Flights can be a nerve-wracking experience for many travellers as the plane takes to the skies. Pilots have a vital role – but do their abilities vary depending on the airline you’re with? Pilot Patrick Smith explained in his book Cockpit Confidential the concerns some people have when it comes to budget airlines. How do the experience levels of different pilots vary and should travellers be warier when it comes to low-cost carriers such as Ryanair?
The good news is that, according to Smith, budget airline pilots are no less talented than those flying standard carriers.
“All airlines will brag that their employees are, in some indefinable way, better than everyone else’s, but it’s unfair to say a certain calibre of pilot goes to a certain calibre of airline,” wrote Smith.
“The top airlines have a gigantic pool of more or less evenly qualified applicants to choose from.
“There are hundreds if not thousands of highly impressive résumés sitting on any recruiter’s desk.
“One is not exiled to a budget carrier for lack of talent; where you end up is less about skill than it is about luck and timing.”
Passengers should also not have any concerns when it comes to regional pilots, said Smith.
“Logbook totals aren’t necessarily a good prognosticator of skill or performance under pressure.
“A given pilot’s smarts are not so easily quantified, and as the accident annals will attest, low-time crews hardly own a monopoly on mistakes.
“And all pilots undergo rigorous training programs before they’re allowed to carry passengers.
“The regionals unusually have excellent instructors and state-of-the-art training on a par with any major.”
In Cockpit Confidential, Smith also revealed the part of the flight passengers should be worried about.
“Inherently, takeoff is the more critical point than landing,” the pilot explained. “Here, the airplane is making the transition from ground to flight, and its grip on the latter is much more tentative than it is when it is coming down.
“It’s landing that fearful flyers hate, but in deference to the principles of lift gravity and momentum, this anxiety is misplaced.
“Not that you should be, but if you insist on being nervous, takeoff is your time – from just prior to liftoff through the first twenty seconds or so of flight.”
As for the pilots, they are most afraid of things of “things they cannot control,” admitted Smith.
“We are less afraid of committing a fatal error than of finding ourselves victimised by somebody else’s error or else at the mercy of forces impervious to our skills or expertise.
“I’d put lithium batteries fires, high-speed explosions, bird strikes that take out multiple engines, catastrophic mechanical malfunctions, and ground collisions at the top of my list,” the pilot said.