Topic Author
Posts: 63
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2005 8:51 am

Pre-flight Planning

Wed Feb 01, 2006 6:43 pm

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
User avatar
Posts: 17980
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

RE: Pre-flight Planning

Wed Feb 01, 2006 10:40 pm

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." - John Ringo
Posts: 64
Joined: Sat Aug 27, 2005 11:37 pm

RE: Pre-flight Planning

Wed Feb 01, 2006 11:07 pm

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.

Posts: 4428
Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2005 2:07 am

RE: Pre-flight Planning

Wed Feb 01, 2006 11:26 pm

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!
Posts: 3371
Joined: Sun Mar 28, 2004 6:06 pm

RE: Pre-flight Planning

Thu Feb 02, 2006 12:14 am

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.
Fly fast, live slow

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: dreamtakeoff and 12 guests

Popular Searches On

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos