Why do the pilots at Airtran always fly the plane like they stole it?
May 26, 2009 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Why do the pilots at Airtran always fly the plane like they stole it? No matter where they seem to hammer the takeoffs and come in hot on landing.

So far I have only experienced it on 717's but I have had it happen on multiple flights and airports. It's not a negative I just know they seem to really haul hot and fast through the sky and ground.

As an LCC I know time in the air and turns are important to them but still seems higher than SW or others.

Do they recruit from a specific division of the armed forces such as the Navy that does hot and fast take-offs/landings?

Any other ideas?
posted by UMDirector to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think this is a case of subjective perspective. How many flights has this occurred to you on ? How many other airlines' flights have you flown on ? Airtran pilots don't take off and land differently from any other airline.
posted by dawdle at 1:54 PM on May 26, 2009

It's probably just the way the airplane is supposed to be flown. Approach/landing speeds, rotation speed on takeoff, and climb speed and power settings (which in turn dictate climb angle) are all specified in the aircraft's operating manual. I would be surprised if the flight crew significantly deviated from the published numbers on a regular basis. Since AirTran is by far the largest operator of 717s in the US, you might never have flown on one operated by a different airline. If you did, I suspect that it would feel just as "hot."
posted by indyz at 2:04 PM on May 26, 2009

Response by poster: This has occurred to me only probably five airtran flights, with my wife saying it has happened to her on other, not with me, Airtran flights seemingly all the time (she flies at lot).

I have flown on CO, American, JetBlue, Aloha, US Air and United. Who knows how many flights total, but a lot.

This doesn't feel like a overpowered 757 type thing either. They just seem to be aggressive pilots but company wide.
posted by UMDirector at 2:05 PM on May 26, 2009

Response by poster: indyz: Are 717s overpowered ala 757? You are correct about them being the only 717. My only comparable was a Embraer on JB and a CRJ with American.
posted by UMDirector at 2:06 PM on May 26, 2009

Maybe they're new hires that have just retired from the Navy and are used to carrier landings...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:07 PM on May 26, 2009

I've flown AirTran several times in the past, and never noticed anything any different than any other airline I've flown (which is a lot).

My vote is on confirmation bias.
posted by nitsuj at 2:26 PM on May 26, 2009

What airport are you generally flying out of? If it's very congested, the tower controllers may be trying to squeeze the airplane in between other takeoffs/landings. It's the sort of thing where if they don't get on the runway and get going NOW then there's going to be a significant wait. It simply could be Tower asking the pilots to expedite their takeoffs or landing rolls to ease congestion.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:28 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are 717s notably different in performance from their predecessor MD-8X planes?

If not, I'll note that the MD-8X's on American felt similar to Airbus, 737, etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:44 PM on May 26, 2009

Best answer: The Boeing 717 has a higher thrust/weight ratio than the famously overpowered 757.

Dividing maximum takeoff weight by maximum thrust for some airliners:
Boeing 717-200: (2 * 18 500 lbf) / (110 000 pound) = 3.29860045 m / s2
McDonnell-Douglas MD81 (predecessor to the 717): (2 * 18 500 lbf) / (140 000 pound) = 2.5917575 m / s2
Boeing 737-600: (2 * 20 000 lbf) / (133 210 pound) = 2.94471886 m / s2
Boeing 757-300: (2 * 43 500 lbf) / (272 500 pound) = 3.13093046 m / s2
McDonnel-Douglas MD11: (3 * 60 000 lbf) / (602 500 pound) = 2.92978755 m / s2
Boeing 747-400: (4 * 63 300 lbf) / (875 000 pound) = 2.83776432 m / s2
Airbus A380-800: (4 * 70 000 lbf) / (1 200 000 pound) = 2.28821833 m / s2
posted by zsazsa at 3:32 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of variables that affect a landing. Pilots, like anyone else, go through phases where, for a period of time they grease every landing...and then they have periods where you'd swear they left pieces of the plane on the runway.

The 717 was supposed to be the MD-90, I think, before Boeing bought em'. I know two different MD-80/88 drivers and both of them have said it's an easy airplane to fly, but difficult to fly really well.

Also - backseatpilot makes a good point. Sometimes towers ask for "short approaches" or pilots are given a famous "slam dunk" approach where they have to descend a little more rapidly and get down quicker to make a taxiway than they might otherwise. There is nothing wrong with this, and it's perfectly safe, but traffic conditions can sometimes dictate the profile of the approach and landing.
posted by Thistledown at 3:35 PM on May 26, 2009

Best answer: I'll also add that the MD-8x and the 717 sit low to the ground. That definitely affects perception of speed while taxiing and on take off and landing.
posted by michswiss at 4:14 PM on May 26, 2009

They probably don't have that many pilots. If you fly the same routes frequently it could easily be with the same pilot all the time. So they may not have many crazy pilots, just one.
posted by chairface at 4:28 PM on May 26, 2009

Best answer: I was actually just saying the other day that I feel like I always have really smooth flights on Airtran. So as much as I hate it when people shout "Confirmation bias!" on AskMe, I think we're both experiencing that.
posted by lunasol at 4:54 PM on May 26, 2009

AirTran is the largest operator of the Boeing 717 in the world, and owns the first and last ones off the production line.

It's generally a trait of the Boeing 717-200... they feel like the overpowered Boeing 757. It's really just a perception issue.

The 717 is also the MD-95, just renamed and it's shorter than the MD-80 series. The AirTran ones have 117 seats each, whereas the American Airlines MD-80s have 140.

Pretty much everything coming in or out of ATL is smooshed in as close as they can get them.
posted by drstein at 5:17 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

You really ought to post this on the airliners.net forum as there's a vast level of expertise on this subject there.
posted by crapmatic at 6:33 PM on May 26, 2009

Heh. I just had 4 AirTran flights (San Diego to Atlanta, Atlanta to Baltimore, Baltimore to Milwaukee, Milwaukee to San Diego) on Friday/Monday.

I didn't notice any serious intensity in take-off or landing and I'm usually totally freaked out and nervous and on edge during (I don't mind flying, I HATE hate hate take-off and landing. It hurts my face.) - it didn't seem any worse than any other flight. However, I've noticed before that going into ATL always seems a bit rough and I get more face pain there than anywhere else.

I'm with a few other people - confirmation bias plus maybe the specifics of where you're flying out of/into.
posted by FritoKAL at 10:23 PM on May 26, 2009

I was sitting next to a military guy on an Airtran flight from Atlanta to Baltimore last Thanksgiving and he mentioned that he could tell the pilot landed the plane himself rather than letting the autopilot do it because we came in faster and the angle was steeper (or however you would describe that). He said we probably did that to make up time.
posted by betsybetsy at 9:57 AM on May 27, 2009

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