Airbus A380 Captain Rob de Martino. Photo: Nick Morrish

Faster Thinking

Captain speaking

British Airways Captain Rob de Martino can usually be found at the helm of the airline’s Super Jumbo, the Airbus A380. We tracked him down in between flights to answer burning questions like: what does he always leave in his suitcase?

How many of the switches in the cockpit do you actually use?
Every switch in the cockpit has a function. This can range from opening valves that allow fuel to travel to the engines, to something as simple as switching on the seat belt signs. At the start of the flight the pilots will switch on all the systems that need to be powered. During the flight some switches may need to be turned on to activate a system which isn’t required continuously, for example the wing de-icing system. The pilots know what each switch does but will not use every switch on every flight. At the end of the flight they will switch off those items of equipment and systems which draw a lot of electricity so we can run the aircraft on minimum power and save energy and reduce emissions or even shut down all the systems and put it to bed.

Why do you have to dim the lights before a night landing?
A very interesting question and the answer is all to do with that common theme in aviation ‘prepare for the worst and expect the best’. In the event of an emergency during the landing which results in the aircraft stopping on the runway and the passengers being evacuated the pilots would shut down the engines and turn off all the power. The cabin would only be lit by dim emergency lighting and the passengers would be exiting onto a very dark runway. It can take quite a while for a person’s eyes to adjust to a dark environment, and to speed up this process the cabin lights are dimmed in the highly unlikely event that such an emergency should occur. A similar process is followed when taking off at night.

What is the one thing that stays in your suitcase between trips?
An intriguing question. I wish I could say my dirty washing, but unfortunately that has to come out and be washed and ironed ready for the next trip. I always leave my walking shoes in my suitcase as, wherever I go, the best way of getting around and seeing new places is on foot, and a comfy pair of trainers or shoes is a must.