Q: Are aircraft engines at full thrust on takeoff?
More often than not, takeoff power is not at full thrust. Whenever possible, pilots use a lower power setting that saves wear on the engines, thus reducing maintenance costs and noise. But many conditions, such as runway length, weight, wind and temperature, must be optimal; otherwise, we use full power. Jet engines produce reduced thrust as the ambient air temperature increases. The “flex” temperature, which is inputted into the flight computers, is the highest air temperature at which the engines would produce the required thrust.
Q: Why do captains sit in the left seat in the flight deck?
There seem to be many takes on this. One explanation stems from nautical tradition – the same reason why a captain wears four stripes. Most small aircraft are designed with the pilot in command occupying the left seat. Yet large airliners have dual instrumentation, with most switches accessible from both seats. When I trained as a captain, doing the same task with opposite hands took a little getting used to.
Q: How are the three-letter airport codes chosen?
Most airport codes are based on place names or airport names. When aviation was in its infancy, the U.S. National Weather Service used two letters to identify an airport. Now, IATA (the International Air Transport Association) creates the three-letter identifiers. DEN is obvious for Denver, Colorado. Chicago O’Hare International Airport is so named in tribute to Lt. Cmdr. Edward O’Hare, but it’s located on the site of a small commercial airfield originally known as Orchard Field. ORD is derived from this and was retained even though the airport’s name later changed. Next month, find out why Canada’s airports begin with “Y”.