bristolflyer
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'Busyness' In The Cockpit

Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:36 am

So how busy does it get in the cockpit of a typical airliner at the worst times, eg landing? Is there a stack of things for the pilot/FO to be doing all at once?

I saw a video of the BA New York flight doing a touch and go at London City, I would think there's quite a lot of things to be done in quite a short period of time in order to get the plane back up in the air.

Thoughts?
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Mir
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RE: 'Busyness' In The Cockpit

Fri Jul 08, 2011 5:39 am

Quoting bristolflyer (Thread starter):
I saw a video of the BA New York flight doing a touch and go at London City, I would think there's quite a lot of things to be done in quite a short period of time in order to get the plane back up in the air.

Go-arounds are easy - TO/GA power, call for flap retraction, gear up at positive rate, check the nav source is set correctly, and just fly the missed approach until you're ready to clean up the airplane and set up for whatever is coming next. A lot of things to do, yes, but all are quite simple and don't require either pilot to divert their attention for more than a couple of seconds.

What gets you really busy is when you have to look stuff up, either in a chart or a manual. This takes one pilot out of the loop for as long as it takes to pull the appropriate reference material out and find whatever it is that they're looking for, which increases the workload on the other pilot as well. If you get assigned a published hold at a fix 10 miles ahead, you'd better get the chart out real fast to see what "as published" means (and as it turned out, ATC was wrong when they said there was a published hold, which was an extra source of confusion, but things happen). This is one reason that EFBs are great - it's much easier to be able to type in what you're looking for rather than fumble through an index.

I'd say the thing that increases workload the most is weather. If you plan your workload out properly, you can manage pretty much anything. But weather can force even the best made plans to change quickly, can drastically reduce the time you have to complete tasks, and can throw other tasks on top of the ones that you already have (such as keeping an eye on a storm's movement in addition to flying the plane and talking to ATC while the other pilot is trying to coordinate with someone on the ground to figure out options for diversion - that's going to be one very busy cockpit).

-Mir
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DocLightning
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RE: 'Busyness' In The Cockpit

Fri Jul 08, 2011 5:48 am

What you so aptly call "busyness" is generally described as a "high-workload situation" in the industry, I believe. You are describing a condition in which many tasks must be accomplished correctly and in exact sequence under a very tight time constraint.

The thing is that not all high-workload situations appear "busy." Most phases of a high-workload routine situation are calm and routine, whether it's takeoff or gallbladder surgery. So I would guess that only in Big, Bad Emergencies would things get *stressfully* high-workload.

The crew of UA232 found themselves in a very stressfully high-workload situation... Handled it well, too!
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bristolflyer
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RE: 'Busyness' In The Cockpit

Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:24 pm

Thanks for the replies! I guess if you do this stuff day in, day out it becomes a bit more second nature. I play on the Flight Sim quite a bit and when I'm being shouted at by the co-pilot it's nice to be able to press the pause button to take it all in and then work out what buttons to press. I guess there isn't one of those on an airliner.
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pilotpip
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RE: 'Busyness' In The Cockpit

Sat Jul 09, 2011 1:49 am

Go Arounds aren't "easy" per say. Sure, you have a flow to go through but there's usually a lot to do for the non-flying pilot in a short time. The pilot flying, flies the plane. It's the other seat that's busy retracting flaps and gear, programming the FMS and talking to ATC.

The busiest time of nearly every flight is taxiing at busy airports. Both sets of eyes are outside and there is a ton of traffic in a small area. In the air TCAS and IFR spacing takes care of a lot of traffic but on the ground, not so much. Then for fun at busy international airports you often have crews in other aircraft that speak extremely poor english so you're often not only keeping track of your position but theirs as well.

Abnormal situations can get hairy too but there is always 1 primary job: FLY THE AIRPLANE!!! There have been more than a few crashes where a minor situation turned into a major one because all cockpit occupants forgot this first, and most important rule.
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tb727
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RE: 'Busyness' In The Cockpit

Sat Jul 09, 2011 3:50 am

Quoting bristolflyer (Thread starter):
I saw a video of the BA New York flight doing a touch and go at London City, I would think there's quite a lot of things to be done in quite a short period of time in order to get the plane back up in the air.

Yes a touch and go in a jet isn't exactly my favorite thing to do. I never really did them much, especially with new trainee's and never with a guy that was flying a jet for the first time. You are resetting trim, moving flaps and setting power. Any malfunction can snowball quickly.
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