Plane Answers: Sleeping gas to thwart terrorists, longer winter takeoffs and which aircraft is the smoothest in rough air

Welcome to Gadling’s feature, Plane Answers, where our resident airline pilot, Kent Wien, answers your questions about everything from takeoff to touchdown and beyond. Have a question of your own? Ask away!

Jack asks:

I was wondering why the airlines don’t put sleeping gas on a plane for highjackers. This way when the plane is highjacked the pilot puts on an air mask and gases the rest of the plane, calls for help and lands the plane, arrest & shoot the highjackers, well at least arrest them. Nobody gets hurt and we won’t need all the security people.

Jack, if you only knew how many times the O2 masks have been dropped by a pilot inadvertently flipping the wrong switch during a preflight, you might think twice about this ‘feature.’ Not to mention the chance for leaks or having the system used against us in an attack.

Nope, I would prefer to have passengers available to assist in the case of any terrorist action.

TC asks:

I live in South Florida and drive by FLL (Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International) every morning and evening in transit to work. We recently had a few days of real cold temperatures and I noticed the planes taking off are lower over the interstate and seem to be on the runway longer. How does the effect of temperature and humidity relate to take-offs and landings?

Actually, it’s the opposite, TC. During the colder days, both piston and jet aircraft perform better in the colder weather. On hot weather days the engines produce slightly less power and the density altitude is higher resulting in a little less performance.

In an indirect way, the winter season may have been the cause of the longer takeoff distances. I suspect those flights were completely full of people and bags after escaping from the dreadfully long winter we’ve had here in the northeast!

Andrew asks:

On what type of medium to large jets do you feel the least turbulence, e.g., Airbus 320, Boing 737-400, Boing 737-500, etc.?

Certainly the larger aircraft are smoother in turbulence, usually. The 777 has a ‘gust suppression’ technology that helps with side to side turbulence, and the new 787 will have a system that’s designed to mitigate the effects of both horizontal and vertical turbulence.

More important than the type of aircraft is where on that aircraft you sit. The front-to-middle section is always a smoother ride. We’ve had flight attendants injured in the aft galley while the flight attendants were still able to serve meals in the front of the airplane. So try for row 17 and forward if you can on your next domestic flight. You might notice a difference.

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and maybe he’ll use it for next Monday’s Plane Answers. Check out his other blog, Cockpit Chronicles and travel along with him at work.