SAS pilot waving

True or false? Your captain reveals all

Here are the most common questions about flying.

February 2023
Do airplanes have a seat row 13? Do pilots take short naps during a flight? And is it true that our taste-buds work differently in the air? SAS pilot Karl Wilhelmson answers 9 of the most common questions.

Hi Karl! So, is it true or false? The air in an airliner is purified by air-conditioning.

“True! Effective air filters remove 99.9% of impurities, making the air on a plane far cleaner than, say, at home.”

Our taste-buds are affected by flying.

“True! Because of the air pressure and the dry air in the aircraft, we perceive tastes differently.”

Airliners have a seat row 13.

“Superstitiously enough, that’s actually false!”

The cabin doors can be opened during a flight.

“False, it’s impossible. The cabin doors have a tapered shape so they kind of plug into the aircraft, and are also held in place by the overpressure inside the plane.”

It’s safe to fly in a thunderstorm.

“That’s true. We always try to avoid cumulonimbus clouds – rainclouds with high energy levels that can lead to thunder and lightning. Sometimes, though, we can’t avoid them. But thanks to the aircraft’s electrically conductive shell (known as a Faraday cage), and the fact that the onboard equipment is lightning resistant, the passengers are completely safe even if a plane flies through a storm.”

The captain and first officer always eat different meals.

“One hundred percent true! Just to be on the safe side.”

The entire flight is controlled by autopilot.

“False. Generally speaking, autopilot only deals with the ‘boring’ part of the work, which is basically cruising. The pilot always takes care of the takeoff, and almost always the landing as well.”

A regular airliner can fly a loop.

“True and false. It’s possible in principle, but on SAS Airbus aircraft there’s a computer that restricts how the pilot can fly the plane, so that makes it impossible.”

Pilots sleep during a flight.

“True! We comply with European and global rules, which say that short naps actually improve a pilot’s performance – and the same goes for other staff too. So yes, pilots sleep according to set rules.”