Resident pilot 121pilot, a captain for a major U.S. airline, authors a new column on Live and Let’s Fly called Ask Your Captain. His mission: demystify the flight deck and an answer any question you may have on the topic of flying.
Q: What’s the relationship between knots and MPH and why do airlines use knots?
A: This goes back almost to the dawn of flying and is connected to the nautical roots that many airlines have. A nautical mile is equal to one minute of latitude or 6,076 feet vs a statute mile at 5,280 feet. When your navigating using charts, the use of nautical miles because of its relationship to latitude makes navigation a lot easier. This is why ships and airliners use nautical measurements. This is a lot less relevant in today’s world of glass cockpits, and GPS where we aren’t taking sights with a sextant or plotting our position on charts like they did in the old days. But because it’s the convention, it’s still what’s used. If you want to convert knots (a knot is a nautical mile per hour) to MPH the conversion is 1 knot equals 1.15 MPH.
Q: Do you need perfect vision to fly commercial jets? Where do you learn: flight school or the Military? Do the airlines favor one or the other? Do you have to pass a physical and how often? Are there regular drug tests?
A: No, you don’t need perfect vision to fly commercially it just has to be correctable. Commercial airline pilots come from a variety of sources both civilian and military. The advantage military pilots have is that, at least for the fixed wing guys, most of them can get hired directly by a major and do not need to spend a few years at a regional airline first. I suspect that airlines tend to prefer military pilots for the simple fact is that there aren’t even remotely enough of them to fill the cockpits at US major airlines. Yes, we have to pass a FAA flight physical and hold a class 1 medical. First Officers are required to do it once a year and Captains have to do it every six months. And yes, we are subject to random drug testing.
Have a question for the captain? E-mail him at ask121pilot at yahoo dot com and you may see your question appear in a future column!