Why do I feel like the plane is falling out of the sky? Aussie pilot debunks one of the biggest flying myths

“Can a plane fall out of the sky?”

It’s a grim question many nervous travellers think about.

To calm the jitters on board, Australian pilot Jimmy Nicholson has debunked one of the biggest misconceptions of all time.

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“Why does it feel like the plane is falling? Does it happen? No,” the aviator said.

“Does it feel like it’s happening? Yes.

“Let’s break it down.”

Australian pilot Jimmy Nicholson has debunked one of the biggest misconceptions of all time. Credit: Jimmy Nicholson

During take-off, Nicholson explained how the aircraft would barrel down the runway at a speed called V1.

“This is the speed which we would continue with the take-off, no matter what happens,” he said.

“If the airport has a noise abatement procedure or if there’s a higher terrain, we’d climb out at quite a high angle and also a high thrust setting. This is because we want to get up as quickly as possible.”

A noise abatement procedure is a procedure used by aircraft at an airport to minimise the impact of noise on the area surrounding an airport.

The pilot said there are typically two “drop” feelings passengers experience in the air.

“There are two points on take-off where people freak out,” he explained.

“The first stage is when we’re at a safe altitude, we’re above terrain and we’ve done noise abatement procedure, we’d then reduce the thrust. This is where you’ll feel the first drop, don’t freak out.

“All it is happening is that the pilots are reducing the thrust because we’re now at a safe height.”

Nicholson said passengers shouldn’t freak out in the air as he explained exactly how take-off works. Credit: Jimmy Nicholson

Passengers may then feel the plane “dropping” – but Nicholson said the sensation comes from the retraction of the flaps and slats.

“The second point in which we might feel like the plane is dropping is when we ‘clean’ the aircraft up,” he explained.

“The reason why airplanes take-off with flaps and slats out is to increase the surface of the wing, thereby increasing lift and reducing our take-off run.

“Once we get to a height which is safe, we then bring in the flaps and slats. This is the point where you feel the second drop.

“So yes, you may get the sensations that the airplane is dropping out of the sky on take-off – but rest assure it’s just the pilot changing the configuration of the airplane to suit that particular take-off.”

Nicholson said he hopes his explanation put anxious travellers’ minds at ease when flying.

“Hopefully next time when you’re on an airplane and taking off, you have a much better understanding of what’s happening and why it’s happening,” he added.

Nicholson said he hopes his explanation put anxious travellers’ minds at ease when flying.  Credit: Jimmy Nicholson

His video has been viewed more than 630,000 times – with many thanking him for explaining why passengers experience that “sinking feeling” when the plane appears to “drop”.

“As a nervous flier, I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate these nuggets,” one said.

Another shared: “Flying back to Australia for the first time in five years in February and as someone who suffers severe panic attacks on planes, these videos help me so much.”

One suggested: “Thank you so much. I do understanding why the sensation happens but it’s still difficult to ignore. Your reassurance is helpful to remind me it’s safe.”

Another explained: “Thank you so much for this! It’s that drop I hate most that makes me terrified of flying. Every time I fly, I think we are going down.”

While one added: “I fly once a week and have done for 10 years and I still hate flying but thank you, that makes me feel a bit better.”

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