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A Story about Air Pressure

Slow news day in airlineville, but I thought I’d just pass along a quick story a friend/reader/Pearl Custom Publishing Award Winner told me:

Flying from DC to Atlanta on AirTran, and the pilot says that they’ll be delayed because of a mechanical issue that will cause them not to be able to pressurize the plane.  The pilot decides that he is not going to let that stop him from getting his passengers to Atlanta.  He requests (to the FAA, we think) that he be allowed to fly down to Atlanta unpressurized at 10,000 feet or so.  After being initially denied the request, he fights further and they agree to allow him to go. But only without the passengers.  But because he’s a good guy, he continues to argue until whoever (FAA again?) permits him to fly his plane at 10,000 feet to Atlanta with passengers on board.  Bravo to the pilot for that – that’s who I want flying my plane.

The interesting part to me was that nearly every passenger refused to get back on the plane, fearing for their safety.  My friend/reader/Pearl-winner did get back on the plane with fewer than 10 others and jetted off at a very low height (pretty cool views, I imagine) and had an uneventful flight to Atlanta.  What’s crazy is this:  Did the people who refused to get back on the plane really think a pilot would risk his life to fly some people (even a Pearl Award winner) down to Atlanta for some business meetings?  Does that seem like a good risk to take?  Of course not.  There’s basically zero additional risk with flying at 10k feet instead of 32,000.  People’s irrational fears about flying always amaze me – as if crew would gladly endanger their own lives.  Sheesh.  In any case, well done to AirTran for taking care of their passengers and making sure they got where they were going…


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  1. I’ve always wondered about that; near airports [class D airspace I think?], there’s no risk of running into a trolling cessna. But what about outside airport controlled airspace? That’s usually why jets climb quickly, no? Among other things, before getting out of the airport’s controlled [class D] airspace, to get high enough where most small planes can’t go? I mean, a small cessna sure can go up to 10k feet, no problem, no need for pressurization. So, aren’t jet pilots afraid of flying at altitudes where they can run into all sorts of slow unpressurized aircraft? When I skydived two years ago (jumping from 12k feet], it would’ve been weird to pass by a large jetliner ;-) Yeah, I know, skydiving areas are marked on pilots’ charts. All I’m saying, is that when you fly at 10k feet, the amount of things you have to worry about increases dramatically. I’m not sure many pilots are used to watching out for skydiving areas, they climb straight up into controlled airspace; where someone would have to jump from a strato-balloon or something ;-) And most cessna-type pilots sure know to steer clear of airports and other controlled airspace but you’d never imagine crossing paths with a jet going 500mph+ when flying at 10k feet, right?

  2. love this story. It always amazes me how people can be stupid and not even try to educate themselves on certain issues. It’s funny how they thought they were in danger. Or more so how they thought the pilot would risk his life for a flight like that. lol

  3. From said Pearl Award winner…it gets better!

    Two weeks after the flight I received a nice letter from AirTran apologizing and sending me a round trip ticket on AirTran wherever I want to go within the year – it’s already spent – I’m going back to Atlanta!

  4. The place you want to go is Atlanta?

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