Being the grandson of a pilot, the nephew of two KLM cabin attendants and the son of a flight dispatcher, there were few places holier for me than the cockpit of a KLM aircraft. Then again, what child wouldn’t want to spend time fiddling with all those levers, buttons and dials?
KLM launched its Cockpit Tales series in 2015, giving the public unique insight into a place that is seldom accessible. I’ve selected the five most popular Cockpit Tales and ranked them for your enjoyment! Ready for take-off?
5. How do airplanes actually fly?
Let’s start with this essential question: how exactly do these big birds stay up in the air? Ranked 5th in the series, with 643,000 views, this clip features Captain Andrea van Dijk explaining what is required to keep a Boeing 737 airborne, as it makes its way to Athens. Weight, speed and all the other factors are briefly covered.
4. How to land an airplane in the dark
What does it take to land in an African thunderstorm, with zero visibility? No problem for Captain Thijs Jongsma and First Officer Dimitri van der Vieren. This edition of Cockpit Tale is all about cockpit instruments. Yes, there are windows allowing pilots to fly by sight, but sometimes visibility is so poor that they have no choice but to rely on their instruments.
3. Crossing the Atlantic
Did you know there are highways in the sky? And even turnoffs! When crossing the Atlantic Ocean, aircraft sometimes battle headwinds of up to 200 knots. It may sound strange, but it can be quicker to take a detour, instead of opting for the shortest route. Captain Henk de Vries explains this in more detail on his way to New York.
2. Autopilot in action
Most people are familiar with the expression “switching to autopilot”. In daily life, it usually means you’re “zoning out” to avoid having to do too much thinking, but that certainly isn’t the case in the cockpit. Especially if you’re flying from Amsterdam to London Heathrow! Captain Michiel van Dorst has no time to zone out on the flight across the Channel, even though he’s flying on autopilot.
1. Big plane, short runway
This is by far the most popular clip in the series, with no fewer than 8.5 million views, and rightly so! “Big plane, short runway” features a Boeing 747-400 passing low over a beach as it approaches Princess Juliana International Airport on the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten, where the runway is just 2,300 metres long. Naturally, there are spectacular, hair-raising views, which is why this edition of Cockpit Tales is a must-see!