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Flights see plane passengers put their lives in the hands of the pilots. Much about how the aircraft works is a mystery to the majority of jet-setters. This not-knowing can prove scary to some fliers.
The slightest noise or jolt can send a wave of panic over passengers.
But what do those in charge worry about?
A pilot has revealed what he fears the most when flying.
Pilot Patrick Smith shared the insight in his book Cockpit Confidential.
He explained that doing something wrong himself was not his main concern.
Rather, the actions of someone else or external forces causing something to go wrong was what sparked the most stress.
“For the most part, pilots fear those things they cannot control,” Smith wrote.
“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.”
There are a number of accidents that Smith is particularly concerned about.
“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.
High energy lithium power packs – found in many laptops and other devices – can rapidly overheat.
“The danger isn’t a small fire in the passenger cabin where it can be readily put out with a hand extinguisher, but the possibility of a larger inaccessible fire in a baggage or freight compartment,” wrote Smith.
According to Smith, bird strikes are common but mostly result in minor or nonexistent damage (unless you’re the bird).
He points out that they can be “occasionally dangerous.”
A clear example of this is the Miracle of the Hudson crash of 2009.
The incident was the result of a flock of Canada geese colliding with US Airways flight 1549.
“The heavier the bird, the greater the potential for harm,” said Smith.
“Birds don’t clog an engine but can bend or fracture the internal blasts, causing power loss.”
As for “catastrophic mechanical malfunction,” Smith explains this is “a catchall for things like flight control failure (loss of rudder, elevator, or aileron control), structural break caused by metal fatigue or corrosion, in-flight reverser deployment, and other worse-case terrors that could render a plane unflyable.”
He added: “Improbable as these things are, they’ve all happened once or twice.”
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