This seems obvious, but that is not the case. It is true that in general terms being a pilot means to be at the controls of an aircraft with the goal of transporting passengers or freight. However, the duties a pilot is responsible for go beyond “simply” flying an aircraft.
Although it will all depend on the type of flight license that you have obtained, let us clarify this topic. If you already have, or are preparing to obtain, a Private Pilot License (PPL), your competences will only allow you to act as a pilot flying for no remuneration. If you have a Commercial Pilot License (CPL), you are legally allowed to fly aircraft that are not involved in commercial air transportation, unless the aircraft is certified for single-pilot operations. Lastly, if you are in possession of an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), you can be a commercial pilot working for an airline and carry out all the previously mentioned competences.
We will now tell you about the main duties you will face as a commercial airline pilot.
What does an airplane pilot do? The most common duties
The pilot of a commercial aircraft may carry out flights (long or short haul) to destinations worldwide. Under your command, you will likely have a cabin crew, which will be responsible for the needs of the passengers.
Most airplanes are controlled by at least two pilots in the cockpit: captain and first officer. The captain, also known as the commander, will be in charge of the control of the aircraft, also while being responsible for the safety of the aircraft, passengers, and cargo. On the other hand, the first officer will be the one assisting the captain whilst they are at the controls of the aircraft, for instance communicating with air traffic control, carrying out any calculations necessary for the correct and safe operation of the flight, checking any necessary documentation, and at times, also flying the aircraft.
Among the daily tasks of an airplane pilot, you can find the following:
- Specifying and explaining the details of the flight plan to the crew.
- Examining all the technical aspects and controls of the aircraft prior to departure.
- Checking meteorological conditions for the flight.
- Reporting any incident.
- Requesting clearance for takeoff and landing.
- Flying the aircraft.
- Maintaining communication with air traffic control.
- Switch between tasks with the copilot to avoid fatigue.
Having reviewed some of the general tasks a pilot is responsible for, let us elaborate them further, in addition to mentioning other specific duties you should know:
Elaboration of the flight plan
- Obtaining the takeoff, landing, and enroute weather forecasts.
- Planning the routes and transfers.
- Controlling and, if necessary, modifying the weight and balance of the aircraft.
Permissions for takeoff and landing
- Coordinating the actions and movement of the aircraft with air traffic control, to ensure a smooth and safe operation during these maneuvers, keeping the runway and airspace free from any dangerous situation. These are normally the most delicate phases of the flight.
Supervision, repair, and elaboration of mechanical systems
- Carrying out continuous checks before the flight, with ground engineers, and during the flight, by monitoring various parameters and indications. This implies the checking of:
- Fuel loading.
- Air traffic.
- Performance of the aircraft.
- Guaranteeing the correct functioning of every system.
- The distribution of passengers and cargo to ensure correct weight and balance,
- Fuel consumption calculations in accordance with the weight of the aircraft and the distance remaining.
Flying the aircraft
- Starting the engines and following the takeoff procedure.
- Handling the controls of the aircraft throughout the entire flight.
- Flying the aircraft following the established routes and patterns.
- Maneuvering the aircraft at an optimum altitude and speed.
- Giving the crew instructions onboard and coordinating with them the takeoff and landing procedures, amongst others.
- Monitoring the engine parameters, fuel consumption, and other systems during the flight.
- Preparing for landing following the applicable procedures.
- Rerouting the flight path if necessary.
- Taxiing the aircraft on the ground until its final parking position after landing.
Communications with ATC
- Being in constant contact with air traffic control.
- Requesting clearance and instructions for takeoff and landing.
- Informing about the position and state of the aircraft.
Communication with the passengers
- Keeping your passengers informed about weather conditions and other relevant topics that may affect the flight.
- Informing the crew about any incident that may occur during the flight.
Making decisions in case of an emergency
- Being alert at all times with the objective of being prepared to act rapidly against any warning or change in the normal operating conditions of the flight.
- Deciding what to act on and what maneuvers to carry out in case of emergency.
- Drafting reports after each flight indicating difficulties or problems that arose during the operation of the flight, such as the failure of an instrument.
Do you have what it takes to be a pilot?
Being a pilot is a great responsibility. The lives of the passengers you have onboard depend on your good doing, preparation, and training. If you do not know how much it costs, and how to get to be an airplane pilot, you must know that flying an aircraft requires lots of different skills and competences, all of which you will obtain through the different types of pilot licenses and courses. By training to obtain the mentioned licenses, you will learn about subjects such as air law, aircraft structures, systems, engines, mass and balance, flight planning, meteorology, different sorts of navigation, VFR and IFR communications, and technical English, along with other studies.
Discussing the personal and psychological characteristics, a pilot must stand out by:
- Their ability to remain calm under pressure.
- Teamwork and leadership.
- Good coordination and spatial awareness.
- Effective communication abilities.
- Capacity to assume responsibilities.
- Good health and physical shape.
- Good level of English
Do you think you have what it takes to be a pilot? At European Flyers, we offer you a wide range of airplane, helicopter, and drone pilot courses, from integrated to modular and even online, always guaranteeing the best resources and the most advanced technology in the market. Contact us and we can help you achieve your dream of becoming a pilot. Let’s fly!