What pilots really get up to on long-haul flights

It’s hard enough to fly a plane, but how do the pilots really keep busy?

How pilots stay entertained

For most of us, long flights can be a bore. We can pass the time reading, enjoying snacks and beverages, watching movies or resting, all while the pilots work tirelessly to keep the aircraft in motion.

Here is a basic outline of what the pilots are required to do each and every flight while you make yourself comfortable for what’s ahead – and it requires much more than some flying skills.

Pilots are constantly managing the craft during weather changes and flight path diversions due to variations of atmospheric intensity, difficulty and type. This means they need to be able to adapt to any fluctuations that can occur – sometimes in a split second.

A pilot is also the primary legal authority responsible for personnel issues that may arise in-flight. And, ultimately, the pilot decides whether a passenger situation requires a flight diversion for safety reasons.

Much of a pilot’s work is extremely strategic, as they must deal with the complicated machines that planes truly are.

This means they must monitor dozens of gauges, from engine oil pressure to air conditioning ducts. Temperatures and pressures must be kept as exact as possible to ensure the comfort and security of everyone on board, as the pilot is ultimately liable for their safety.

One pilot monitors the systems while the other fills in the paperwork that is so detailed, an inspector should be able to recreate the exact flight path.

Downtime and rest
While pilots can eat in the cockpit, only one pilot eats at a time, while the other keeps everything else in check.

If everything is in order and running smoothly, there is time for a rest break.

Over a long-haul flight, there are reliever pilots who allow the main pilots to take the time to sleep and relax in the cabin space just above the cockpit.

Many passengers believe the pilots just kick back, read the paper and let the flight take its course.

However, the responsibility of taking this metal machine around the world is far greater than the average person would expect.

Would you like to be a pilot? How would you choose to spend your little amount of downtime?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    6th Jan 2018
    A bit of BS here. Big passenger planes are flown by computers which are completely capable of landing the planes as well. These planes also have backup computers. The role of the pilots is more in a standby position. Having said that they would monitor weather conditions and gauges but its not as if they sit there doing this for a 14 hour longhaul flight.
    Polly Esther
    6th Jan 2018
    Yes Mick, I have to agree with your comment on this one, and I don't even mind doing so :-) because when you're right you're right.
    6th Jan 2018
    I thought so too MICK. I think the article belittles the actual level of expertise required of a pilot.
    It would be interesting know what they actually do on the long haul flights to stay alert. At least they have a bed so they are on holiday the moment they land and not zombified like all the passengers.
    pedro the swift
    6th Jan 2018
    Have you watched some of the aircraft crash investigations? Many airline pilots do not have enough training to actually fly the aircraft if something(auto pilot fails) goes wrong. Lots of instances where pilots do the wrong thing in emergencies just cos the don't have enough training and and rely too much on automation.
    6th Jan 2018
    Actually Pedro if you watch Aircraft Crash Investigations it is rarely pilot error and their expertise in emergencies is most commendable.
    Pilots have a very rigorous training program and they constantly have to update their skills and rehearse possible scenarios.
    I felt the article rather trivializes their requirements and level of expertise.

    6th Jan 2018
    For a true blue socialist Mick, you are amazing - an absolute expert on everything! Geez I wish I was as clever (and as much a know all), as you!
    Polly Esther
    6th Jan 2018
    Poor Mick, he cops a bit of a bashing at times, but I give him credit for his comments on this subject. No, he is like us all, not always right on many occasions, but this time he is on the ball :-)))
    6th Jan 2018
    Hear hear, MICK does seem to know so much about so many things, I want him be PM or at least treasurer.
    10th Jan 2018
    The article refers to the times when Flight Management Computer Systems were not invented. On 17 hour long-haul flights, that is what we did back in the 1970's. That being said, the pilots today really earn their money when their engines stop. Volcanic ash clouds, un-contained engine explosions and flocks of birds are still a problem! When the flight management system goes into meltdown on a landing approach what would YOU do? Professional pilots just disconnect the auto-pilot, auto-land and auto-braking system and manually land the plane. Others, less professional have their head in the office, trying to reboot the system.

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