"Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying." - Neil Armstrong
Welcome on board – part3: Boarding the plane, flight and safe landing at destination
Written by Ivan Stojaković.
Through comprehensive procedures from ticket purchasing, packing, arrival at the airport, check in, safety control to finding a gate where we await boarding the plane, each action is really identical to any journey you undertake, therefore we may continue further on towards the reason why we go through all of this and that is boarding the plane and the flight itself. For boarding the plane you will once again need your ID or passport and boarding pass (printed or shown on smart phone screen). While you wait for boarding, it is good to check which seat you have been assigned with to avoid creating additional crowd when entering the plane. Just before boarding, airport and airline staff will come at the desk and check your boarding pass once again. This is also a sign that your boarding is approaching and that you should not leave to go to the toilet, shop etc. Prior to passenger boarding, aircraft crew- pilots and co-pilots who will take you safely to your destination and flight attendants- staff who will directly take care of you during the length of the flight will head towards the plane.
When boarding begins, depending on aircraft type and its position on parking lot (a spot where planes are parked awaiting a new flight and where they are refilled with fuel, groceries, catering, they are cleaned and loaded with luggage) there is a possibility that you will enter the plane via air bridge which is directly connected to the plane or you will be taken by the bus to the plane parked on a distant spot of a parking lot. For example, our flight for Frankfurt with Croatia airlines which has two types of aircraft in its fleet can be executed either with turbo propeller aircraft DASH8-Q400 or a jet plane Airbus A319/320. If we take Dash8-Q400 (propeller aircraft) due to configuration of the plane and cabin we might be asked to leave our larger hand luggage (e.g. suitcase up to 8 kg) on a cart in front of the plane to be stored in luggage bunker and which we immediately retrieve upon disembarking at destination.
If our flight to Frankfurt is executed by Airbus A319/320, we carry all our hand luggage into the cabin and store it into compartments above seats and smaller ones beneath the seat in front of us.
When entering the plane we must carefully find our seat stated on a boarding pass. Lower seat numbers are in front of the cabin increasing towards the rear of the cabin. Together with numerical there is a letter mark noting the position in a row i.e. is your seat next to the window (marks A and F), next to the passage (marks C and D) or in the middle (marks B and E) - Airbus planes in Croatia airlines fleet. For easier navigating there are illuminated seat marks on the panels above seats, bellow luggage compartments. When you find your seat, put away your luggage and settle in your seat, put on your seat belt and wait for safety instructions carried out by aircraft staff that are at disposal for all inquiries you may have. In aircraft Dash 8-Q400 safety instructions are audio recorded and demonstrated by flight attendants while on Airbus they will be video presented on TV screens above seats with demonstration carried out by flight attendants.
In those moments it is time to switch off your mobile or put it on aeroplane mode (without network). While safety instructions are continuing you will feel and hear engine ignition (in aircraft Dash8-Q400 you will also see propeller rotation) and soon after that your plane will start rolling towards runway. During this action in most cases due to configuration of rolls and surface of the airport you will feel shaking which shouldn’t concern you. When plane approaches the runway, spot for acceleration for takeoff, when all security instructions are given and flight attendants prepared the cabin for takeoff, through speakers you will hear captain/co-pilot saying “Cabin crew prepare for take-off“. That is a sign for you to relax in your seat as everything is ready for takeoff. Few moments after that, you will hear amplifying engine sound and feel as acceleration force slightly presses you into your seat. When plane reaches necessary acceleration for takeoff it will start to detach itself from runway which you will certainly feel and see regardless of your position in the plane, whether next to the window or not.
If you sit in the rear of the cabin, at the moment when plane lifts its nose, the rear end slightly sinks down and then starts to rise; you will feel this action which is completely normal and safe in aviation. It is now up to you to enjoy fantastic experience and adventure offered by this kind of transportation.
Pilot and co-pilot in cockpit together with cabin crew are taking care of your safety during the flight. Likely so, in order to ensure that your flight is safe, airline technical staff is in charge of correctness and airworthiness of the aircraft and while in the air, your pilots are guided by members of air traffic control of the countries and their airspace your plane is passing through. When plane has reached altitude for cruising a sign for safety belt will be switched off, however due to safety reasons it is advisable to stay fastened during the entire flight. During times when plane is not in the most demanding phases of flight (takeoff and landing), cabin crew will visit you and offer you a warm beverage, snack or something else in accordance with time of day and length of flight.
During cruising you may expect aircrew to inform you about the flight: the altitude you are flying at, weather at destination, expected time of arrival etc. Although before flight all pilots get flight schedule and route which bypasses possible storms it is always possible that plane may shake and tremble due to clouds, rain, wind or similar interference. Likely so, you may feel plane sinking known as turbulences which are sometimes difficult to predict regardless of all modern technology and radars. In those moments pilots are trying hard to get the plane out of turbulence zones as quick as possible by adjusting the flight altitude, circumventing unstable atmosphere etc. For you as passengers it is important to know that turbulences may not violate safety of the flight nor crash the plane. The easiest way to describe those situations is comparing it to driving a car on a bumpy road, which is still safe, just a little unpleasant.
As the plane approaches its destination you will be informed about fastening your seat belts again which means that any walking and movement in the cabin like going to the toilet or adjusting your luggage in compartments, from that moment is forbidden. Only cabin crew may still move about the cabin preparing it and passengers for landing. People usually perceive flight attendants as “air waiters”, however, their primary role is your safety and safety of other staff and aircraft. Cabin crew operates having in mind all safety aspects during the flight as well as serving you as their passenger. That is particularly emphasized during takeoff and landing when there is the highest risk or unwished situations happening when flight attendants have a main role in passenger evacuation and concern that everything passes with the least damage for health and safety of both passengers and the crew. During landing it is possible to feel plane plunging or leaning when turning or capturing direction towards runway assigned to your flight. Big European and international airports have many runways and the one assigned to your flight depends on the direction you are coming from as well as weather conditions, air traffic, ground traffic etc. If your flight must wait for permission and queue for landing and it is in vicinity of the airport, it will circle until conditions are suitable for safe landing. That procedure is known as “flight in holding” which is usual in many routine flights and it does not endanger your safety in any way. It should be mentioned that each procedure in aviation is prescribed in detail and for ones which are not, pilots are trained and educated to safely land the plane.
When plane is approaching and aligned with runway you will hear the sound of wheels lowering and also see it in aircraft type Dash8-Q400. During those moments you will hear captain/co-pilot’s “Cabin crew, prepare for landing“. That is a sign for you to relax in your seat because everything is ready for landing. Now, the only thing left is waiting for a touchdown. The aircraft touches the runway with rear wheels first followed by front wheel and activation of breaking which is noticed as unusual sound of air flow and counteraction of engine and plane itself and passengers feel plane slowing down. Bigger airports have very busy traffic so longer rolling towards position on a parking lot should not surprise you. You will be advised to stay seated because 10 to 15 minutes may pass from parking to opening of the plane’s doors. As with a boarding it is possible that plane will be connected to an air bridge which will lead you directly to airport building or you will be taken by bus.
Upon arrival you will be met by border police for ID/passport/visa check. Of course, such control does not exist on domestic flights. After that, if you had checked luggage, you should go to baggage claim on a conveyor belt. You should take care which conveyor belt belongs to your flight which would be visible on info screens, in our case it is „Zagreb, OU 410“.
You wait there until you spot your luggage and then head towards the exit doors of the airport by following exit signs. If your flight is international, after baggage claim, customs police will meet you and maybe direct you to luggage control and inquiry about reasons of travel etc. Likely so, if you have something in luggage that should be reported to customs, it is done here.
When you have successfully past this part you come to the exit and by doing that you are finishing your travel by plane. Have a pleasant stay at your destination while waiting for your return flight having in mind our recommendations.