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Introducing Captain Steve, Who Will Now Take Your Airline Questions

Not long ago during a ground delay at my beloved LaGuardia, I met an off-duty airline captain and we got to talking. His name is Steve. (Isn’t everyone’s?) Our conversation lasted two or three hours. As I mentioned in this post — about Steve’s suggestion for shutting down LaGuardia in order to ease New York City air congestion — he knew an awful lot about nearly every aspect of modern air travel.
The good news is that he has agreed to share this knowledge with the rest of us on a regular basis. As longtime readers of this blog are well aware, airline issues have been a recurring theme, ranging from the old cellphone debate to safety precautions to the question of why flight attendants aren’t tipped.
So leave your questions for Captain Steve in the comments section and over time he will answer them in small batches. You can also send questions here.
A little background: Steve is a captain at a major U.S. international airline, and has flown as a captain both domestically and internationally. His aircaft include: B727, B737, MD80, Fokker100, B757, B767; he has 26 years of total experience, 22 years of commercial flying, 11 as captain. Total flying time: more than 14,000 hours. He began as an Air Force/Air National Guard pilot, flying the Vought A-7D/K Corsair II and the Lockheed F-16C/D Fighting Falcon.
Just to start things off, I asked Steve about the recent story of an American Airlines pilot failing a breath test at Heathrow. (There are random tests for pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics.) Here’s Steve’s reply:

I hope that he was headed to Security and Airport Operations to notify them he was not fit to fly — i.e., sick.
Sadly, this has happened several times at a few airlines in the past half-dozen years. Scenario: a guy “overdoes” it the night before, realizes the situation in the morning, and rather than call his company from the hotel, he gets dressed and heads to the airport to inform the captain or Operations people in person. Bad move.
Then they get caught up in the drama and politics of the security screeners. Then it is headline news and then “guilty” until proven innocent because you are a pilot! Makes great headlines.
On the other hand, he may be stupid and thought he could slip through. Rare, but very possible.

Thanks to Captain Steve for this and future answers, and to all of you for what I’m sure will be a good batch of questions.