Pilot reveals what scares him the most

Fuel management, the weather and passengers with bags
Steve Landells, 50, a pilot for 28 years mostly for commercial airlines such as British Airways, reveals what frightens him most about flying.
He says that fuel management is among pilots’ biggest challenges, recalling one occasion approaching London Heathrow just as the air traffic control computers failed on the ground.
“All of a sudden no flights waiting to take off could get airborne, so there wasn’t enough space to land aircraft and planes had to divert to other airports. […] We were concerned about fuel.”
They were told to hold on for four hours but didn’t have enough fuel. They were eventually prioritised for landing at London Stansted.
Pilots always have half-an-hours’ worth of ‘final reserve fuel’. “In my time I never got anywhere close to using the final reserve,” he says.
But a pilot’s biggest enemy is the weather. Landells remembers how a flight attendant broke his arm during sudden turbulence that “came out the blue” on a flight from Bogota, Colombia.
“We’ll look at weather and make a decision based on the forecast, but it’s the one thing we can’t control. Clear air turbulence, which you can’t predict, can be a concern, as the first instance you know about it is when you’re in it.”
One of the biggest things that upsets him is passengers during an emergency evacuation leaving with their hand luggage. “It’s really dangerous to get luggage out of bins during evacuation. […] If you get the signal and go into the bin, you are saying your bag is more important than lives of people around you. It really upsets me when people carry bags off evacuated planes.”


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