Pilots Confess: We're Tired, Hungry & Just As Confused As You

For many of us who travel on planes, believing the pilots are well-fed and rested is a necessity. But according to some of the industry secrets that airline pilots have divulged to the editors of Reader’s Digest, the men and women behind the controls are — for better or worse — just like the rest of us.

Among the list of 50 Secrets Your Pilot Won’t Tell You are these gems:

“Sometimes the airline won’t give us lunch breaks or even time to eat. We have to delay flights just so we can get food.”

“The truth is, we’re exhausted. Our work rules allow us to be on duty 16 hours without a break. That’s many more hours than a truck driver. And unlike a truck driver, who can pull over at the next rest stop, we can’t pull over at the next cloud.”

“Some FAA rules don’t make sense to us either. Like the fact that when we’re at 39,000 feet going 400 miles an hour, in a plane that could hit turbulence at any minute, [flight attendants] can walk around and serve hot coffee and Chateaubriand. But when we’re on the ground on a flat piece of asphalt going five to ten miles an hour, they’ve got to be buckled in like they’re at NASCAR.”

“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.”

“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.”

“There’s no such thing as a water landing. It’s called crashing into the ocean.”

“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.”

“When you get on that airplane at 7 a.m., you want your pilot to be rested and ready. But the hotels they put us in now are so bad that there are many nights when I toss and turn. They’re in bad neighborhoods, they’re loud, they’ve got bedbugs, and there have been stabbings in the parking lot.”

“Do pilots sleep in there? Definitely. Sometimes it’s just a ten-minute catnap, but it happens.”

50 Secrets Your Pilot Won’t Tell You [Reader’s Digest]