I hear this question a lot: What will a typical day be like when I'm an airline pilot?
Most of your days as an airline pilot will be typical - which is a good thing. In all professions, a routine is the key to success. Flying halfway across the country at 30,000 feet is no different. Well, maybe it's a little different.
Check In: You'll arrive at the airport at least an hour before your first flight. The first thing that you will want to do is get checked in with your airline. Usually, you'll just need to log in on the computer, but it's important to do. Delays along the lines of hours have happened simply because a pilot forgot to check in.
Weather Briefing, Clearance, Passenger and Cargo Manifest: You need to print out a weather briefing for the whole day, as well as a more detailed report for the first flight. You'll also download all other information that you and the crew will use, such as a clearance (permission to fly a certain route to your destination) and information about how your aircraft will be loaded with passengers, cargo and fuel.
Captain's Briefing: The Captain will want to brief you about the aircraft, and your itinerary.He'll go over, among other things,
- details about the first flight
- weather that you will face en route
- special passenger needs
- and special cargo.
Prepping the Aircraft: After speaking with the Captain, you'll head out to the ramp to board the aircraft. You're the first crew member on board. Drop off your equipment in the cockpit, plug in your headphones, turn on the interior aircraft lights. The flight attendants will start to prep the cabin. You'll inspect the outside of the aircraft to make sure it is safe to fly for the day.
Preflight Walk-around: Your preflight inspection will take you around the aircraft. Use your checklist, and if you find anything unusual you'll notify the Captain or call a company mechanic.
More Systems and Checklists: After you are done with the “walk-around” you will go back into the cockpit. You'll help the Captain check all of the internal systems and go through several more checklists. Once everything is checked out, you'll have the gate agents begin to load the passengers onto the aircraft.
Almost Ready to Go: Once the passengers have all found their seats, the you will go through some more checklists. The aircraft’s doors will be closed, and you'll start the engines. Another checklist or two have to be done as you taxi out to the runway for take-off.
In the Sky at over 300 knots: You and the Captain will take turns flying each leg of the trip. When the Captain is flying the aircraft, you will talk to Air Traffic Control (ATC) on the radios, help with the navigation of the aircraft, perform in-flight checklists and perform other necessary duties.
Landing: As you get close to your destination, you will help the Captain get the aircraft ready to perform an approach into the airport and land safely. After landing, you will talk to ATC ground controllers and taxi to your new gate to drop off the passengers. Once the passengers are all safely off of the aircraft, you will get off also and take a break while the aircraft is cleaned, restocked with food and drink, and refueled.
The Day Continues... Then you will do it all over again! A typical day will have 3 or more legs to be flown in it, and then you will go to a hotel where you will overnight to eat and rest up for the next day’s activities. The next day, you're headed to new cities in different weather and with new challenges. No two days are alike! Even though there is a routine, each day is filled with experiences that you can only enjoy as an airline pilot.