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Airline pilot: Job description

Airline pilots fly passengers and/or cargo on long or short-haul flights for leisure, business or commercial purposes.

The aircraft is typically operated by two pilots; one will be the captain who is the pilot in command, while the other will be the supporting first officer. The pilots will usually take turns to fly the plane to avoid fatigue, with one operating the controls while the other speaks to air traffic control and completes the paperwork. In some instances, such as long-haul flights, there may be three or four pilots on board so that the necessary breaks from flying can be taken.

The captain has the overall responsibility for the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft and the safety of crew and passengers.

Prior to the flight, pilots check flight plans, ensure that the aircraft's controls are operating efficiently and calculate the required fuel for the flight. They are also responsible for checking the weather conditions and briefing cabin crew.

Typical work activities

The job of a pilot comes with heavy responsibility and personal commitment. Stringent training courses have to be passed followed by recurrent training every six months in order to maintain the relevant licence required for the job.

There is more to the role than just flying the plane, which has to be done safely and economically, and tasks can typically include:

  • ensuring all information on the route, weather, passengers and aircraft is received;
  • using that information to create a flight plan which details the altitude for the flight, route to be taken and amount of fuel required;
  • ensuring the fuel levels balance safety with economy and supervising the loading and fuelling of the aircraft;
  • ensuring all safety systems are working properly;
  • briefing the cabin crew before the flight and maintaining regular contact throughout the flight;
  • carrying out pre-flight checks on the navigation and operating systems;
  • communicating with air traffic control before take-off and during flight and landing;
  • ensuring noise regulations are followed during take off and landing;
  • understanding and interpreting data from instruments and controls;
  • making regular checks on the aircraft's technical performance and position, on weather conditions and air traffic during flight;
  • communicating with passengers using the public address system;
  • reacting quickly and appropriately to environmental changes and emergencies;
  • updating the aircraft logbook and writing a report at the end of the flight noting any incidents or problems with the aircraft.

Have you considered these other jobs?

 
 
AGCAS
Written by Laura Stanley, University of Wolverhampton
Date: 
March 2013
 
 

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