraer) and experienced heavy turbulence, I would not go as far as to say "severe" but I was gripping the armrest!
I believe after that experience, and all the knowledge I acquired about airplane crashes, my mind became my own worst enemy.
However, I must say that this site has been EXTREMELY helpful, and you are doing a great service to thousands of people! Thank you. I was most nervous during take off, I feared that after we left the ground that airplane would not gain enough speed to stay airborne. The bumps, jolts, and dips during climb all added to this fear. But, by explaining that the aircraft decreases power during climb (due to noise abatement) was extremely HELPFUL. Now I know what to expect, and that it is normal to feel a few dumps as the aircraft gains more lift, or enters a bit of wake turbulence. Also, by explaining turbulence is like a car driving over a bumpy road, and that it is NOT a safety issue!
So again, thank you, my only fear that I still have surrounds the chance of the aircraft crashing during cruise, experiencing a loss of control. I guess, the Air France 447 still upsets me. I have flown both Air France and the A330, and think they are both exceptional.
For one of the largest airlines in the world to experience such a horrific crash is unsettling. Many people believe that the pitots on the aircraft were not giving the aircraft accurate air speed information. Whereas, if going too fast the aircraft could come apart mid-air, or it can cause a stall making the aircraft fall from the sky. Both are terrifying outcomes. I watched an investigative report about AF447, and someone had said that airplanes fly higher to be more fuel efficient, but flying at such a height adds more pressure on the aircraft, and that there is a slim window between going too fast, and going too slow.
I guess my question is, how do pilots make sure they are flying at the right speed? If the engines do stall, is there a chance the pilots could restart them? What has taken place since AF447 to ensure this does not happen again.
Also, I am flying on American's new 737-800 next month, I am sure I will be safe on such a new plane, any concerns however?
Again, thanks so much for all your help!
The Boeing 737-800 is a robust and safe plane to fly on. That said, safety of a plane does not just depend purely on the “hardware” of the business but the “software” is equally important. By “software”, I meant the human element. The airline industry has made planes to be very reliable but perfecting the human element in operating the plane would be the last link in making flying safer.
Thus I would generally look at the reputation of a particular airline to gauge the safety of their planes. But then, look at the AF447 accident. Air France is a reputable airline and yet the accident occurred. I cannot have a good answer for that.
Today, all the third generation fly-by-wire airplanes make use of computers to operate the plane efficiently and safely. Most of the times, the plane is flying on autopilot unless there is an emergency that knocks out the automation.
When the automation is on, flying at the right speed is taken care by the autopilot. So there is no issue unless it is the take off speeds for a particular weight. These speeds are extracted from the aircraft performance manuals.
If an engine stalls, given the right conditions, it can be started as there is an “Engine Relight” checklist for it.
The final conclusion for what caused the AF447 crash is still not available although there is suspicion of some kind of icings on the pitot tubes that have been giving erroneous information to the plane. In the interim, planes that have been installed with those similar pitots have all had their speed sensors replaced.
I wish you blue sky and safe flights
Air France Flight 447 Missing AF447 Rio Brazil