Ever wondered what a typical day for an airline pilot is like? From reporting to the crew room to filing post-flight paperwork, we’ve put together a series of blogs describing a typical day in the life of different airline pilots.
Short haul flying is varied, depending on the airline you fly for. Some have regular roster patterns, such as 4 days on then 3 days off, but most have a variable roster pattern each month. Some short haul flying involves night stops, other airlines only do day trips, but many short haul pilots will have a day something like this:
21:00 The night before
Every shift begins with preparation beforehand. I get an overview of the weather and the expected type of approach at my destination for tomorrow: Corfu. There are several possible approaches at CFU – some are a little tricky, particularly when the weather is bad. I also prepare my flight bag and uniform ready for a quick departure in the morning.
04:45 Wake Up
My alarm goes off and I’m up and out by 5:20am. Half an hour later I’ve parked in the staff car park, been through staff security and I’m grabbing a coffee in the crew room.
06:15 Report Time
I print and download the flight plan, weather reports and NOTAMS and meet up with the Captain. We discuss the day ahead and make a fuel decision – one of the most important decisions of the day. The flight plan includes a ‘minimum required fuel’ amount; is it enough? Today we notice the fuel plan is based on an approach to the southerly runway at Corfu (CFU) but the weather forecast indicates a landing on the northerly runway is more likely. We choose to carry an additional ten minutes worth of fuel to allow for this.
We meet up with the cabin crew and give them an overview of the day ahead: 3hrs 10mins flight out, smooth flying conditions expected, 45 min turnaround and 3hrs 20min flight back. The Senior Cabin Crew Member briefs us on things like special passengers or new crew members on board and we walk out to the aircraft.
06:35 Arrive at the aircraft
We board the aircraft and meet the Dispatcher. While the Captain does the walk-around, I set up the aircraft for departure. I check the fire systems, oxygen and pull up the correct charts.
CFU is a busy destination, so it’s important we depart on time to meet our arrival slot. This involves coordination with loaders, tug-drivers and passenger boarding staff. Happily, most of the ground coordinating is done by our Dispatcher. The passengers have boarded, and the doors are closed five minutes before the scheduled departure time.
When the checks are complete, we call ATC for pushback and start up clearance. We liaise with the tug driver for the pushback and when the tug is disconnected and After Start checklist is complete, call ATC to request taxi. We follow the taxi instructions to the departure runway. There will usually be a new ATC controller to contact before departure to give us our take off clearance.
07:25 Take Off
Shortly after getting airborne, we engage the autopilot which helps us manage the high workload during departure. Throughout the flight there are radio frequency changes from one ATC area to the next and in the cruise we conduct fuel checks and consider contingencies. Before commencing descent, we carefully plan for a successful approach and landing into CFU.
10:40 Arrival in Corfu
After parking, we complete our checks and welcome the passengers to their destination. We then have 45 minutes to get ready for the flight home; we plan the departure, liaise with the Dispatcher in CFU for fuel uplift and what time to board the passengers. Meanwhile, the cabin is being cleaned, waste emptied and potable water uplifted.
11:30 Return flight
We depart CFU and land at LHR at 15:00, eating lunch during a quiet period of the cruise. Once we have parked, we conduct our final checks and the passengers disembark. The next crew arrive onboard to prepare for their flight to Paris. We leave the aircraft at 15:30, I hand in our post flight paperwork at the crew room, and head back to the staff car park.
I have dinner, look at weather forecast and think about tomorrow’s flying. It’s a 06:45 report for a four sector day: Amsterdam and back, followed by Prague and back. I’ll iron a shirt, spend time with the family, and get to bed early so the alarm doesn’t feel too painful in the morning!
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