Travel Can pilots really make up time in the air?

16:01  13 november  2017
16:01  13 november  2017 Source:   USA TODAY

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  Canadian airport runways aren't as long as recommended and the government's plans won't fix it. Canadian airport runways aren't as long as recommended and the government's plans won't fix it.The 297 passengers and 12 crew members were at the end of their eight hour trip from Paris to Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Aug. 2, 2005 when the landing went wrong.

What do pilots really mean when they say they'll make up time in the air ? But wait—if pilots can really make a trip go faster, why don’t they always do it? Can they really shave some time off a flight when they feel like it?

I’ve always been skeptical of this claim, so I decided to check to see if this really happens: Do pilots On- time flights on these routes see an average flight time of about 344 minutes, or 5 hours and 44 minutes.1 If pilots can make up time in the air , the average flight time should be shorter for longer

An airplane lands at Frankfurt Airport in Germany on Aug. 31, 2017. © Michael Probst, AP An airplane lands at Frankfurt Airport in Germany on Aug. 31, 2017. Q: When the pilot says they are going to try to "make up some time" en route to a destination, how is that done? Do they fly faster than cruising speed? Take a different approach/route?      

— submitted by reader Scott, Charlotte, N.C.

A: Working with air-traffic control to shorten the route is usually the best way to “make up time.” Many flights do not use the most direct line between two airports because of congestion and air-traffic control routing, so there may be opportunities to reduce distance.

Most jets cruise near their maximum speed, so there’s little available speed in reserve to lower the overall flight time.

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In 2011, J. Bryan Lowder and Andrew Bouvé investigated whether pilots can really “ make up time in the air ” when a flight is running late. Watch the video below. Airline pilots like to reassure delayed passengers that they’ll make up some of the lost time in the air .

When your plane begins to rumble toward takeoff after a long delay, that familiar message from the cockpit can seem so full of promise: “we’ll try to make up some of that lost time in the air .”. But does that ever really happen? Can pilots actually reclaim minutes or hours that had been lost to delay?

Q: What factors allow a flight to arrive earlier than scheduled?         

— Raymie, Honolulu

A: The two most significant factors for getting to your destination ahead of schedule are the wind direction/velocity (high tail winds mean faster groundspeed and reduced flight time) and the taxi time (shorter than planned taxi time means early arrival).

Flight planning looks for the best route for the wind. Taxi time is a function of the traffic at the departure airport.

Q: My flight from Reagan National to Hartford Bradley was delayed. When we finally took off, the pilot told us the flying time would be 35 minutes. The original flight time was 65 minutes. How do you reduce the flight time by that much?

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To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the Conversation Guidelines and FAQs. Ask the Captain: Can pilots really make up time in the Answer: A captain always has the final decision regarding the route of flight and how the airplane is being flown. Air traffic control is responsible for

Your Pilot Really Can Make Up the Time in the Air – Five Thirty Eight. Good news if you fly JFK to LAX, or Boston to LAX, or JFK to San Francisco. Everywhere else, you're probably still screwed if you're stuck on the runway.

— Bill, Connecticut

A: The initial flight time included the expected taxi time. This can be a significant amount of time. In your example, there was a 30-minute taxi time built into the flight to keep it on time based on history.

Q: Last trip from London to Philadelphia, I arrived an hour and 20 minutes early.  Does this happen very often?

— Robert, Bangor, Maine

A: It happens when the wind is less than forecast when flying westbound, where prevailing headwinds usually lower groundspeed. That happens more often during the summer than in winter.

Have a question about flying? Send it to

John Cox is a retired airline captain with US Airways and runs his own aviation safety consulting company, Safety Operating Systems.

WATCH: Why Airlines Often Don't Seem To Provide Accurate Flight Times (Provided by GeoBeats)

Angry woman gets flight diverted over 'cheating' husband .
An enraged woman forced an airliner to make an emergency landing after she discovered mid-flight that her husband was apparently cheating on her. The woman, an Iranian national, was travelling from Doha to Bali with her husband and child on a Qatar Airways flight on Sunday, India's Hindustan Times reported Tuesday.As her husband slept, she used his hand to unlock his fingerprint-protected phone, revealing the alleged affair in all its sordid detail.Angered by the discovery, the woman reportedly started to hit her husband. The cabin crew intervened but were unable to calm the situation.

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