What Movies Always Get Wrong About Pilots

Dramatization is a common element of Hollywood movies. As a result, Hollywood movies are not the most accurate sources of information about a wide range of topics, with commercial piloting being an excellent example of such topics.

Here are some of the most common things that movies get wrong about commercial pilots:

Piloting Isn’t as Glamorous as It Seems

Piloting is sometimes still seen as a glamorous choice of career. However, there are a number of things about it that can ruin the glamor for interested individuals. For example, pilots have tough schedules, so much so that it is not uncommon for them to catch some sleep in the pilots’ lounge in between flights instead of being able to rest somewhere more pleasant. Furthermore, pilots aren’t paid as much as most people would expect, which combines with the hours to make it rather stressful. Finally, there can be no doubt about the fact that pilots have some of the worst commutes imaginable, seeing as how they sometimes have to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles to get to where they need to be.

Pilots Can’t Pilot without the Autopilot

Some movies make it seem as though pilots can’t pilot their planes once the autopilot has been compromised in some manner. There are a couple of reasons why this is a bad assumption. First, commercial planes have more than one autopilot, meaning that even if one of them becomes compromised, the others can step up in its place. Second, pilots are more than capable of piloting their planes even without the autopilot, though it does mean a bigger challenge.

Pilots Can’t Make It Having Lost an Engine

Losing an engine is a serious issue for a pilot, but it is far from being an instant death sentence. After all, a lot of commercial planes have more than one engine, which provides them with the redundancy needed to handle such problems when they happen. For that matter, single-engine planes are capable of surviving a landing without power, as shown by all of the examples in which this has happened. In fact, such scenarios are common when pilots train in the simulators.

Pilots will Lose the Plane When It Has Been Holed

Hollywood movies love scenes in which a hole in a plane will cause its inevitable destruction. However, while having a hole open up in a plane is never a good thing, planes have been landed with fair-sized holes in them, as shown by the case of a Southwest Airlines plane that did so in 2011 in spite of a five square-foot hole in its roof. With that said, there have been a number of cases when people have been sucked out of planes with sudden holes in them, though these have been limited to when the holes have been of sufficient size and the victims were unfortunate enough to have been located next to them when the holes opened up.

Pilots and Aviation Accident Investigators Aren’t Enemies

In the not so distant past, aviation accident investigators voiced complaints about their depiction in Sully, which was demonized because the director Clint Eastwood admitted that he needed a villain for the convenience of the narrative. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that drugs and alcohol tests as well as questions about personal and financial problems are a matter of routine for such investigations rather than a ham-fisted attempt to lay the blame on the pilots. Furthermore, it should come as no surprise to learn that investigators tend to treat pilots in a relatively benign manner for the simple reason that hostility tend to make people bristle, which in turn, makes their jobs that much more difficult for no good reason.

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