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Frequently Asked Questions - Email Collections 5

1.  Engines failure 20 seconds after take off?
2.  Taking off on auto pilot?
3.  How long can an airplane stay in the air when it runs out of fuel?
4.  Many questions about flying and the pilot.
5.  Boeing 777 fly-by-wire concept
6.  Will a wing tear off in flight during a turbulence?
7.  Boeing fuel pumps problems.
8.  Has a Boeing 777 ever crashed?
9.  Some more questions about flying and the pilot, Airbus 380 and aircraft tire's life.
10.Many questions about air turbulences.
11.Air safety - Safest Airlines, ETOPS & Boeing 777 Vs Airbus 330/340.
12 Why Transcontinental flights are curved?
13.Simulator training and category of  turbulences

1. Engines failure 20 seconds after take off?

Good day,

What would happen if a Boeing 777 has just taken off and 20 seconds later, all engines lost power . Would the aircraft drop from the air or would the pilot still be able to glide the plane down safely, taking into account that the aircraft is nose up and not yet at a suitable height and speed .



Hi Thomas,

An interesting question but a highly unlikely event!  As I have mentioned before, to have both the Boeing 777 engines failed at the same time is extremely remote.  However, I will answer the question hypothetically.

The lift off speed of a Boeing 777 is around 180 mph (depending on the aircraft weight) and that is about 3 miles per minute.  In 20 seconds, the airplane would have traveled about one mile.  That would position the aircraft at around 400 feet above ground level. If all the engines power are lost due to failure, the airplane would continue on its path but decelerate rapidly and glides down for a crash landing.  Assuming that there is a flat
and firm level land ahead, it is possible for the pilot to glide the plane down safely.  Quite often, there are obstacles and buildings at the take off path.  So you can imagine the consequences!

In the Corcorde crash in Paris some years back, the pilot tried to land after the fuel tanks caught fire and all the engines lost power as the aircraft just got airborne.  If you have seen the TV clip of the Concorde on fire shown around the world, the airplane was still flying but gradually lost height and crashed into some buildings.  He may have lost control due to the damaged hydraulic lines. In a Boeing 777, if all the engines are
failed 20 seconds after take off, there is sufficient hydraulic to power the flight controls for a safe glide landing provided there is sufficient landing distance 3 to5 miles ahead!


Capt Kay.

2.  Taking off on auto pilot?

Hi Capt. Kay,
Thank you very much for replying to my e-mail, considering your busy schedule. I feel much better now about the upcoming vacation.
You have built a very informative website.  Great job, Capt. Lim!  I cannot stop reading each interesting topic.  The more I learn, the better I feel about flying.
By the way, I am a Computer Programmer by profession.  So I am very interested in automation.  In your website, you explained that, most of the time, 777 flies using autopilot even during take-off and landing.  I am just curious.  

Could you describe how 777 take off or landing using autopilot?  I mean how the computer knows that it is time to lift the airplane off the ground or to touch the ground smoothly during landing?  This is usually the 2 moments when I close my eyes and start praying.  Also, has it ever happen in the history of commercial aviation that all engines died during take off?  What is the probability that this can happen?

Thank you,

Hi Steve,
If you have read carefully on what I wrote, you would have noticed that I did not mention  take offs in a Boeing can be conducted automatically.  They are physically flown by the pilot up until 200 feet above ground level before the auto-pilot can be engaged.  It is too tedious to explain technically how landing is automatically achieved but when I have the time later on I will attempt to do so.
The chances of all engines of a Commercial Airliner failed during the take off are extremely remote.  If you were to read my article on "How Safe is Flying 1& 2", the answers are there.
Capt Kay.

3. How long can an airplane stay in the air when it runs out of fuel?

Dear Capt Kay,

Once, me and my family flew from New York to Buenos Aires in Argentina.   It was my first time in a Boeing 777.  The flight was smooth.  Here is my question.  If a plane runs out of fuel, how long does it have to make it to another airport?

I have one more question.  What happens if the Boeing 777 gets a flat tire in the landing gears, what happens??

I am 11 years old and I know a lot about airplanes (yes, I do have permission to email you)

Thanks a lot for trying to answer my question!


Hi Chris,
If you have read one of my FAQs on Fuel Leak, you would have got part of the answer.  If the airplane runs out of fuel, it is also similar to having all the engines failed in flight.  This answer can be found in my FAQs too.  Okay, just for your sake (being a 11 years old and very interested about airplanes), I will repeat.  How long will a plane stay in the air when it runs out of fuel depends on the height at the time when the fuel runs out.  The higher the airplane, the further it will glide and hence it would stay a little longer.
For example, if the airplane was at 35,000 feet or  about 7 miles high, it would glide at about  5 miles a minute at a descent rate of about 4000 to 5000 feet a minute.  At this gliding speed and descent rate, it would travel between 35 to 45 miles depending on whether there was a tail or head wind.  So you have about 7 minutes to make it to another airport!
There are a total of 14 tires in a Boeing 777- two on the nose wheel and six on each main landing gears.  From the cockpit, a pilot can tell which of the tire is flat.  On the main landing gears, each tire has a pressure of about 220 psi (pounds per square inch).  When the pressure is low, or if a  the tire is flat, a warning will comes on to inform the pilot of the situation and it not a major problem.  The aircraft can still land safely with one flat tire.  After landing, the engineer merely change the tire and the airplane will continue with the journey for the next flight!
Have a safe flight!

Capt Kay.


4.   Many questions about flying and the pilot.

Hi Capt Kay,

Thanks for your emails.  I have further questions for you!

1.   You have flown around the world, which would be your favorite city and why?  Which would be the trickiest airport to land?   I believe it used to be Kai Tak in Hong Kong.

2.   Were you trained to fly a Boeing 777 as soon as you join the Airline?   Could you actually choose which airplane you would like to be trained in?  How long was the course?   Did you do it in US or Australia?

3.   Would it be hard for you to look for better opportunities with other Airlines or would you lose your seniority if you did that?  Are most pilots bonded for some period of time?

4.   Why would there be pilots flying cargo planes?  Wouldn't it be more interesting to have passengers?  Would their pay be lower than commercial pilots?

5.   Do you get time to exercise at all in the gym?   What do you usually do from the moment you arrive, say New York  until the day you fly out again?   I suppose you will get bored with the sight seeing  after a while. Do you carry special passport?

Great to hear from you again and keep up the good work.   I always look forward to your Site updates.

Safe flights at all times.   If I don't hear from you again before Christmas, Merry Christmas!

Warmest Regards'


Hi Andrew,
Wow, I am slowly getting overwhelmed by your numerous questions!  Anyway, I will be selective in answering them - only those which I feel are more related to aviation and air travel.
1.   The old Hong Kong Kai Tak used to be a very tricky airport to land but nevertheless very challenging for a pilot.  You get a satisfaction every time you make a good landing there! The new Airport at Hong Kong is so much more pleasant to land today but there are still many high terrain in the vicinity and pilots are still very vigilant about these hazards. My favorites cites are Sydney, Melbourne, Amsterdam and New York because they are some of the very vibrant places for my night stops.
2.   I was trained on the Boeing 777 after gaining experiences on the Airbus and not immediately after joining an Airline.  You are selected for training on this airplane based on your seniority but you can decline to accept the conversion if you have a valid reason.  The Boeing 777 Course last about three months and is initially conducted at Seattle in the US.
3.   After Sep 11, the pilot job market is getting a little more difficult.  Once you leave an Airline for greener pastures, you are more likely to loose your job with them for ever! There are many schemes of employment for pilots.  Some are on long term whereas others are on contracts, especially expatriates, but you can still be terminated for many reasons according to the Terms and Conditions of employment.
4.   Pilots are generally paid according to the types of airplane they fly regardless of whether it is a cargo or passenger-carrying airplane, especially those of the bigger Airlines. Of course, it is more interesting to fly a passenger-carrying airplane but it carries higher responsibilities! Generally worldwide, cargo airplanes are older and hence pay wise, the pilots are likely to get lesser than those flying the newer passenger-carrying ones.
5.   My job requires me to be fit all the times as I have to do very regular medical check-ups.  Therefore, I make it a point to keep fit in the gym whenever I could.  In fact, I am now in a Hotel room (answering your questions) after a workout in the gym, and on my way to New York. I have visited and toured most of the major cities.  After arrival from a long flight, I tend to stay in my room to rest before the next flight.  Now you know how I spent my time when I am free on an oversea night stop - answering questions to pass away my time!  So I am usually never bored with life!  I don't carry a special passport but our immigration procedures are slightly different in that our passports are often never stamped, otherwise we run out of passport very rapidly!
Capt Kay.

5.   Boeing 777 fly-by-wire concept

Dear Capt Kay,

Firstly, thank you for your effort into answering questions of passengers that lie beyond the common queries like what meal will be served? which movie will be shown? I have got a few questions regarding the flight deck controls that may be of interest not only for myself but other aviation enthusiasts as well.

1) Since Boeing built its first fly-by-wire aircraft, the Boeing 777, but yet equipped it with a conventional control column, I have asked myself whether the control columns still move - in contrast to 747, 767 planes etc. - when the autopilot is engaged and the autopilot triggers the ailerons and elevators. Does it also indicate turbulences by generated shaking? Does it shake when the plane is in a stall? - obviously almost never on commercial flights.

2) Airbus plane on short final, Captain flying, autopilot disengaged: what would happen if the First Officer puts the side-stick at the same moment of a Captain steering command to the opposite of the Captain's input - of course a stupid action. Which command would the flight control computers carry out?

Thank you for your time on this.


 Hi Chris,

You appear to be knowledgeable about flying because you seems to be familiar
with some of the airplane operations which I am not so!

Even though the control of the Boeing 777 is based on fly-by-wire concept, it still has all the characteristics of the conventional control column. Yes, the control column still moves in the normal sense just like the Boeing 747, 757, 767 etc.  Fly-by-wire merely got rid of the conventional cables and uses electrical wires/signals and hydraulics to move the controls.  The control column does not generate any shaking when it encounters turbulence. Of course, any turbulence encountered would be felt everywhere.  Many other airplanes have stick-shakers as a warning prior to stalling but the Boeing 777 will not stall when the autopilot is engaged. When it senses the approach to a stall, the power would come on automatically to recover the unsafe condition.  In fact, there are also many fail safe functions in the flight envelope of the Boeing 777 in the pitch, speed and banking mode.

I have not flown a side stick control column such as that of the new Airbuses. However, regarding your question, there is an overriding authority switch which allow the last person to have priority over the flight controls.  If the Captain have the overriding authority switch on, then the First Officer opposite action has no effect at all.  However, if the First Officer engages the overriding authority switch first, then he would override the Captain. So the computer will react accordingly to the overriding authority switch, even though both steering command are takes place at the same time.


Capt Kay.

6.   Will a wing tear off in flight during a turbulence?


I have a total fear of flying but still do when I have to. I always look at the wings and ask myself what keeps one of the wings from just tearing off. What is the construction design to make sure that this could never happen, and could it happen?  I am pretty sure a wing tearing off is pretty much an uncontrollable situation but I think about that every time I get on a plane. It seems like a huge amount of stress on the wings, or is there less than I think?

Also, wind turbulence. I see these weather planes fly into hurricanes for readings. Is that trip an incredibly bumpy ride and could turbulence actually tip a plane over......and if a big jet ever gets inverted, can  it handle the stress and be brought back under control?

Randy Hanson

Tyler Texas

Hi Randy,

You would be surprised to see how strong the wings of a commercial airliner are.  If you had watched the documentary in the Discovery Channel about the Boeing 777 being the Airliner of the 21st Century, you would have noticed how much stress the wings could take during the development stage.  In fact, on a Boeing 747, the wings at the tip can flex as much as 57 feet from the original level position!  Yes, it is possible for the wings to be torn off on ground due to collision or a crash, but the thought of a wing being torn
off in flight is very unlikely.  The airplane design engineers have to comply with very stringent FAA Regulations on wing construction. So there is no fear as to the wings tearing off in flight at any time!

Weather planes that deliberately fly into turbulences for scientific purposes would certainly encounter very rough and bumpy flight but they are specially configured to do so. Properly handled, it is not possible for the airplane to tip over.  In fact, on a Boeing 777, it is  not possible in normal flight control mode for the airplane to bank more that 35 degrees before it tries to correct itself again automatically.

There was once a commercial big jet that actually went into a spiral dive, where at some stage, it was almost inverted.  However, the Captain was able to recover the airplane from the unstable condition and landed safely.  On ground inspection, it was found that many of the flight controls surfaces were overstressed and badly buckled.


Capt Kay.

7.  Boeing fuel pumps problems.

Dear Capt Kay,

Recently, Boeing announced that about 3,000 of its planes had fuel pump problems and that it had instructed all the relevant Airlines to have the pumps replaced. Is the Boeing 777 among those planes which have been identified with fuel pump problems?

I would be grateful for your clarification on the above query.

Best regards,

R. A. Rashid

Hi Rashid,

The Boeing 777's are not among those implicated.  The aircraft involved are Boeing 737, 747 and 757s and it is thought a total of 1800 planes are affected. Around 1400 of the aircraft are operated by US Airlines.


Capt Kay.

8.   Has a Boeing 777 ever crashed?


Has any Boeing 777 ever crashed? If so, was it military or commercial? Was the plane itself at fault?

I anticipate riding one for the first time in December and I am actually looking forward to it! (this is not normal for me when it comes to commercial flight. But really..... this is the 777 we're talking about here....I've heard of them through the Air Force Association and it sounds like it will be an experience to remember!)

I am also curious to know whether or not it is still the largest (commercial) airplane currently in use? If not, what is?

Thanks for listening!

Donna W.

Hi Donna,
The answer to your question is also found in my Website titled 'Crash statistics and fragility of windows.'  As I have written, as far as know, no Boeing 777 has crashed (touch wood again!) and I hope the safety record will continue to be good.
The Boeing 777 is not the largest commercial airplane currently in use.  The largest is the Boeing 747 in terms of capacity but the stretched Boeing 777-300 is longer in comparison.  Soon the Airbus 380 would be larger than the Boeing 747.
Capt Kay.

9.  Some more questions about flying and the pilot, Airbus 380 and aircraft tire's life.

Hi Capt Kay,

Thanks for replying my email.  It was very informative indeed.

Which position is more coveted among the pilots, to fly a Boeing 747 or a Boeing 777?

What do you think of the new Airbus plane A380? Would the sheer number of passengers be a hazard should there be an emergency?

What is the life span of the aircraft tires?

Take care and hope all is well for you.



Hi Andrew,
Here are the answers:-
1.  A Boeing 777 has the latest technology among the Boeing family.  However, it has a slightly lower capacity and generally, most Airlines would pay the pilot a lower salary as well.  However the stretched Boeing 777-300 is longer than a Boeing 747-400 and has a capacity almost just as much.  If a pilot is more money conscious, he would go for the 747's whereas one who enjoys flying an airplane with a higher technology, he would prefer the 777's.
2.  It is obvious that the Airbus 380 would have some inherent problems due to its size.  It has lesser airports to land, more passengers to manage in an emergency but it claims to have many comforts.  The choice is yours.  The novelty is that, it is the biggest commercial airplane at the moment.
3.  Generally, an aircraft tire's life is based on the number of landings or 'wear and tear'.  For example, my airplane engineer told me, a Boeing 777 tire can last for about 6 months before they are removed for rethreading.  It is difficult to say how long and how many landings can a tire last because it depends on the location of its installation.  If it is on the nose or fitted on the front, it wears off faster.  When the canvas below the rubber is exposed because of scrubbing caused by braking, then this 'wear and tear' will cause the tire to be replaced earlier than normal. However, if a tire is worn out without the underlying canvass being exposed, they are rethreaded. The rethreading can go for about 2 cycles before they are discarded.  Imagine, we rarely rethread our car tires today but they are still doing them on airplanes!  


Capt Kay

10. Many questions about air turbulences


I will be flying in about a week on United in a Boeing 777 aircraft from Washington-Dulles to San Francisco to Taipei, Taiwan.  I am very fearful of flying as I am scared about turbulence.  The problem is that I get dizzy when turbulence occur and often feel the effect after I get on the ground.  Every time I travel, I will watch the aviation weather one month before I depart.  I try to get a feel of what the turbulence is like and how it may affect me when I depart.  I am definitely very weird.  Please answer these questions:

1. Is there a better route to take to avoid turbulence? 
2. Which route and what time of day would be best to have a smoother ride? 
3. I have noticed that jet streams usually flow through San Francisco and almost straight across the U.S., would that create more turbulence?
4. Would flying through Canada be better to avoid turbulence?  I have noticed that China-Airlines fly from JFK to Anchorage then to taipei...is that better?  And they always depart at night.
5. Is it true that winter causes more turbulence than summer?
6. What can I do to feel better on a flight with turbulence?  I am already taking Dramamine, is there a better way?
7. You have mentioned that B777 planes are much more comfortable, however, when turbulence occurs, does it matter what aircraft it is?  How is B777 more comfortable in relation to turbulence?
8. Please tell me the usual condition of turbulence from IAD to SFO to TPE. 
9. Have you flown or been on United?  Is it true that the United B777 planes have horrible air circulation?
10.  Do turbulence occur more often over ocean or land?
11.  Why is it that every time I fly through Colorado or Nevada, turbulence occur?
12.  Also, why is it that every time I fly over Japan, severe turbulence occur?
Thank you so much!!!
Your website is so informative, I have added your site to my favorites.  Thanks again!
Yu-Chieh Wang

Hello Yu,
I was just a weird as you were when I started to learn how to fly!  Not only did I feel dizzy in turbulence, I also used to throw out once in a while after a rough and bumpy flight!  Eventually, I got used to the usual discomfort that came with turbulence.  How ?  I understood turbulence better and became less anxious mentally.   Today, I fly with confidence when I have to get into the occasional turbulences that I could not avoid.  Why?  I knew the wings would not tear off, the airplane would not go out of control and fall out off the sky or that I would be hurt, provided I was safely secured to the Seat Belts in turbulence!
Here are the answers to your other queries: -
1. Is there a better route to take to avoid turbulence? 
Of course, you can avoid the turbulence in certain situations.  It means that the airplane would have to fly a longer route to a point where it becomes economically unfeasible!  Fear of turbulence is very subjective.  Sometimes a little turbulence is acceptable to one passenger but unacceptable to others.  I have already mentioned in previous FAQs that a little turbulence is all part of air travel.
2. Which route and what time of day would be best to have a smoother ride? 
I can't tell you with great certainty as to which route and time of day for a smoother ride.   If you can interpret the weather forecast on the daily TVs, and if you see a low pressure moving to, say Washington-Dulles, you are likely to encounter a rough and bumpy flight on your departure.  This is because the isobaric lines are close together and that means strong winds! If you see a high pressure region where the isobaric lines are far apart, then you can expect calm and smooth flying conditions.  These are turbulence at the lower levels associated with terrain but at higher altitude, you get a different type of turbulence called CATs or clear air turbulences (explained in earlier FAQs)
3. I have noticed that jet streams usually flow through San Francisco and almost straight across the U.S., would that create more turbulences?
Jet Streams are sources of CATs, (clear air turbulences) too. It has advantages or disadvantages depending on if you are flying  with it or into it. It has a speed of around 150 to 180 mph and that can add/subtract about 45 minutes to your flight time from Washington-Dulles to San Francisco.  However, if the flight path of the airplane is at the vicinity of Jet Streams, the ride can be bumpy.
4. Would flying through Canada be better to avoid turbulence?  I have noticed that China-Airlines fly from JFK to Anchorage then to Taipei...is that better?  And they always depart at night.
No, every country is not spared of any turbulences! If a low pressure frontal system is smack on your track, your flight is likely to be turbulent on your climb to the cruising levels.  The frontal systems change every day!  China Airlines' flight from JFK-Anchorage-Taipei is not necessarily the best route.  It does not matter if the departure is at night.  This rationale may only be applicable in the Tropical Regions where flying conditions are usually smooth during nights and early mornings.
5. Is it true that winter causes more turbulence than summer?
It is true that wintry weather is often more turbulent that summer due to more frontal systems and its accompanying stronger winds.
6. What can I do to feel better on a flight with turbulence?  I am already taking Dramamine, is there a better way?
After reading my explanations and digesting all the information, I hope you will feel better.
7. You have mentioned that Boeing 777 planes are much more comfortable, however, when turbulence occurs, does it matter what aircraft it is?  How is Boeing 777 more comfortable in relation to turbulence?
You are right to suggest that turbulence affect all airplanes regardless of whether it is a Boeing 777, Airbus 330/340,  Boeing 747, etc. I was pointing out the fact in my past FAQs that a Boeing 777 can take turbulence better than an Airbus 330/340 because of their wings construction.  The Airbus 330/340 wings are more flexible and hence flexes more than  a Boeing 777.
8. Please tell me the usual condition of turbulence from IAD to SFO to TPE. 
Firstly, before you proceed on this flight, check out the Turbulence Forecast link page in this Site.  So on a good day in winter, your flight would be fairly smooth
up until crossing the Appalachian and the Rocky Mountains.  This is because the Westerly winds create standing waves at the lee side of the mountains.  These are associated with turbulences.  However, if the winds are light, then you are unlikely to encounter turbulence in these areas. 
In the mid Pacific, you can usually get some CATs.   Approaching Okinawa, south of Japan, make sure there are no prevailing typhoons.  CNN usually gives a very accurate forecast of typhoons in these areas.
One disclaimer.. I am only a pilot and cannot predict the turbulence with great accuracy!  Even the weatherman, despite their training, makes mistakes too! 
9. Have you flown or been on United?  Is it true that the United B777 planes have horrible air circulation?
I have not personally flown with United Airlines as a passenger.  I have written about the foul air in the United Airlines Boeing 777 .  Please refer to my earlier FAQs.
10.  Do turbulence occur more often over ocean or land?
You are likely to get more turbulence on land than over the ocean.
11.  Why is it that every time I fly through Colorado or Nevada, turbulence occur?
As I have mentioned about standing waves above, these two states are near mountainous regions, especially on the Eastern side of the Rockies.  These mountains create very turbulent conditions from the Westerly winds.
12.  Also, why is it that every time I fly over Japan, severe turbulence occur?
Flying over Japan does not always means severe turbulence unless there is a frontal depression, a hurricane or a Jet Stream overhead.  But I must agree that these phenomenon are more prevalent in Japan than anywhere else.
I wish you a safe and smooth flight on your next journey.
Capt Kay .

11. Air safety - Safest Airlines, ETOPS & Boeing 777  Vs Airbus 330/340

Just would like to say that you have done a wonderful job on the website,  it looks great, it has vast amount of data, and it is very professional. It is very hard not to be biased when you compare Boeing and Airbus, ( I am a Boeing fan), but you have done an excellent job.
Just a note, when I was reading through the "The safest airlines in the world - Asia region", I have noticed that Qantas is the best not only in Asia-Pacific region, but in the world as well. I am very glad to see that as I am an Australian citizen.  I also noticed that Air China is missing from the list. Before the B767 crashed in Korea this year, it has not had any accidents for 46 years! It is a major achievement for China, isn't it? Just a little bit disappointed with the result. (Was born in China)
Question: B777 probably is the pinnacle of civil aircraft technologies today. 208 minutes of ETOPS currently in place has resulted in lost sales to A340-600(Cathy Pacific, the first user in Asia). Can you see whether this limit will be changed to 240 minute in the near future?
Another question: From the messages I read from the website, I believe that you have been flying both A340 and B777, can you tell me is there any difference between the traditional flight control and Airbus side controller (I forgot the name)? I don't want to start a Boeing Vs Airbus topic like some websites do, but is there any major differences?
Ling Chen
Hi Ling Chen,
Thank you for your comments.
Regarding the statistics for safest Airlines, the data were extracted from AirDisaster.com for I did not have the time to really make a thorough research as to why Air China was missing from the list.
I am not sure as to whether the ETOPS of the Boeing 777 will be extended from 208 minutes to 240 minutes in the near future.
I have not flown the Airbus 340 except the Boeing 777.   What I mentioned in some of my answers was that I have actually flown as a passenger on the Airbus 330.  I do get a lot of feedbacks from my colleagues who fly the airplane.  The Boeing 777 uses the conventional flight control whereas the Airbuses 330/340 use the side stick control. Both these types of airplane are adopting the fly-by-wire concept.   I have already answered another question on the side stick control in this Site.
As you have noted, the Boeing vs Airbus story is mainly commercial and there are bound to biases depending on who you are talking to.   Both have their pluses but I am more comfortable flying on the Boeing 777 :-)
Capt Kay

12  Why Transcontinental flights are curved?


I've been looking for an answer for my doubt in all internet, ant the most closer Ive found was in your WEB site.

My question is, Why the transcontinental flights are curved?

You wrote that a 747 makes a straight line between TYO and LAX, but it appears to be curved. I understand in very well.

I flew from Frankfurt to Mexico City. On the monitors I saw that the aircraft went to the North, it flew over United Kingdom, Greenland, Canada, U.S. and Mexico, but it cross U.S. by the middle of it, (over Kansas). It may be same that TYO - LAX, but I still feel it went too far.

My sister traveled from LAX to Melbourne (or Sydney, I don't remember exactly), and she said that the monitors shown a route in "s" (to the North and then to the South)

Is it all the same? for describing a smallest distance between to points in a sphere?


Rolando Venegas

Hi Rolando,
If you have read my explanations in my earlier FAQs, Airlines will endeavor to fly the nearest air route to save cost, a straight line like how a crow will fly, so to speak.  Transcontinental flights are never curved but appears to be so on maps found on the Cabin TV screens or magazines because all the maps you see are not the real representation of the Globe.  A real and correct representation between two points is the air routes found on a Globe map.  The next time you see a curve route, tell yourself that it is actually a distorted representation only - it is in fact the shortest possible air route flown!  Of course, some routes are slightly curved due to the nature of the routes, mainly because it was designed to avoid or take advantage of strong jet streams, especially those air routes across the Atlantic Ocean.
Your description of the journey from Frankfurt to Mexico appears to be normal because, the Airline was attempting to fly a Great Circle route, which is the nearest route between two destinations on the earth.  It would be uneconomical to deliberately fly a longer route.
Your sister's description of a 'S' air route between Los Angeles and Melbourne is rather abnormal.  If it were so, the airplane was merely doing a minor air diversion due to weather, but definitely not a short air route at all!
Capt Kay

13.  Simulator training and category of  turbulences.

Aloha Capt Kay,

I have some questions whose answers I can't seem to find  anywhere else.  The second of these I know may be very sensitive and I won't mind at all if no comment is offered.

1.  I am curious as to what a "typical" bi-annual simulator program is like.  How long, what
scenarios, and especially, if genuine surprises are thrown in, i.e. a startling, out-of-the-blue situation that is highly improbable, not in the quick reference. handbook, but yet within design possibility and maybe extrapolated from a (possibly fatal) incident on another aircraft model?  Or are such radical upsets limited to experiments by test crews?  I expect that simulator sessions are constrained by economics, training fairness/evenness among line crews, and the safe history of the B777 (not a large database of incidents).

2.  I realize that this may go unanswered, but how much of a factor/threat is socio-economics to flight comfort and safety?   Over-confidence, machismo, peer pressure, a bad day (the socio- part), or company dispatch pressure (the economic part) could provoke a normally disciplined ground or air crew into rolling the dice and doing something to tease the ragged edge of recommended flight or design margins.  I can just maybe comprehend taking a chance on pushing the passengers hard into the uncomfortable zone to "get the job done" but I cannot fathom any gambling into safety margins.  One reason for asking this that I once caught an unofficial comment from an NTSB investigator that went basically "...you've got to ask what compromises are being made in order to give you that cheap ticket."

3.  Is there a quantitative grade for turbulence?  I've seen definitions that varied from "losing
momentary control" to "something positive on the accelerometer" to "a 2000 fps (feet per second) drop through 400 ft"  to "ride 'em cowboy" on the CVR (cockpit voice recorder).  If it is this varied, then how can there be any determination of when a shaken plane needs to be pulled offline for inspection?

Mahalo for your time and consideration, 

Kyle W.

Hi Kyle,

You appear to be like a pilot yourself in wanting to know the profile of a typical bi-annual simulator check ride.  Depending on which Airlines you are with, a typical check ride would usually last about 3 days.   The first day include a Computer Base Training where a pilot will refresh on certain technical systems and are then tested at the end.

The second day will include Line Orientation Flight Training where a typical flight is conducted with various emergencies simulated.  If he is a Captain and in certain Airlines, a test on his proficiency on flying from the right hand seat would also be conducted.

On the third day, the pilot will be tested on his Base Check, Instrument Rating and All Weather Operations Rating.
Modern concept of any bi-annual program is not like what you are led to believe.  I would like to think what you mentioned were old concepts that could have been practiced to catch the examinee with surprises. My opinion and what I observed is that, the trend is towards learning new concepts like Crew Resources Management when pilots are introduced to the highly sophisticated flying machines.  Teamwork in resolving emergencies, like those out-of-the-blue highly improbable situations, is more important than trying to catch a pilot with surprises in a check flight.

The pilot fraternity is generally a professional lot, notwithstanding the rare few black sheep.  An established Airline crew is generally well disciplined because the stake is very high if he were to be caught infringing company rules.  What you mentioned as to aircrew throwing the dice and doing something to tease the ragged edge of recommended flight or design margins are probably stories from some smaller establishments that give 'cheap tickets' as you have referred to.

Yes, there is a quantitative grading for Turbulence from Category (Cat)  0 to 6 (or Pilot Reporting Codes).  See one of my FAQs on Clear Air Turbulence forecast and in Links.  They are as follows:-

Cat 0 : No turbulence.
Cat 1 : Light
Cat 2 : Light to Moderate
Cat 3 : Moderate
Cat 4 : Moderate to Severe
Cat 5 : Severe
Cat 6 : Extreme

When to determine when an airplane will be taken off line for inspection after encountering turbulence?   Normally, when severe turbulence is encountered, a pilot would make a report of the incidence and the airplane would be physically examined by the Engineers to determine if it ought to be taken off line for further repairs.


Capt Kay

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