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32 Secrets Your Pilot Won’t Tell You

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking from the flight deck. The skies are nice and clear today — which is good, since we only have enough fuel for perfect flight conditions. Oh, and please feel free to judge my flying skills based on the quality of our landing….”

Wait, what?

This isn’t the kind of in-flight announcement you’ll ever hear during a real flight — but it turns out that there are quite a few things your airline pilot may not be telling you. Reader’s Digest recently interviewed 17 pilots in the U.S. to get their insider take on airplane safety, flight delays and other aspects of air travel. The 32 secrets that the pilots revealed are sometimes funny, sometimes frightening — but they all offer a fascinating peek at what goes on in the cockpit at 35,000 feet.

Here are a few of our favorites.

“Pilots find it perplexing that so many people are afraid of turbulence. It’s all but impossible for turbulence to cause a crash. We avoid turbulence not because we’re afraid the wing is going to fall off but because it’s annoying.” — Patrick Smith

“I’m constantly under pressure to carry less fuel than I’m comfortable with. Airlines are always looking at the bottom line, and you burn fuel carrying fuel. Sometimes if you carry just enough fuel and you hit thunderstorms or delays, then suddenly you’re running out of gas and you have to go to an alternate airport.” — Captain at a major airline

“Most of the time, how you land is a good indicator of a pilot’s skill. So if you want to say something nice to a pilot as you’re getting off the plane, say ‘Nice landing.’ We do appreciate that.” — Joe D’Eon

“If you’re going to recline your seat, for God’s sake, please check behind you first. You have no idea how many laptops are broken every year by boorish passengers who slam their seat back with total disregard to what’s going on behind them.” — John Nance

“No, it’s not your imagination: Airlines really have adjusted their flight arrival times so they can have a better record of on-time arrivals. So they might say a flight takes two hours when it really takes an hour and 45 minutes.” — Commercial airline captain, Atlanta

“Remember this before you complain about the cost of a ticket: Fares today are about the same as they were in the 1980’s.” — Patrick Smith

“Here’s the truth about airline jobs: You don’t have as much time off as your neighbors think you have, you don’t make as much money as your relatives think you make, and you don’t have as many girlfriends as your wife thinks you have. Still, I can’t believe they pay me to do this.” — Commercial pilot, Charlotte, North Carolina

What would you ask a pilot if you could?

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