Real Answers from Real Pilots

Biden's Press plane and Cicadas

Hi, I found this to be an interesting article…and wondered if this scenario happens to other pilots on occasion? I know we’re focused on covid-19 and health safety at the moment, but am curious how much discussion there is among pilots around the effects of climate change (eg. increased cicadas(?), more wildfires in the West, etc) and any changes to flight operations in the future?

Cicadas Took On Biden’s Press Plane. They Won.

Ravi,

How much discussion? Not much, until we’re faced with adversity. As pilots we are responsible for completing the flight safely. Weather and other phenomena often influence our decisions, but it’s not something that I would say is widely discussed often. It’s more of an in the moment type of situation.

While I have never heard of anyone, until now, being delayed because of a swarm of insects, I have experienced lengthy delays for a tire replacement on more than one occasion. While a tire replacement and a swarm of insects are two very different causes for delay, the thought process is the same.

Is the airplane airworthy? Is this safe? Does this make sense? If the answer is ever, “No,” the operation stops until the answer is, “Yes.”

Tory

Ravi,

I can pretty much guarantee that somewhere above the Earth there are 2 pilots discussing cicadas, Biden (for sure), global warming, Covid, and pretty much every other subject you can imagine. After the initial pre-screening process:
How long you been here?
Where were you before?
How was training? Who’d you have?
Married? Kids?
Where do you live? (How’s that commute?)
How’s your schedule this month?
There a new bid coming out, you staying here?
Did you hear what happened with Capt Smith over the weekend?
Do you believe the airline is planning…? Mgmt doesn’t have a clue and the Union isn’t doing anything about it!
Etc

Inevitably the conversation will turn to just about anything and everything. We’re told not to talk about religion, politics and sex but people will. Most are fairly innocuous but always be wary of the preface “I’m super laid back”, they’re not. If they say “well I didn’t vote for… BUT, “I’m not a Liberal (or Conservative) BUT…”, I’m not sayin’…BUT…” they’re lying and be ready for a LENGTHY conversation on the subject.

Now that I’ve cleared that up I personally have never had or heard of any cicadas caused delays. However, when we first got our A330s (over a decade ago) we did have a mud wasp issue. A crew started their takeoff roll. Now during the roll the pilot monitoring will call out certain target speeds and the flying pilot will respond “check”. When the the PM called X speed the PF saw no speed indicated. This is obviously a red flag and the takeoff was aborted. It was discovered there’s a certain variety of mud wasp that can build a nest fairly quickly (within a few hours) and the A330 pitot tube is pretty much the exact diameter and height off the ground that this particular mud wasp finds absolutely irresistible to build their nest. The solution was rather than remove the pitot covers early in the day, they’re left on until the final walk around. I also have a story from when I was at the Regionals and a Capt (who had read a story that morning about a West Nile outbreak in Montrose CO, we were departing from MTJ) going nuts on T/O trying to kill a very large mosquito in the cockpit. So yes insects can be a problem.

Adam

Ravi,

This is a new one for me. I have heard of wasps and bees delaying flights, but never cicadas. I just landed in IAD a few days ago, as I was driving home, the noise from the bugs was so loud I could hear them in my car, while I was going down the highway.

Pilots are always talking about something, it is one of the ways we stay awake on long flights. I for one am happy to discuss just about anything, except sports; that is one area that I just cannot keep up with and have no interest in doing so.

Chris