Ask the Pilot

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pilot Patrick Smith, who writes the column “Ask the Pilot” on, talks about flying—from what causes turbulence, to which airports are well designed, to the TSA and airport security. Plus, he’ll answer questions from callers.


Patrick Smith

Comments [30]

Dorothy from NY

Patrick thank you so much for all that you said.
At least I do not feel alone with my strong opinions against the pseudo-safety paranoia.
So, there are billions of dollars spent (read: dumped and wasted) on curing nation-wide psycho-terror-schizophrenia, yet what's the most important - air traffic control is not updated and under-budgeted! This is insane! What about getting rid of those non-educated I-Am-The-Power jerks at TSA and billion dollars invigilation machines, giving us some freedom and spending the money on real safety priorities? Anyone?
I was getting a ticket on a while ago. Out of curiosity I entered "$0.00" for the ticket, the money the airlines actually get. You will not believe what was the calculated total for the non-airline related expenses, i.e. taxes, schizophrenia tax, etc on a ticket to Berlin - $356! Yes, all the blame goes on the airline, yet they are the last one in line to make profits. I think people blame airlines for something that is not the airlines problems. We all agreed on being prisoners in our own country (isn’t what prisoners have to go through everyday? Screening, checking, naked, without any right to say no), so some smart companies can make quick money, for the good of all of course…
I would strongly advise, to give the wasted money on non- or poorly educated computer-like TSA folks to the airlines and then I bet there would be less stress and problems for all.
Patrick – Thank you and thank you all pilots for staying strong!

Aug. 12 2010 12:26 AM

That flight attendant was NO hero. While we may sympathize with his frustrations on the job, there's no excuse for his behavior. If the passenger was out of line, then the flight attendant should have called security and had the passenger escorted off the plane and possibly charged with an offense. He should not EVER have flown off the handle like that. It scares me that so many people are willing to excuse his behavior, a person charged with being responsible for others. His behavior was completely and utterly irresponsible!

Aug. 11 2010 06:39 PM
John R. Murphy

Your program on flying information was very helpful.
Suggestion: Just like you have a monthly segment on home repair and improvement, I think a monthly segment on travel would be of interest to many listeners. You could alternate good experts on flying, train, bus and car travel who would provide updates on these means of travel and answer listener questions. Patrick Smith would be a great expert for flying information.

Aug. 11 2010 02:53 PM
Ken from Brooklyn

Patrick Smith said that bird strikes are common but very rarely do the strikes lead to any catastrophic consequences for the airplanes.

So are you saying the Agriculture Department should have done more research before executing 400 Canadian geese in Prospect Parkshwitz?

Aug. 11 2010 12:56 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Announcements about turbulence are made not because the plane could crash but because passengers could be injured by falling or by objects tossed around even though flying through it is safe overall. I'm surprised the guest mentioned passengers' needing to have their seatbelts fastened & didn't seem to make the connection w/that being the reason the announcements are made. I think there's a tendency for anyone in a specialized job to forget that people who don't know what they do don't realize what they do & don't need to do or to be afraid of.

Aug. 11 2010 12:40 PM
Brian from Upper West Side

If cell phones or digital music players were truly dangerous, they wouldn't be allowed in the cabin. To suggest that they are dangerous to use (only during take-off and landing, by the way), suggests that a group of terrorists could bring the plane down by listening to Bruce Springstein under 10,000 feet. A bit crazy, no?

Let people listen to music. Especially people with flying anxiety. Maybe that could help reduce passenger rage.

Aug. 11 2010 12:34 PM
gene from NYC

On allowing cell phones on planes: "too unbearable to imagine"

I had to laugh--this guy is insightful, funny and very well-spoken off the cuff like this.

Aug. 11 2010 12:32 PM
Estelle from Austin

How would cell phones even work on an airplane?

Don't they need to connect to a tower? Even if they connect to a satellite, the plane is in such rapid motion I don't understand how a connection could be possible.


Aug. 11 2010 12:32 PM
Stephen Brewer from New York City

I want to agree with Mr, Smith on his observation about the value of air travel. I've been traveling between New York and Portland, Oregon, regularly for 40 years. The air fare is now pretty much what it was in 1970, about $350, With inflation, that means I now pay about a third of what I did in 1970.

Aug. 11 2010 12:26 PM
Anne from Washington Heights

Airlines ARE increasingly frustrating, maddening. These days you don;t even know what airline you're flying! Recently I booked a flight and at each and every turn, I was never sure what airline I was flying, or what line to stand in. I had a Luftansa flight from Prague to London, but my ticket said Eurowings was the airline, and it was printed on a ticket that said Czech airlines! Also KLM and Delta do the same thing--always total confusion. They treat passengers so poorly!

Aug. 11 2010 12:25 PM
Diane Williams

Your guest has the most commen sense I have heard on this subject in ten years.

Aug. 11 2010 12:25 PM
antonio from park slope

What does he think of pilots for truth?

Aug. 11 2010 12:24 PM
Collin Carrothers from Brooklyn

What he said about prices being lower for airline tickets is pointedly false. I have been flying home from NYC to Austin for 10 years over the holidays, and the price for flights has risen steadily over that time from 150 to around 400 for a round trip flight with anywhere from 1-4 connections.

Aug. 11 2010 12:23 PM
Gary from Edison, NJ

How is overbooking a flight not deceitful? How is it even legal to sell more of something than you even had to sell?

Aug. 11 2010 12:22 PM
Jeffrey from New Jersey

Do electronic devices like computers and phones really cause problems for flight systems?


Aug. 11 2010 12:21 PM
Mike from nyc

Seems like since deregulation of the airlines, it's been a race to the bottom to keep costs down to provide lower prices. But the quality of the flight experience has gone down with it.

I must prefer to fly with pretty much any overseas carrier, over domestic US flights.

Aug. 11 2010 12:21 PM
Steve from NJ from NJ

A flight my kids were waiting for was pushed off an entire day because "there wasn't enough crew available." This was a Sunday afternoon! How could they not schedule enough crew?! (EWR to CHS in June)

Aug. 11 2010 12:21 PM
Sara from LES

Can you ask him about lost/stolen luggage? I've always wondered why this wasn't a massive breach of security.

Aug. 11 2010 12:20 PM
Larry Terricone from Basking Ridge, NJ

Your guest says that airline travel is at the lowest cost. Yes maybe the initial cost is low but all the add ons can almost double the cost. On a recent trip to London the ticket was @89.00 but all add ons bought the ticket up to 450.00

Aug. 11 2010 12:20 PM
paul from brooklyn

If this country had something like the Japanese bullet trains, I would never fly again. The Shinkansen there is the best mode of travel I've ever encountered: fast, easy, comfortable, and most importantly, security instead of security theater.

Aug. 11 2010 12:20 PM
Steve from Bridgewater NJ

Folk hero, my eye. Steven Slater wouldn't last a day as a conductor on a New York area commuter railroad! Pitch a hissyfit and run home; this is what heros do?

Aug. 11 2010 12:16 PM
Stephen from Greenpoint

I'm a quiet and patient passenger and I'm polite to the flight attendants.

In reality, I feel intimidated by the flight attendants because, by and large, you can sense how unhappy they are to be doing their jobs. This is pretty clear by their actions, body language and their attitudes.

Recently I was flying and the passenger next to me greeted the flight attendant by saying "Hello, how are you?" The attendant responded by saying, kind of sternly, "Thank you for saying that. Do you know how few people greet us?"

My private thought at that time was, "of course I never greet you. I'm afraid to speak to you."

I am sure I am not alone.

Aug. 11 2010 12:16 PM
Linda from Upper West Side, Manhattan

I think at some deep level people are scared t of flying...people don't really understand how planes fly..
The sensations in flight -air pockets etc -aren't inherently natural for pedestrians and drivers and that lack of control freaks out many people.

Fear of flying even on an unconscious level when children are with us is even more intense.

Aug. 11 2010 12:15 PM

the boorish behavior isn't just here - I haer taht sports venues in Europe limit the number of Russians allowed to attend a given event.

Aug. 11 2010 12:14 PM
kcromeyer from NY, NY

The entitlement and the sense of hostility stems from the feeling that airlines are really out to get passangers.

Charging for a blanket, a meal, headphones, direct TV, etc, etc etc. Even at times when I'm willing to pay for a blanket i'm told "First Class Only". Honestly, if airlines gave the sense that they "gave a little" we would be happy to "give a little" right back.

Aug. 11 2010 12:14 PM
gene from NYC

I'm with the flight attendant. I see an uptick in arrantly boorish behavior recently. Worse, when nailed on it, the boors then defend themselves!

Last week, some bike rider (an increasingly arrogant group) was on Bleecker (a one-way street) yelling at people -- "Oh No! No no no!" -- warning them not to cross the street in front of him. I shouted at him, "YOU'RE the one going the wrong way!" and he starts screaming back at me(!) I was hoping he'd crash while he was busy turned around berating me.

A few days later, on a very crowded Metro North train, I see the poor conductor getting harassed by this guy who took offense that she'd made him take his bag off the seat next to him. She gave it right back to him, good girl!, and the woman next to me and I (and others in the car) supported her vocally anbd wholeheartedly.

Maybe if the air pax had supported Slater it would have cooled him off.

Aug. 11 2010 12:13 PM

Why isn't the passenger being held accountable for her assault?

I remember my first trip to Europe on TWA in coach - lap of luxury, even in coach. French perfume in teh bathrooms, toothbrushes...

Aug. 11 2010 12:13 PM
Tom from Upper West Side

There is no mystery as to why air passengers experience "air rage" - We're treated like cattle, for which experience we have the privilege to be charged.

Aug. 11 2010 12:11 PM
Marielle from Brooklyn

"Most people enjoy flying?"

Aug. 11 2010 12:10 PM

I guess we'll take our heroes where we can find them. Flight Attendant: Incident 'Resonated' With Some
The JetBlue flight attendant who cursed at a passenger, grabbed some beer and then popped the emergency chute of a plane at JFK has been released on bail. Since the incident, Steven Slater has become something of a cult hero

Aug. 11 2010 11:24 AM

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