This has been a very shocking and trying week for all of us. After the Germanwings accident, I can see the concern and fear on your faces as I walk through the airports. The continuous barrage of info that flows on our news stations reminds us of what has happened. I had to go back and remove many statements I have made in manuscripts, social medias, and posts about how a pilot would never do something to hurt passengers since it goes against every thing we do to keep you safe. It is inconceivable to us as pilots after spending thousands upon thousands of flight hours making solid decisions and dedicating our lives to this career which protect you from situations that may put us in harms way.
For the record, many of us pilots are angry not only because of the innocent loss of lives and all the families that are affected, but because it makes our jobs harder than they already are. We now have to be concerned about your thoughts of our mental stability, our suspicion and observation of each other, more policy changes that will occur, and new issues for us to deal with.
I can tell you that since the events of September 11th, 2001, U.S. Regulations have implemented many directives to help protect our flights.
1. It is a requirement to have two crew members in the cockpit at all times. When one pilot goes back to use the lavatory, an extra pilot or a working flight attendant is to rotate in place of that person.
2. Some pilots are FFDO’s otherwise know as ‘pistol packing pilots’ who protect the safety of the cockpit.
3. Pilot instructors and FAA check pilots, evaluate not only flying skills of the pilots, but also the decision making abilities, mental state, behavioral traits, and ability to work with other crew members.
4. Many airlines have screening tests and psychological evaluations of the pilots as a part of their hiring process before they consider a highly experienced pilot to work for their airline.
5. The U.S. has very high level of training, safety, and security standards which is why I always strongly encourage you to fly on major U.S. carriers as your priority.
6. We are also in the cockpits together for long periods of time so if there is anything amiss or of concern to us, we have avenues to report these things. We also are medically tested every six months so the FAA medical doctor would report any medical concerns including mental state issues which would ground a pilot immediately.
As a passenger, the best thing you can do is be aware. I have said many times not to hesitate to report any odd behaviors, any suspicious things you see, or any concerning things you hear, to the flight attendants, gate agents, pilots, etc. If you do not get a response or you are discounted because someone is busy, do not give up! Go to another airline representative or security person and express your concerns in a firm manner using the words “unsafe”. Please know that it is much easier for us to handle things on the ground at the gate than it is once we are airborne. Once we are flying and if the flight attendants are seated, ring your call button over your head several times. If you want to be discrete, slip them a written note with strong eye contact. Think about what you would do in various situations to help keep the flight safe. You can be the catalyst that makes the difference!
Plan a great spring trip! It is the best time to fly and do not let one flight in tens of thousands per day hold you back from going to the places you want to be! Come fly with me!
As always, I hope this helps empower you. Blue skies, Laura