Ask the Captain


Entering the world of bloggers for the first time I will answer your questions pertaining to flying and what it’s like to operate commercial aircraft. Are you curious about the language we use when communicating with air traffic control? Do you want to know what’s on the pre-flight checklist? Or are you just interested in how you can become a pilot? This is your opportunity to “ASK THE CAPTAIN”.

My Life as a Pilot

Some of you may have heard me speak before at events including the Chicago Seminars, but for the rest of you, I’ll use this opportunity to introduce myself: I started flying in 1971 and received my private pilot license in 1972. I joined the United States Navy in 1973 and served 20 years — eight years on active duty and twelve years in the reserves, while flying for United Airlines. I was hired by United Airlines in 1986 and will be soon departing in June of 2016.

I had a fulfilling career flying for the United States Navy. I spent three years with the National Science Foundation in support of Operation Deep Freeze on the Antarctic continent. The squadron flew ski-equipped Lockheed C-130 Hercules and we provided logistics for scientific experiments. In future years I flew the Lockheed P-3 Orion whose mission was to maintain surveillance of the Russian submarine fleet during the Cold War, search and rescue of ships in distress on the Atlantic Ocean and locate drug runners in the Gulf of Mexico.

My first position at United Airlines was a Boeing 727 engineer. That lasted for a few years and then I became a first officer on the same aircraft. I moved over to the glass cockpit of the B-757 as a first officer and then took a captains position in 1999. I do miss the B-727. It is a great aircraft to fly.

Captain Denny 2

As a captain for United Airlines my number one job is to get you safely to your destination. Realizing there are negative expectations of airline travel; missing or lost luggage, delayed or cancelled flights, TSA screening and even sometimes sleeping in the airport. I will, when time permits, step out of my environment and engage my customers. It will not be uncommon to see me pushing a wheel chair, walking a dog beneath the aircraft, speaking with customers, purchasing meals during long delays or even serving coffee in the gate area.

Captain Denny walking Simbah in Chicago

My personal attention to my customers has landed me on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and on the morning shows of ABC, NBC and CBS.

Capt. Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund

I am currently on the board of directors of the Capt. Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund. Capt. Dahl was at the controls of Flight 93 on September 11th 2001 when terrorist tragically took his life. The crew and customers prevented the aircraft from reaching its intended target of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. and as a result it crashed in a farmer’s field near Shanksville, PA.
To keep Capt. Dahl’s memory and love of flying alive the scholarship was started to provide financial assistance to young men and women seeking a career in aviation. This past year we awarded 18 scholarships and have distributed $165,000 since 2002. Currently three of the early scholarship recipients are flying for United Airlines. More information can be found at

Meet the Captain

For the next eight months my schedule will be posted on InsideFlyer and if I layover in your city I will be willing to meet you or a group for dinner or lunch. I will ask my first officer to come along and if it is a large group I will bring along more pilots who are also on the layover. Additionally I can make arrangements for a station tour at our hub cities. The team at InsideFlyer is currently working on a plan to coordinate the attendees.

Denny Flanagan

If you want to know more about aviation or my experience as a pilot, please submit your questions and I will do my best to answer them.

— Capt. Denny


  1. Dublin_rfk says

    Thanks for all your efforts. It’s nice to hear about you and your endeavors. Many of us who have flown with and met you look forward to doing so again.

  2. Sonja says

    My question to the captain: do commercial airplanes have keys, like to open the doors, start the engines,…? If yes: where are they stored and how do you get them? Might be a pretty silly question, but I am nevertheless curious….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *