Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of an airline pilot looks like? Adventure and prestige certainly characterize their day to day. Knowing about an airline pilot’s daily life might just suffice in convincing you to become one as soon as possible.
Start your shift: Pre-Flight
The start of your shift varies depending on your seniority. Those who have been with airline companies for a longer period might have a more flexible schedule, especially when asking for days off, such as holidays, weekends,etc.. A junior pilot might have less privileges.
Arriving at the Briefing Room
An airline pilot will need to be in the briefing room at the designated airport an hour to an hour and a half before takeoff to meet with the crew. At this meeting, the pilots and the crew members discuss pre-flight plans.
Ensuring the Plane is Safe for Flight
You will have to review the maintenance status of your plane after receiving the appropriate paperwork from the flight service station and air traffic control. This will help be conscious about the potential problems that could arise and potentially ground the plane. You need to ensure all of the essential components are working perfectly, safety is your priority!
You should go over the aircraft maintenance history to understand which parts have been recently repaired or have had issues in the past. By doing so, you will have a more holistic view of the aircraft which can be crucial in helping crew members identify and fix the problems, should an emergency arise mid-flight.
Monitoring Weather Radars and Reports
Airline pilots must be capable of safely navigating a plane under the pressure of in-climate weather. It becomes second nature for a pilot to monitor and track the weather from the airport they take off to the one they land at. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires jets flying into specific types of weather to add enough fuel to reach an alternate airport should they be unable to land at their intended destination.
Reviewing the Flight Plan
One of the most crucial parts of the pre-flight process is the flight plan. It provides information on routes, passenger load, potential high-turbulence areas, weather patterns and fuel requirements. This is all key information provided to the airplane staff and the crew on the ground. Once you’ve reviewed the flight plan and approved of the maintenance and the weather reports, then you’ll sign off the flight plan. The crew and pilots then approve it with the dispatcher and board the plane.
Once aboard the airplane, pilots and crew members begin their pre-flight routine, which involves tasks such as safety checks, emergency systems tests and more.The crew ensures that all of the proper safety equipment is in the right places and that the cockpit door is secure.
While the passengers board and get comfortable in their seats, the pilot is busy working on programming the flight management system (FMS). This computer system helps reduce the workload on the flight crew by automating a number of in-flight tasks. When the system receives the flight plan and the aircraft’s position, the FMS calculates your flight path. The pilot can follow this course manually or set the autopilot to follow the course.
The programming of the FMC requires the highest degree of accuracy, making it the most labor-intensive part of pre-flight. The FMC, in conjunction with the auto-flight and navigation systems, calculates the most efficient altitudes and airspeeds to fly and allows the aircraft to precisely fly along the filed route.
When the crew completes the pre-flight routine, you will have to run through the pre-flight list one more time and confirm that the plane is ready for flight. One of the pilots’ most prevailing characteristics is detail-oriented- the number of steps that are required for takeoff can reach hundreds for most commercial flights.
Time for Takeoff!
After the flight attendants have completed their pre-flight routine, you turn on the fasten seat belt sign and line up on the runway. You've been cleared for takeoff. You push on the thrusters as you accelerate to 160 MPH. A rush of adrenaline hits you as your plane, maybe a Boeing 737, parts ways with the ground below. The elements of the landscape ahead become smaller and smaller, until you’ve finished your ascent, reaching a steady cruising altitude of 45,000 feet.
Once you're in the air, the busy work is done. As you activate auto-pilot and an attendant brings you your coffee, you gaze out at the curvature of the earth and reflect on how amazing your job is. What a view!
No matter the length of your flight, you will have a series of mid-flight duties to complete. The most important task is to monitor instruments and ensure you’re flying the correct path, fuel levels are appropriate, engines are running smoothly, and that the cabin pressure and temperature are at comfortable levels. You’ll also be providing regular updates and communication to air traffic control. The flight deck is always active, even in the middle of the night. There are radio and satellite reports to draw up, navigational elements to program and various other route procedures to actively monitor.
You’ll also be giving flight updates to your passengers over the loudspeaker. You'll have to inform them of them of arrival time, high-turbulence areas and other in-flight happenings. Creating a safe feeling and welcoming environments for everyone is part of your job.
But don’t worry, you won’t be sitting down the whole time. IF the pilot needs a bathroom break he/she is welcome to take one. If he/she needs to stretch his/her legs and get his/her blood flow flowing, he/she stands up and walks around the cabin. Pilots can also read or sleep (in long flights), get to know each other, and enjoy some of the most beautiful sunsets, moonrises, and other marvels from the best seat in the world.
Prepare for Landing
As you’re cleared for your initial descent, you steer the plane downwards toward the landing strip at your destination.You adjust the airspeed and landing gear as you approach the runway. You may slow the aircraft by reducing thrust, creating drag with the plane’s flaps, or employ the use of speed brakes. After the wheels have touched down, you engage the reverse thrusters to help slow the giant aircraft.When you reach taxiing speed, welcome your passengers to the city and tell them to remain seated until the plane has come to a complete stop and the seatbelt sign has been turned off. You have completed another successful flight as you pull up to the gate. You finalize flight by thanking your passengers for choosing your airline as they file off the plane.
Once all of the passengers have left the plane, the post-flight procedures take place. Shut the engines down and flip the master switch, and head to the briefing room for a flight and maintenance review. These post-flight briefings are imperative to ensuring the performance of the entire team. After your piloting duties are officially over for the day and you get to explore the city, or just relax.
A Night in a New City
One of the many advantages in becoming an airline pilot is the chance to experience unique and entertaining cities all around the world. Airline companies book hotel rooms and sometimes suites for their pilots. You’ll often spend nights, days or even weeks at a time in cities you’ve never dreamed of seeing. There’s a legal limit on the number of hours a pilot can fly before they have to get a legally required amount of rest, so you’ll have plenty of times off. For the people with keen senses of adventure and wanderlust, becoming a pilot might just be the job for you!