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Pre-flight Planning  
User currently offlineNewagebird From Australia, joined Sep 2005, 64 posts, RR: 1
Posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 3722 times:

Ive always wondered how much work a pilot actually does before he flys. In this i mean, the top commercial or air transport pilots flying with Cathay and Qantas emirates and so on.

I mean do they look at the weather in detail and calculate diversion PNRs and Critical points, fuel calculations and weight and balance. I mean as a private pilot doing my commercial i get an hour and a half to plan everything.

Just wondering how much actual work they do before the flight begins, obviously its not all easy going up in the air but theres a lot of flight planning.

rgds newagebird

4 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently onlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17661 posts, RR: 65
Reply 1, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 3703 times:

At airlines, a lot of the work you describe is done by a whole department dedicated to it. The pilots have enough to do without dealing with all the minutiae.

It's partly a question of time. If the pilots have a 45 minute turnaround or have a long-haul flight at the limits of their duty time they don't have the time for planning.

Pilots get the information served to them but they have a responsibility to double check the info and sign off of course.

If there is a change in flight, the flight planning department can file a new flight plan in concert with the pilots.

"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineZB330 From Netherlands, joined Aug 2005, 79 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 3697 times:

Starlionblue is right. Most work is done by the Operations department. However we have the final responsibitlity that we meet all the requirements before we enbark on a flight.

On a normal shorthaul flight we check the weather for our departure, arrival and alternate airfields. And offcourse some of the inflight diversion airfields. NOTAMS will be checked and any defects on the aircraft which can have a significant operational impact. With this information in mind we make a decision on how much fuel we take. That's more or less it. On arrival in the aircraft we load the FMGC (Airbus) or FMS (Boeing) and check if our routing is as per filed flightplan.

On a longhaul flight there is a bit more to do. Most steps are as above only now we need to pay more attention to our diversion airfields. Our aircraft (A330) are 180 min ETOPS. So for every diversion airfield you get a 'window' in which you are likely to use this airfield in case of an inflight diversion. In this 'window' the forecast weather has to fullfil several requirements which are more restricting than the weather maybe during an actual diversion. Remember this is all at planning stage. After we both agree that the weather on our selected airfields is above planning minima we then plot the route on a plotting chart. On this plotting chart arcs are drawn to identify the ETOPS sections and our maximum 180 min from a suitable airfield. We both have to check that we have plotted the correct routing on the chart and that the route stays within 180 min of a suitable airfield.

In the mena time the PF is loading the FMGC and when he is finished we both again have to confirm tracks and distances between waypoints. On atlantic crossing we check the lat and long for every position to be absolutely sure that we have the correct routing in the FMGC.

This can take quite some tie and a standard turn around for our aircraft is 90 min. And we first have to wait till the other crew has left the flight deck. Asyou can see there isa lot to be done in a short space of time. If we have to do everything ourselves we need a much longer turn around time.

Just one thing. On a shorthaul flight we report for duty an hour before the flight. On a longhaul flight we normally report 1:15 hour before the flight. However most of the crew are in the office approx 1:45 hour before a longhaul flight.

Hope this helps.


User currently offlineBond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5652 posts, RR: 8
Reply 3, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 3691 times:

Yes, Part 121 operations in the US (Airlines), have to have a dispatch department with FAA qualified dispatchers. These guys do most (if not all) of the planning.


I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offlinePhilSquares From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 3666 times:

At SQ, our "check-in" time is 1 hour prior. However, if you show up then and try to do everything, you will not make it. Normally, 1+15 works out fine.

The computer flight plans we have figure out ETPs/PNR, fuel burn for the entire flight and for each waypoint. We don't get the weight and balance until just prior to door closing. The weather is checked as well as the NOTAMS and the company's internal notam system.

If you show up at 1+15, by the time you get to the aircraft, you have maybe 40 minutes to get ready. In that time, you've got to do the cabin briefing and the PF loads the FMS, while the PM does the external. Then it's back up where you both review every entry into the FMS and do the normal briefing and the the before start checklist. Add to this any problems you have with cargo loading/pax issues and you don't have a lot of time to relax.

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