Ask the Expert: Captain Mike Talks Turbulence - United Hub

Ask the expert: Captain Mike talks turbulence

By The Hub team, June 16, 2016

United | Big Metal Bird | Turbulence

Captain Mike Bonner, Manager of Fleet Tech Flight Operations, has an immense amount of experience in flight. He's flown to nearly every corner of the globe at the helm of a variety of aircraft, and has encountered all types of turbulence along the way. We sat down with him to get a pilot's perspective on turbulence.

What is it like in the pilot's seat when you encounter turbulence? When do you get concerned?

It's usually just another day at the office, because we encounter mild turbulence quite often. It's something passengers barely notice and there are no risks involved with flying through it. I get concerned — for my passengers and crew in the cabin — whenever I hear air traffic control or other airplanes start talking about turbulence levels of moderate or greater — and we do everything possible upfront to stay out of those areas.

Describe your process of dealing with clear air turbulence when you encounter it. What are the steps you take in the cockpit?

1. Get everyone in the cabin seated — hopefully they already were. I put the seatbelt sign on and make a cabin announcement telling passengers and flight attendants to be seated immediately.

2. Report the situation to air traffic control for two reasons: to try and get advice on where smoother air is and to warn airplanes behind us of what's ahead of them.

3. When it's clear again, I call the flight attendants and allow them to get up, move around and see how everyone is doing.

4. When we can confirm with high certainty that the flight will remain smooth, I will turn off the seatbelt sign so passengers can get up.

What would you tell a good friend if they were fearful of turbulence?

Turbulence of some form or another is a fact of life when it comes to flying, but remember, our airplanes, pilots and controllers have a lot of great tools to keep us out of the bad stuff. We also have a good "heads-up" system to let us know when we're going to fly through the mild stuff. Then of course, there is the airplane itself — it is designed to handle turbulence at levels we can't even imagine, so even though it may not feel like it at the time, as long as we're all wearing our seatbelts we're going to come out the other side just fine.

In the event of turbulence, either during or before, what is your interaction with dispatchers and air traffic controllers?

The quality of "the ride" is the most talked-about subject between pilots, dispatchers and air traffic controllers. We all have it down to a science and have specific names for the different levels and types of turbulence. Ninety percent of the conversations we have regarding turbulence takes place during the "before" period, so we're able to avoid the bad stuff. To avoid areas of known turbulence, dispatch and air traffic control will guide us along the best path possible — both horizontally and vertically — using radar and controller-to-pilot communication to figure out the best flight path.

What is the most important thing passengers should know about turbulence?

Stay buckled when you're in your seat and don't spend any more time out of your seat — when the seatbelt sign is turned off — than you need to. If unexpected clear air turbulence hits when you're not sitting down with your seatbelt fastened, grab ahold of something and sit down quick, even if it's on the floor.

What's something interesting a passenger would never know about turbulence?

Turbulence can be a result of other airplanes — every airplane wing tip creates a horizontal swirling wind. We — airlines and air traffic control — have that covered as well. Spacing requirements between airplanes keep us clear of any rough air coming off another airplane.

Turbulence is something to take seriously, but not something to spend too much time worrying about. As Captain Bonner pointed out, through close coordination and communication, most turbulence is avoided before it can even begin. However, should you experience turbulence during a flight, it helps to remember to stay calm and listen to crew instruction. Turbulence shouldn't be more than a little bump in the road.

Jessica Kimbrough named Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

By The Hub team, July 10, 2020

Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.

Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.

In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.

"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."

As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.

Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.

Jessica's new role is effective immediately.

United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving

By The Hub team, July 02, 2020

By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.

United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.

Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.

A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.

United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Celebrating Juneteenth

By United Airlines, June 18, 2020

A message from UNITE, United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group

Fellow United team members –

Hello from the UNITE leadership team. While we communicate frequently with our 3,500 UNITE members, our platform doesn't typically extend to the entire United family, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with all of you.

Tomorrow is June 19. On this day in 1865, shortened long ago to "Juneteenth," Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved individuals were free. For many in the African-American community, particularly in the South, it is recognized as the official date slavery ended in the United States.

Still, despite the end of slavery, the Constitutional promise that "All men are created equal" would overlook the nation's Black citizens for decades to come. It wasn't until nearly a century later that the Civil Rights Act (1964) ended legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act (1965) protected voting rights for Black Americans. But while the nation has made progress, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have made it undeniably clear that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve racial parity and inclusion.

Two weeks ago, Scott and Brett hosted a virtual town hall and set an important example by taking a minute, as Brett said, "to lower my guard, take off my armor, and just talk to you. And talk to you straight from the heart."

Difficult conversations about race and equity are easy to avoid. But everyone needs to have these conversations – speaking honestly, listening patiently and understanding that others' experiences may be different from your own while still a valid reflection of some part of the American experience.

To support you as you consider these conversations, we wanted to share some resources from one of United's partners, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum will host an all-day Virtual Juneteenth Celebration to recognize Juneteenth through presentations, stories, photographs and recipes. The museum also has a portal that United employees can access called Talking About Race, which provides tools and guidance for everyone to navigate conversations about race.

Our mission at UNITE is to foster an inclusive working environment for all of our employees. While we are hopeful and even encouraged by the widespread and diverse show of support for African Americans around the country – and at United - we encourage everyone to spend some time on Juneteenth reflecting on racial disparities that remain in our society and dedicating ourselves to the work that still must be done to fight systemic racism. By honoring how far we've come and honestly acknowledging how far we still must go, we believe United – and the incredible people who are the heart and soul of this airline - can play an important role in building a more fair and just world.

Thank you,

UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)

Leadership Team

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