Love long haul flights

What do pilots actually do on long-haul flights?

From TRAVELBOOK | October 16, 2018, 5:37 pm

Some love them, some hate them: we're talking about long-haul flights. While many do not know what to do with themselves over the long period and get restless in their seats, others simply let the on-board program shower themselves or take a nap before the holiday begins. Much more interesting, however, is the question of how pilots pass the time - especially while the machine is being controlled by autopilot.

Do pilots also have small televisions in the cockpit that they can use to watch films? Or do they fold their seats back and take a nap in between? TRAVELBOOK asked the Cockpit Association what the tasks of a pilot during a long-haul flight actually are - and what exactly his break looks like.

Read the best travel stories in advance for free! Register now for the TRAVELBOOK newsletter!

What are the tasks of the pilots during a long-haul flight?

The number of pilots on a long-haul flight varies depending on the long haul and airline, as Janis Schmitt, Head of Press and Public Relations at the Cockpit Association, explains when asked by TRAVELBOOK. For flights between eight and nine hours, often only two pilots would be deployed, with flight times around 13 hours (for example from Germany to the US east coast) in many cases three pilots would be deployed: a captain, a senior first officer (SFO) and a copilot or first officer.

During a long-haul flight, two of the pilots, the senior first officer and the first officer, monitor the system and the current course of the weather, says Schmitt. "With long-haul flights you never know exactly how the weather will develop, you have to keep an eye on that." You also fly over oceans, where there is sometimes no real radio contact because the radio systems would not reach that far. In such cases, you have to exchange information via a so-called ACARS system and submit your position reports - i.e. the location, the height and the speed of the machine.

In addition, all parameters must be constantly monitored in flight: “Under certain circumstances, you cannot reach an airport for hours. Pilots have to constantly consider which airport is the closest to which they can fly in the event of an incident. "

In between, pilots are allowed to talk to each other on flights, as a former Lufthansa pilot confirmed to TRAVELBOOK. The only restriction when chatting in the cockpit: The pilots must always be attentive and not allow themselves to be distracted by their conversations.

When do pilots take a break - and what are they allowed to do?

According to Schmitt, pilots usually decide among themselves when who goes to take a break. The length of the break depends on the route; on a ten-hour flight, each pilot has a break of around two and a half to three hours. “How pilots can spend their break depends on the airline. Some offer sleeping compartments with beds. But there are other societies that do not have this option. At Air Berlin, for example, there was no such thing. There was a seat in the business class that could be separated from the rest of the cabin with a curtain, where pilots could take their break. At Lufthansa there is a so-called crew rest area for the cabin crew and the staff in the cockpit. "

On even longer flights, such as the one from Singapore to New York, which takes almost 19 hours, there are even two complete crews on board: four pilots and two crews in the passenger compartment. “In principle, one can say that the longer the flight, the more personnel are required. This is justified, among other things, with the breaks that one is entitled to after a certain number of hours. Then there are the different time zones that affect the body's biorhythm, ”explains Schmitt.

Your data security when using the share function