“Can a plane fall from the sky?”
It’s a grim question that many nervous travelers ponder.
To calm nerves on board, Australian pilot Jimmy Nicholson has debunked one of the biggest misunderstandings of all time.
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“Why does it feel like the plane is crashing? Does it happen? No,” said the pilot.
“Does it feel like it’s happening? Yes.
“Let’s break it down.”
During takeoff, Nicholson explained how the plane raced down the runway at a speed called V1.
“This is the speed at which we would continue the launch no matter what,” he said.
“If the airport has a noise control procedure or the terrain is higher, we exit at a fairly high angle and with a high thrust setting. Because we want to get up as quickly as possible.”
A noise abatement procedure is a procedure used by aircraft at an airport to minimize the impact of noise on the area surrounding an airport.
The pilot said passengers typically experience two “drip” sensations while in the air.
“There are two points at launch where people freak out,” he explained.
“In the first phase we are at a safe height, above the site and have implemented noise reduction measures. We then reduce the thrust. Here you will feel the first drop, don’t panic.
“All that happens is that the pilots reduce thrust because we are now at a safe altitude.”
Passengers could then feel the plane “descending” – but Nicholson said the feeling came from the flaps and slats retracting.
“The second point at which we may feel the plane is going down is when we ‘clean up’ the plane,” he explained.
“The reason airplanes take off with flaps and slats extended is to increase the surface area of the wing, which increases lift and shortens our takeoff distance.
“As soon as we have reached a safe height, we put in the flaps and slats. This is the point at which you feel the second drop.
“So yes, you might feel like the plane is falling out of the sky during takeoff – but rest assured that it is only the pilot changing the configuration of the plane to adapt to the particular takeoff.”
Nicholson said he hopes his statement reassures anxious travelers about flying.
“Hopefully the next time you’re on a plane and taking off, you’ll have a much better understanding of what’s happening and why it’s happening,” he added.
His video has been viewed more than 630,000 times – and many thanked him for explaining why passengers feel that “sinking feeling” when the plane appears to be “falling”.
“As a nervous flyer, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate these nuggets,” one said.
Another shared: “As I’m flying to Australia in February for the first time in five years and suffering from severe panic attacks on the plane, these videos are helping me a lot.”
One suggested: “Thank you very much. While I understand why the feeling occurs, it’s still hard to ignore. Your reassurance helps me remember that it is safe.”
Another explained: “Thank you so much for this! It is this drop that I hate the most, that makes me afraid of flying. Every time I fly I think we’re going to go down.”
One added: “I fly once a week and have been for 10 years and I still hate flying but thanks this makes me feel a bit better.”
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