A Pilot’s Perspective: Descent


This is a Hipmunk guest post from Scott Simko, a U.S. Commercial Airline pilot of over 15 years. His views and opinions are his and his alone and do not represent the airline of his employment or Hipmunk.

ATC (air traffic control) starts stepping us down about 90 miles out and filters us into the line of traffic headed for the airport.  Things are starting to get busy again.  ATC speeds us up or slows us down to fit into the line of traffic while also assigning altitude crossing restrictions.  This way, air-traffic safely crosses over or underneath in a perfectly orchestrated dance to the airport.  

In my opinion, the best controllers in the country are in Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD).  These guys move some traffic.  Why are they better?  I’m not sure, but it probably comes down to the culture; I wish all controllers had to spend a day in ORD.

Once passing 10,000 ft., we are back in sterile cockpit and by now we have chimed the flight attendants to start preparing for landing. It’s at this point that they are probably bugging you to turn off your computer.

That brings up a commonly asked question: “Why do you have turn off your electrical equipment?”

Now, it’s an FAA regulation that we ask you to do this. But here’s the thinking behind it:

  • The closer you are to the ground, the more likely you are to encounter turbulence. I’m sure neither of us wants you to be hit by your neighbor’s brick of a laptop.
  • If something did occur during landing, we want you alert — not rocking out to Justin Beiber. OK, maybe not Beiber, but how about Jay-Z? Either way, we need your attention.
  • I’m not an electrical engineer and I know the FAA is very conservative, but we have antennae located all over the aircraft and want zero chance of interference. Next time you are waiting at your gate, check out a plane. Most of the bumps you see are antennae; they are located on the front, middle, tail, top, and bottom of the aircraft.

Looks like we are coming in for a landing!

    The image above is from Airplane.  I hope no one gets mad at me for using it.

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