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Life in the Skies

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Can a pilot smoke and 'entertain​' passengers in the cockpit?
Written by Capt Lim   
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 10:22

Questions about cockpit behaviour of co-pilot
Dear Captain Lim,

Just yesterday, I came across this 'news article' while browsing the internet (See here). In the article, a young woman claimed she was entertained in the cockpit for the entire duration of her MAS flight back in 2011 and that one of those pilots was also the first officer of the missing B777-200ER of flight MH370.

She also claimed that the pilots were "smoking throughout the flight". In the video attached to the article, the news reporter also mentioned that while there are regulations preventing passengers from smoking in-flight, these do not apply to the pilots themselves.

I am aware that there are very strict regulations for pilots and their consumption of alcohol, and I assumed that there would be equally stringent rules for smoking as well. Thus, I found it very hard to believe that a pilot would not only smoke in the cockpit, but also get away with such a breach in security protocols.

The sceptic in me suspects that this story was more likely the result of a young woman who found her pictures with the pilots on her flight, made up most (if not all) of this story to go with the photos, and presented it to the media in an effort to bring some attention towards herself. This may or may not have been the case. Ultimately, my knowledge of what goes on behind cockpit doors is limited, hence the following questions:

1. Are there any regulations in place to prevent pilots from smoking in the cockpit? If there are, how would those regulations compare to the ones governing the consumption of alcohol?

2. Are there any smoke detectors in a cockpit?

3. From my understanding, pilots often work with different pilots on each flight. Therefore, how likely would it be that a pilot would agree to remain silent when his colleague on the flight deck was being very "inviting" towards some of his passengers? Wouldn't the pilot be more likely to report his colleague's errant behaviour, in the event that he failed to convince his colleague to act in a more professional manner?

The disappearance of flight MH370 is a sad event, which for some has likely ruined their confidence in air travel. As an aviation enthusiast, it saddens me even more that this article is being circulated, further damaging the public's perception of airline pilots.

Thank you very much in advance for taking the time to read my questions, and thank you for answering questions in your blog from those of us who want to know more about matters in aviation.

Warm regards,


PS. I have read your book 'Life in the Skies' and enjoyed it a lot and I am also enjoying the book 'Cockpit Confidential' by Patrick Smith, which I probably would not have picked up had you not recommended it in your new book.
What is the current pilot employment rate in Malaysia?
Written by Capt Lim   
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 03:17

HMA Batch 33/10 Graduation 2012

Hi Captain Lim,

Thank you for your wonderful site and inspiring book [Life in the Skies]. The book is really simple to read. It consist a lot of information about the procedures and safety of flight.

I really want to be a commercial airline pilot and thank God my parents are willing to send me to a flying school (HMA) and class will commence starting middle of March 2014. Actually I am already equipped with a Degree in Engineering but still flying is my passion and dream, and I would go all out for my dream, but as we all know in the past 3 years there was a glut of pilots and many of them got their wings clipped. So here are some of my questions:

1) What is the current employment rate now for commercial airline pilots? Does AirAsia still hire co-pilot from the flying schools?

2) According to the current news about MAS suffering a massive loss, when an airline is suffering at such loss, do they still hire pilots?

3) Are the graduates from flying school qualified enough to be hired as co-pilots? Or they have to find their own ways to increase their flying hours?

4) Is it true graduates from flying school have to take yearly examination/test to keep their CPL active?

5) Is there any expiration for CPL/IR with ATPL holder? In the event they are not able to secure a job as pilot?

6) In your opinion, what do you think of the employment rate for this coming 2 years?

Thank you for your time and I hope I can get some advice from you.

Overriding automation - Auto throttles on the Boeing 777
Written by Capt Lim   
Sunday, 23 February 2014 04:22

San Francisco Crash: Asiana Flight 214 crash reconstructed

Hi Captain Lim,

What are the different airlines’ SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) on the use of auto throttles? I believe not using the manual throttle doesn't allow the pilot to keep his hand on them.

What do you think?

On the Boeing 777s, how often do you use the auto throttle for landing? Do you leave it on?

Isn't it better to leave it off to use the power to control your glide path, like basic flying technique?

I have the PMDG 777 for FSX but I have been very interested in heavies (wide bodied planes) for over fifteen years.

I have 25 hours logged real flying though which I think is the best. I want to get back in the skies one day but it will take a bit of work to get a line job.


Daniel McAloon
What a pilot needs to do to make her woman happy?
Written by Capt Lim   
Saturday, 22 February 2014 03:23

7 steps to a great relationship - advice for you
Dear Capt Lim

I have a question. I read your article about what a pilot needs to do to make his woman happy and show her appreciation for the hard family life - take her with him on flight sometimes, encourage her to take travelling perks to visit friends’ family or be in touch every day with a web cam at the end of the day. Make sure basically that even though he may want to do his thing, he still has to make time for her.

I dated a pilot for 4 years. He used to do his thing first, then if time was left, he would call me, usually via phone (no web cam), but by then he was too tired to engage in any meaningful conversation. Sometimes he would not even bother calling and would do so the following day as if it was nothing.

The most important thing I want to ask is: is it normal for a pilot to visit family and friends on his days off at regular monthly intervals, leaving me in the U.K. where we live, alone for 17 days in a row? (6 working away, 5 days off spent in his country doing his hobbies, 6 working away = 17 before he finally comes home to me in the UK).

When he was away on days off he would also be hard to get hold of. His phone would be out of credit or battery or he didn't hear. This would happen every month. The damage on us was huge. I’d like to know if this is normal and whether I was entitled to complain.


Did I fly non-stop from London to Sydney?
Written by Capt Lim   
Friday, 21 February 2014 03:46

Singapore to New York - Longest Nonstop commercial passenger flight

Hi Capt Lim,

Please put my mind at ease. I am sure that in 1985/86 I flew from London to Sydney by QANTAS non-stop and it took about 22 hours in a long-haul  Boeing 747.

I was telling a friend this the other day and he told me that this was impossible and no aircraft at that time could fly that distance non-stop.

Now I am sure I am not that mad but I can find no evidence now that it is true.

What could my journey have been? In all the time that has passed I have believed I went non-stop.

Alan Clark
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