Long commercial trips are very boring for pilots. They just sit up front playing angry birds and trying to find a way to kill the time. I was lucky enough to be on a flight this weekend and when I went to the lavatory I noticed the cockpit door was open.
I decided to eavesdrop for a bit and this is what I observed.
I heard the Captain say to the first mate, “Let’s have some fun!” He then got on the mic and stated that there were some air pockets coming our way so everyone should put their seat belts on. Then he said to the first mate, “Do it! Do it!!”
The number two guy started violently shaking the joystick up and down and mashing a button labeled “slats.”
The plane began bouncing rapidly and shimmying side to side.
That’s when I observed the Captain stomping back and forth on the rudder pedals. Both pilots were laughing wildly. This went on for about a minute, after which the Captain came back on and stated, “Sorry about that folks. Just hit a patch of rough air.”
An additional observation I noted was that the flight attendants appeared to be in on the whole thing. One of them was dealing with a pissed passenger demanding to speak to the manager. She told him, “Sure,” then hustled up to the cockpit, closed the door and no more than 30 seconds later, the Captain came back on again stating that the plane was about to hit an “air wiggle” and should expect things to get bumpy again.
After landing, I decided to do some research. While an air wiggle is apparently a legit thing, there is in fact no such thing as a rough patch of air, or an air pocket. Pilots are simply making this shit up to kill time and screw with the passengers.