Whether you’re a frequent flier or just an aviation enthusiast, you’ve probably heard pilots make announcements when a plane is preparing to land. But have you ever wondered what exactly pilots are saying and why?
This comprehensive guide will walk you through the typical landing procedures and pilot announcements, from initial descent all the way to touching down on the runway.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Pilots make a series of standardized announcements at various stages of the landing process to communicate with air traffic control, inform the cabin crew, and update passengers on what to expect next.
Key phrases include ‘cabin crew prepare for landing’, ’15 minutes to landing’, ‘on glide slope’, and ‘cleared to land runway X.’
Announcing the Initial Descent
When preparing to land a plane, pilots follow a specific protocol to ensure a safe and smooth landing. One important aspect of this protocol is announcing the initial descent to both air traffic control and the cabin crew.
Contacting Air Traffic Control
As the aircraft begins its descent, the pilot establishes communication with air traffic control (ATC) to inform them of their intentions. This is done to ensure that the airspace is clear and that the plane is given priority for landing.
The pilot will typically use the radio to transmit a message, stating the aircraft’s call sign, current altitude, and intentions to descend. This communication is vital for maintaining situational awareness and coordinating with other aircraft in the vicinity.
ATC will acknowledge the pilot’s message and provide any necessary instructions or updates. They may provide clearance for the descent and assign a specific altitude or heading, depending on the air traffic conditions. The pilot will then follow these instructions to safely navigate the descent path.
It’s worth noting that the language used between pilots and ATC is standardized and precise. This ensures clear and concise communication, minimizing the chance of misunderstandings or confusion.
Updating the Cabin Crew
While the pilot communicates with ATC, it’s equally important to keep the cabin crew informed about the progress of the flight. The cabin crew plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and comfort of the passengers, and being aware of the upcoming landing is essential for them to prepare accordingly.
The pilot will typically make an announcement to the cabin crew, informing them about the initial descent and the expected landing time. This allows the cabin crew to secure the cabin, ensure that passengers are seated and fastened their seatbelts, and prepare for any necessary safety procedures.
Additionally, the pilot may provide information about the weather conditions at the destination airport, such as temperature, wind speed, and visibility. This helps the cabin crew to anticipate any potential challenges or adjustments they may need to make to ensure a smooth transition for the passengers.
The Approach and Landing Checklist
When it comes to landing a plane, pilots follow a specific checklist to ensure a safe and smooth arrival. This checklist includes various items that need to be addressed before and during the landing process. Two important aspects of this checklist are the flap settings and landing gear.
Flaps are movable surfaces on the wings of an aircraft that help to create additional lift and increase drag during takeoff and landing. The flap settings for landing depend on several factors, including the aircraft type, weight, and prevailing weather conditions.
Pilots typically adjust the flap settings based on the landing speed required for a specific approach. The higher the flap setting, the slower the landing speed, allowing for a smoother touchdown. However, each aircraft has specific limitations regarding flap settings, and pilots must adhere to these guidelines to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft.
For example, a Boeing 747 may have different flap settings compared to a smaller regional jet. Pilots are trained to select the appropriate flap setting based on the aircraft’s performance capabilities and the specific landing conditions.
The landing gear is another crucial component that pilots must address during the landing checklist. The landing gear consists of the wheels and supporting structures that allow the aircraft to safely touch down on the runway.
Prior to landing, pilots verify that the landing gear is extended and locked in place. This is usually confirmed through visual and instrument checks, ensuring that the landing gear indicators display the correct position.
If any issues arise with the landing gear during the approach, pilots have procedures in place to troubleshoot and rectify the problem before landing.
Safe landing gear operation is vital for a smooth landing. Pilots are trained to identify any abnormalities or malfunctions in the landing gear system and take appropriate action to ensure a safe touchdown.
This may involve executing a go-around, where the aircraft aborts the landing and initiates another approach, or making an emergency landing if necessary.
It is important to note that pilots receive extensive training on the approach and landing checklist and undergo regular proficiency checks to maintain their skills. Following these procedures helps to ensure the safety and efficiency of every landing.
Key Landing Announcements
15 Minutes to Landing
As the plane approaches its destination, passengers may hear the pilot make an announcement indicating that the aircraft is 15 minutes away from landing. This announcement serves as a heads-up for passengers to prepare for landing by fastening their seatbelts, returning their seatbacks and tray tables to the upright position, and stowing any loose items.
It is important for passengers to follow these instructions to ensure a smooth and safe landing.
On Glide Slope
When the plane is on the glide slope, the pilot may inform the passengers about this milestone. The glide slope refers to the path that the aircraft follows as it descends towards the runway during the landing approach.
It is a critical phase of the landing process, as the pilot must maintain the correct angle and rate of descent to ensure a safe touchdown. Passengers may feel a slight change in the aircraft’s pitch and hear the engines adjust as the plane aligns with the glide slope.
Cleared to Land
Once the plane is on the final approach, the tower controller will give the pilot clearance to land. The pilot may relay this information to the passengers, indicating that they have received permission to proceed with the landing.
This announcement is a reassuring indication that the necessary coordination between the pilot and air traffic control has taken place, ensuring a safe and orderly landing.
Upon touchdown, the pilot may announce that the plane has safely landed. This announcement brings a sense of relief and accomplishment to both the passengers and the flight crew. It signifies the successful completion of the flight and the transition from being airborne to being on the ground.
Passengers may feel a slight jolt as the wheels make contact with the runway, followed by the sound of the engines reversing thrust to slow down the aircraft.
It is important to note that the specific announcements made by pilots during landing may vary depending on the airline and the pilot’s personal style. However, these key landing announcements mentioned above are commonly used to keep passengers informed and ensure a smooth landing experience.
After Landing and Taxiing
Once the plane has touched down on the runway and is coasting to a stop, the captain will make an announcement welcoming passengers to their destination city. This short message typically includes the local time and weather conditions. For example, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Los Angeles.
Local time is 10:30am and the weather is sunny and clear. The current temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit.” This welcome announcement lets passengers know they have officially arrived.
After landing, the pilots must still taxi the plane to its assigned gate. Some captains will make brief announcements during the taxiing phase, providing passengers with updates on the remaining taxi time or which gate they will be arriving at. For instance, “Folks, we are now taxiing to Gate 34.
Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened until we reach the gate and the captain turns off the Fasten Seat Belt sign.” Giving passengers information about the taxiing process helps keep them patient and informed.
Often the gate assignment will not be confirmed until shortly before landing. So, in many cases, the pilots will announce the gate assignment in their welcome message after touch down. For example, “Welcome to Chicago, folks. The local time is 2:45pm and weather is clear.
We have been assigned Gate 12 today, so please remain seated until we arrive at the gate in about 5 minutes.” Providing the gate number right away helps passengers prepare to deplane and head to their next destination.
However, sometimes the gate assignment changes last minute while taxiing. In this case, the pilot will make a short separate announcement about the new gate number. For instance, “Ladies and gentlemen, due to traffic at our originally assigned Gate 21, we have been reassigned to Gate 34.
Please stay seated as we taxi to this new gate.” Keeping passengers updated on any gate changes prevents confusion upon arrival at the terminal.
While passengers only hear a handful of landing announcements, pilots are continuously communicating with air traffic control throughout the descent and approach. Standard callouts and procedures ensure a smooth, coordinated landing.
Next time you’re tuned in on a plane landing, you’ll have a better sense of what’s happening in the cockpit. Safe travels!