Question: There are so many reports of pets dying on flights. Are animals safe and comfortable in baggage? I have stopped flying to protect my pet.
– Jim Sack, Fort Wayne
Answer: Sadly, there are occasional cases of pets expiring while in the care of the airline. However, the percentage is very, very low.
On many flight, there are animals loaded in cargo compartments. Aircraft designers know that live animals may be shipped so they ensure there is adequate airflow and heat for them. The heat often comes from the exhaust air from the cabin as it is sent overboard.
In some cases, it is the storage of the animals during flight connections that cause the problems, not the flight itself. When shipping an animal, talk to the airline staff so you can minimize connection times and avoid extreme weather conditions.
Q: I've been on a lot of flights where the plane seems to turn soon after takeoff. Why is this, and is there a minimum altitude before it can be done?
– Brian, Wisconsin
A: It is routine to turn shortly after takeoff. Common reasons include noise abatement rules and avoiding an airplane departing on a parallel runway.
Most operators do not turn until reaching 400 feet to ensure good separation from the ground in the event of a problem. However, there are some special cases where a turn is needed sooner, such as at Washington Reagan National Airport. When departing north, a turn is required very soon after takeoff to avoid the prohibited airspace over the Mall and White House.
Pilots also practice low altitude turns with malfunctions, such as an engine failure or hydraulic failure, in the simulator regularly.
Ask the Captain: Why would an airline fly a plane with just one passenger?
John Cox is a retired airline captain with US Airways and runs his own aviation safety consulting company, Safety Operating Systems.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ask the Captain: is my pet safe in the cargo hold?