View Full Version : Today's Column--Can You Handle The Truth

10-02-2007, 08:35 AM
While I think the theory behind today's column is accurate, I'm not so sure I totally agree with James today. Speaking for myself, if there is a mechanical issue, I would definetly appreciate the pilot saying something along the lines of "Ladies and gentlemen, we're having an issue up here in the cockpit which I don't totally understand, not being an aircraft mechanic. I've decided it's in everyone's best interest if we return to the gate and have one of our guys take a look at it and see if there truly is an issue with the plane, and if so, get it fixed before we depart."

This not only shows that the pilot recognizes there is a problem with the plane, his willingness to buck management and their on time stat "push", and his concern for passenger safety, while at the same time keeping the passengers informed. I don't think anyone expects the pilot to be able to explain each and every little thing about the aircraft, but at least be able to say there is a problem and it needs to be looked at.

Also, if no one knows how long it will be to take care of the issue, then say that. Don't say "oh, about an hour" and then it turns into 3 hours. An honest "I/we don't know" is better, to me at least, than to be continually told 1 hour, 1 hour, 1 hour. This way, it at least begins to prepare me for the eventuallity of missing a connection, being really late to my destination, etc. and being able to start making the phone calls that need to be made in that situation, and avoids the last minute rush of 200 people doing the same thing all at the same time.

10-02-2007, 09:02 AM
I don't really mind if the pilot doesn't tell the truth. But for gosh sakes they shouldn't lie about reasons. Two personal examples:

1. About 5 hours into a flight from PHL to CDG on US the pilot announced there was "a problem with one of the transponders" and they then turned around and went back to PHL!!!

The issue here is that aircraft had at least two and probably three transponders on board and if only one failed they still had one or two. Moreover, the transponder is not a safety issue as it is fully possible and legal to fly without one (after all they flew 5 hours back to PHL, didn't they?). So there must have been some other really serious issue.

2. "Folks, we put the landing gear down but only 2 of the 3 green lights are lit. We think it's just a burned out bulb but....."

Doesn't the pilot know that in all aircraft those lights are designed to be very easily pulled out and swapped by hand for just this reason of a possible burned out bulb? What do they really think the problem is?

10-02-2007, 10:06 AM
I generally agree with both of you; John & Kairho.

I don't think the pilots know as little as James infers. They might not know exactly why that light is blinking or that gauge is off, but they know that it's an electrical problem, or a control problem, etc., and can make an announcement giving a general reason why they are going back to the gate.
John, you're right, I would rather not hear an estimate of repair time, unless they really have a reasonable idea of how long it will take. Otherwise, I'd rather them say we don't know how long it will take, but when we know something more, we'll let you know.
K., I agree, I don't want them to lie to me, but then again, I don't necessarily need to know the truth. If we're coming in for a landing and the lights indicating the gear are locked don't show they're locked, unless they are going to prepare us for a possible crash, I don't need to know there might be a problem.
As to the lights being swappable, even I knew that, although in some of the new stuff that I've seen on some private aircraft, the lights are LEDs and are not easily swappable, so since you're a pilot, I'll defer to you.

10-02-2007, 10:28 AM
As to the lights being swappable, even I knew that, although in some of the new stuff that I've seen on some private aircraft, the lights are LEDs and are not easily swappable, so since you're a pilot, I'll defer to you.
I don't get to fly new planes but my educated guess would be that those LED lights are still in little plug-in modules just to avoid having to get the dinosaur-slow FAA approve something new. Plus that would be compatible with older models which is something very important in aviation (ever notive that unlike cars, instruments are always in the same layout?).

Then again, they could be fixed.

10-02-2007, 05:14 PM
On our flight home from Florida today we had a delay before takeoff.
We were on our way to the runway when the pilot came on the loud speaker and told us we needed to return to the gate so a mechanical problem could be checked out. There was something about the lavatory fluids leaking into the back of the plane... sounded not good.
He kept us informed all along the way - even to telling us that the we were lucky that the mechanic was in Sarasota and could come right out and take a look at it. He told us when the cover was removed - and that once that was looked at, we'd know if we were going to continue or not.
He did say that since it would only be about 20 minutes, there'd be no sense in letting everyone off the plane - only to have to reboard.
The problem was fixed and we were on our way about an hour after we had been scheduled to leave.
About 3/4 of the way through the flight, there was a medical emergency.
One of the passengers was having heart problems and they called for anyone with medical training. There were a couple of EMTs on the plane.
They in turn asked the passengers for aspirin. All along, everyone was kept informed. The pilot came on the loud speaker again and said - "we've been cleared for immediate landing - flight attendants please take your seats - we are landing in 3 minutes" We came down at a speed like I've never seen, and landed at a different teminal than we should have.
Again - the passengers were asked to remain seated until the paramedics could get on and attend to the man who was ill. No one complained.
Everyone stayed in their seats and waited. The man did walk off the plane and there was an ambulance waiting for him.
It was wonderful to see how everyone cooperated - and I believe it helped because we all knew what was happening at each step of the way.


PS The party for my mother's 90th was great - and the hurricanes kept away from Florida too!

10-02-2007, 07:23 PM
I have to agree. I don't need exact details, but to know if its a mechanical issue, an ATC delay, weather, etc would be nice.