Q: On every flight, there are always some dinging sounds that come through the announcement system. Is this some sort of signaling device for the cabin crew?
Yes. Every airline has its own procedures for how many dings mean what. Basically it’s the likes of “We’ll be landing soon, so get the cabin ready.” Another ding — or dings, tells the attendants that the plane has passed through 10,000 feet, which means they now can contact the cockpit without fear of interrupting a critical phase of flight. By the way, when the flight attendants say, “Ladies and gentlemen we have been cleared to land, so please….” they are simplifying things. They have no idea when the plane has been cleared to land, as this is a conversation between pilots and controllers. Landing clearance often comes at the last minute, sometimes seconds before touchdown.
This Q&A is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.