A Day in the life of an Airline Pilot
I read the thread of futureUApilot and he asked for a trip report about a day in the life of an airline pilot, so I decided to write such a report… Here it comes…
It all started on Friday. I packed my things for a 3 day trip. The first question you need to ask yourself: what do I need for 3 days in a hotel or for your free time in another town. First you need underwear for sure
So, I packed my little suitcase. Here a short list, about what I need:
· Usual stuff like underwear, shorts, socks and all the bathroom stuff
· Swim suit (in most hotels you have a pool)
· An interesting book (I read at the moment:: My life, Bill Clinton)
· A charger for the cell phone (that you can always stay in contact)
· Something to eat (just a snack, hotel food is really expensive)
· Chocolate (I love chocolate)
Yeah, that’s pretty much I have in my suitcase…
Then I have the so called “pilots kit’ which you can see every pilot has in his hand… This huge, uncomfortable thing in his hand, of which you get a pain in the back
Here a small list of what you can find in this:
· Approach, STAR, SID and area charts for the airports (a book of about 4 lbs)
· Atlas (that you can make PAX announces where you are right now)
· Biro (you really need to write a lot)
· Flashlight (is in the cockpit, too; but I always have one with me)
· My so called “very intelligent book” I put in all important things I need to know on each flight, like limitations, airport regulations or specials and so on
· Passport, licence, logbook, 737 system overview book
· And now the most important: Ray Ban sunglasses
After this is all set, I take a shower, shave and put on my uniform! Trousers, shirt, tie and the uniform- jacket and of course shoes… Last view into the mirror: well, yeah, I can leave the Apartment…
So I walk to my car, put the luggage in the trunk and here we go to the airport!
Get out of the car to the check in, because I am not flying from AB
) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA (Frankfurt). So I walked to the Lufthansa Check- in and received my business Class ticket to Nürnberg (NUE
). An hour later I walked into a 737-300 of Lufthansa. I was seating in the second row. We departed and during this unbelievable long flight of 35 minutes I got a meal!!!!! A sandwich, small salad and a dessert. I ordered fresh orange juice, yummy, this was delicious! We touched down in NUE
on time and I left the 737-300 of LH
and walked over to the Crew room. I walked into the room and nobody was there… Well, actually I had to wait another 30 minutes until anybody showed up. We need to be in the crew room an hour prior the scheduled time of departure (STD). On Friday our STD was 17:45 UTC
. At 16:40 the Captain and 4 F/A arrived also and we introduced ourselves… I didn’t know anybody of them. So, we were 2 male cockpit and 4 female F/A… The way it should be
The Cpt and I received our flight plans, weather, NOTAMS and other important things concerning our flight. For example, if we have any specials, like wheelchairs, deaf or blind people, UM
and so on…. On this day, we had nothing of them! The F/A’s do their briefing during this time. They talk about the aspects of an emergency! They have to talk about special things on special days, e.g. how to act during evacuation or unruly passenger!
The Cpt and I think about the fuel we need for this trip. You get an information what you have to take to be safe and legal. So, you need: taxi fuel, trip fuel, Contingency fuel, alternate fuel and final reserve. And if you like to some extra fuel. Usually you talk some kgs more with, to be on the safe side… Depends on weather, traffic situation, if you can fly in your planned cruising level, fly faster…. There are a lot of things.
Our flight was planned to BOJ (Bourgas in Bulgaria). We took about 800 kg of extra fuel, this is about 20 minutes extra (we calculate with 40 kg/ hour). So we had for this flight 8600 kgs fuel on board. 200 kgs are for taxi, so you take off with 8400 kgs of fuel in the tanks.
After all this, you call a crew bus and this will bring you to the aircraft (30 minutes to off block). On this day, I was pilot flying, so the captain did the walk around. I did all the cockpit checks. These are the minutes where you hit a lot of knobs and levers… You put the route into the FMS (Flight management System), the ZFW (Zero Fuel Weight), Cost index, cruising altitude, cruise wind, ISA deviation and the reserve fuel. Then you check the weather and enter the actual weather data into FMS and the actual altimeter setting you select on your altimeter. Then you get the SID Charts out of this huge book and tune the radios and Nav aids and radials for the departure. Usually you fly it with Flight Director and just follow the red line (well, actually it is magenta), but if the FMS fails, you have to fly it raw data (conventional). Therefore you do this setup. The captain comes into the cockpit, airplane is okay. He checks, that I haven’t forgotten anything. Then I give him the departure briefing. I tell him what we are going to fly and all the special aspects, e.g. in case of engine failure or if the runway is contaminated and so on…. After that, we read the first checklist, to make sure nothing was forgotten…
During this time, the passengers already entered the aircraft and the ramp agent brings us the load sheet and the actual passenger figures. The captain checks the figures and then he tells me the actual ZFW, which I enter into the FMS and then we compare the actual TOW (take off weight) with the calculated TOW in the FMS. Then he gives me the value for the MAC
(mean aerodynamic chord) and the actual passengers on board. The ramp agent leaves and the F/A closes the cockpit door and the door of the aircraft! Now, we do the tae off calculation. We take a look into a huge book with strange looking graphs in it. We get an assumed temperature for the derated take off (if possible) and the actual speeds: V1, Vr and V2
! We enter these values into the FMS and the Captain double checks them.
Now, we request the start up. You tell the guy (or lady) your callsign, where you park, sometimes the type of aircraft and the actual ATIS identifier. Then you receive the start up clearance and the IFR clearance. The answer of the controller sounds pretty much like this: “CALLSIGN, you are cleared to Destination PMI
, via DKB9K deparute, Flight plan route, Squawk 4444.” You have to read back it 100%.
So, all preparations are done in the cockpit for the push back, so you request push back. Push back approved. I hit some switches and we read another checklist.
The captain talks with the push back driver and then we start the push back. During the push back, we can start our two CFM 56-7 engines with 26k lbs thrust! At first number 2! The starter valve opens and the N2
increases… If the N2
reaches a specific value you raise the start lever to get fuel into the engine… The engine accelerates to a specific RPM and the starter valve closes and the engine is running. The same with engine no 1! The push back is done and I switch again on several buttons and switches. Now we shut down the APU, we don’t need it anymore, because, we get electric of the engine generators and fresh air of the engines.
The equipment is removed from the aircraft and we read another checklist.
Then we request taxi. We were taxiing to Runway 10 on this day. During the taxi, we set the flaps for the take off, check the flight controls and brief again the most important things for the take off. The most important things in this briefing are mostly about what we do, when somethings wrong. Then we get the “Cabin Ready” of the cabin. Now all is set for take off! “CALLSIGN wind: 100degrees, 8 knots, you are cleared for take off runway 10, bye bye!” We read this back and then we read the last checklist prior the take off. The Captain says to me: “You have control!” and I answer: “I have control!”. I advance the throttles slowly to about 40-45% N1 and then hit the TO
/GA buttons and the Autothrottle advances the thrust to the take off thrust setting! Now it is getting loud, you feel the acceleration and the speed increases fast!!! “80” “checked” “v1” “rotate” When you hear this magic word, you slowly pull on the yoke, the nose wheel lifts off and some seconds later the main gear lifts off too! You can hear it, how the Air/ Ground relay opens! This is the sign for the FMS that we are airborne now! “positive rate” “Gear up” and the gear starts to retract! Then I fly manually as long as I want to! Usually until passing FL
140 or more or less, depends… We retract the flaps and accelerate to 250KIAS below FL100… Above FL100 our climb speed depends on the weight: higher weight, higher speed and vice versa! We read another checklist and then the autopilots takes over the flying, but we monitor him all the time…
Now the less exciting part begins… The cruise! You make some paperwork, check here, check there, observe, talk on the radio, talk to the passengers, eat…
On this flight to BOJ it was getting darker and darker, so we could see a beautiful sunset….
The planned distance were about 850nm! We approached our top of descent. We put out our approach charts of BOJ and I gave him a briefing of the published VOR/DME
approach on rwy 04! There is no ILS! But we expected a visual approach! So, we descended and in about 10.000’ I switched off the autopilot and flew manually the visual approach! We were 90degress offset to the runway! I reduced the speed, ordered the captain to set the flaps, lower the landing gear and read another checklist. After all this was set, I aligned myself on the runway centreline and landed safely in BOJ! A smooth landing (yeah, really) and I hit the brakes and used a bit of reverser (just in some rare cases we use full reverser, most of the time only idle reverse) and we left the runway to the left and a marshaller guided us to our parking position. By the way, the passengers still clap after a landing at the airline I work. We shut down the engines and we read another checklist!! And now the most important thing: PAPERWORK! I hate it…. But it is part of it!
The flight back was pretty much the same, but on this flight, the captain was pilot flying and he did all what I did on the flight to BOJ.
At 23:25 UTC
we landed again in NUE
! That was 1:25am in Germany! So, we were all really tired, so I headed to my hotel and put off my clothes and took a shower and then went to bed and fell asleep really fast…
Next morning I woke up at about 10 am. I called a F/A (she was also in this hotel, but in her own room)
)) We wanted to meet at 11 am for Lunch and Breakfast… So, I got up, took another shower, shaved (again) and put on my usual clothes. We went to the town of Nürnberg by underground.
Now, the part of the layover comes…
We arrived at the Main station and checked the map, where to go! Nobody of us have ever been there before! So, we just walked in one direction where a lot of people headed to! I guess you all know how women are, when they see good shops… Yes, they cannot continue, they have to stop! And so did we! She went in the shop and she was looking here and there and here again… It took about 1 hour for shopping!! And I was so damn hungry… Well, it was not close 1 pm and we found a great restaurant and we ate a huge salad and I ate a steak with baked potatoes and she had noodles in a really tasty sauce! We had a coke with the diner (no alc 12 hours before flying)! After lunch we did some sightseeing. Just walked around the city and enjoyed the great weather we had! In the afternoon, we had to go back, because we had to fly again! Today: Nürnberg to Rhodos and back! STD was 16:00 UTC
! So, we went back to the hotel, changed our clothes and met in the lobby and went together to the crew room…. There we met the crew for this flight….
Well, this is pretty much what we do all day long. Sometimes you have more time in the layover, then you can go to a bar in the evening or perhaps swimming or biking, jogging, whatever you like to! We hadn’t so much time, so we decided just to visit the city. Most of the layovers are in germany! We only have one layover in PMI
and that’s it. This PMI
layover is really favourite! If the weather is great you can go swim in the sea… That’s pretty, cool, huh? If the complete crew has a layover, then it is usually a lot of fun! You meet, go eating, and then to a club or bar and just have fun! Laugh and just enjoy the time…
But there are also negative aspects. Some of the Crewmembers have family! The families are at home alone with children and we are sitting somewhere drinking a coke… but when you are solo (like I am
) then you can really enjoy these layovers…
The second night in Nürnberg I was completely alone in the hotel! No other crewmember! So you have to think about what you can do al day long! I was reading my book and then I went into the town again to check out, whats going on there on a Sunday! And I tell you: not much is going on there
In the afternoon back to the hotel and get dressed for the flight NUE
) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA! And Now it is 4 am, I landed 4 hours ago and take off again in 15 hours! AB
) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA-AYT-NUE
! But I live in AB
) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA, so I am not in a hotel, I am again in my small Apartment…
And I think I should go to bed now….
I hope you enjoyed this trip report….
Thank you for reading…
If you want to see some pictures, check my profile, there are some….
P.S.: sorry for mistakes I made, but English is not my mothertongue, I hope you can understand it anyways...