Since joining AirAsia as a cadet pilot several years ago, I have learnt much – not only about the strange and wondrous workings of commercial flying, but also from the many close encounters with our dear guests. Answering guest queries personally is important to me as that’s when I get to provide that much needed ‘personal touch’ to our guests.
Here is a crash course folks (pardon the bad pun) on my flight FAQs.
Q: Why do we need to open the window shades for takeoff and landing?
A: Basically, for safety. Do remember that if there were to be an accident it is likely to occur during take off and landing. Opened window shades allow both passengers and crew to access the situation outside of the aircraft (as well as first responders to assess the situation inside).
Q: With autopilot on, what’s so difficult about flying?
A: The Autopilot cannot make the plane take off by itself. (It can land by itself but this is not allowed due to calibration problems). Though used extensively, note that like any other computer, it operates on a GIGO (garbage-in, garbage-out) principle. The Autopilot cannot make critical decisions like abort a take-off, perform a go-around etc. Man still rules, ok!
Q: Why can’t I use the handphone inflight?
A: This is a question that is as old as the handphone itself. Firstly because while a single mobile phone or two is unlikely to interfere with communication/navigation equipment, 180 mobile phones going on at the same time would. So it’s better to post an outright ban.
Second, because jet fuel has a very low flashpoint (meaning it is highly flammable in vapour form) and on a hot and dry day, static from 180 handphones may ignite (similar to the no-handphone reasoning in petrol stations).
Q: Why doesn’t AirAsia allow us to take photos of the aircraft?
A: Errr… you CAN take pictures of our aircraft. Just not on the tarmac! And for the record, it’s not an AirAsia rule but a Malaysia Airports rule. Standing next to the aircraft can be dangerous – hot surfaces, dangerous fumes, jet blast from other aircraft, ear-damaging noise etc. You can also get hit by the many ground service vehicles. This is why even pilots have to wear yellow vests in the tropical heat when on the tarmac.
Q: Why can’t I go inside the cockpit for a short while on the ground?
A: This is something practiced by all airlines. It is because of the high workload on pilots. The need to turn-around and prepare the aircraft in 25 minutes makes it necessary for us to stay focused so we can depart on time.
Q: Why I see pilot carry newspaper inside the cockpit? You all so free one meh?
A: The newspaper is actually a sunshade. You see, the existing shades in the aircraft are inadequate – so we need newspapers for extra glare protection. (yeah, right!)
Q : Why your pilot always like to tell us groundspeed, altitude, temperature, “visibility more than 10 km” etc? Why so boring one?
A: Yes, I know it is boring. But not every pilot can sound like a radio deejay. The hard part for us is that on one hand, we need to sound “fun, hip and happening” when making announcements to entertain our guests. On the other hand, we also need to sound “serious, focused and safety-conscious” to reassure our guests. You see, making a “radio deejay”-type announcement may be fun etc but if we have an incident, then that part is going to make us look really silly, don’t you think? So give us a break lah!
Note: Answers are strictly the personal answers of the writer, and by no means reflects Company practice or the Flight Operations Department. Apologies in advance for any wrong answers.