Q: What are those small “sticks” on the wings?
Those sticks are “static wicks,” which disperse static electricity. Very dry air and flying near thunderstorms can create a buildup of electricity. You’ll see the wicks on the trailing edges of the wings, wingtips and tail, and they can be numerous: There are 13, for example, on just one wing of the Airbus that I fly! These metal sticks provide a conductive path from the aircraft back to the atmosphere. For fuelling, a grounding wire is connected to the airplane to rid it of static buildup.
Q: Why is landing gear retracted immediately after takeoff, but deployed well in advance of landing?
The landing gear is tucked up into the belly immediately after liftoff because of its immense drag. For landing, we configure the aircraft to slow down by lowering the flaps and landing gear in sequential order, starting 10 to 15 miles from the runway, depending on aircraft type. There’s a lot going on in the landing phase, so procedure dictates that the gear must be fully extended three to eight miles back.
Q: What happens to an aircraft when it overnights at an airport?
Lee’s Summit, Missouri
Many aircraft remain at the gate and are readied for the morning, while others are moved “off gate” to sit out the night. During winter, external heaters are maintained to keep everything toasty, mainly to protect the water system from freezing. Some aircraft have scheduled checks, and, frequently, we are met by a maintenance crew as the last passenger exits. Checks are done either at the gate or, for more extensive checks, in the hangar.