Skyscanner Australia has interviewed an anonymous female airline pilot who has been flying the skies on large passenger aircraft on domestic flights and international flights for nine years. Here are her insights on life as a pilot.
So you’ve booked your cheap flights and the best hotels for your budget and you are ready for your holiday. But what about the people in the nose of the plane? What’s life like for them?
How do people become pilots?
Typically there are two ways. You either go through a military-style training route, with the army or air force, and then transfer those skills to the civilian world, or you do it privately. Some people complete an instructor rating course and stay on in a flying school to get their flying hours up and get exposure to different aircraft. Alternatively, they get out to rural areas like the Northern Territory and work their way up from light aircraft with a single propeller to twin-engine planes.
How many hours of flying do you need to join a major airline?
The minimum requirement is 1,000 hours, with 500 hours of that as a pilot in command in a multi-engine plane. But some airlines also offer staggered training where they can bring you up to the minimum hours they need.
What are the pros and cons of being a pilot?
For me, a huge thing is the people I work with, the cabin crew and other pilots. Shift work has its ups and downs. It’s nice to have three or four days off in a row, but sometimes you might get up at four am, or you finish at one am. We do get staff travel rates or industry rates on flights, hotels, car hire and at some theme parks too.
What about ongoing training?
On the 737 fleet within Australia, we have two training sessions a year in a simulator. If you fly long haul you have to do fewer takeoffs and landings, so we have an extra two training sessions a year practising taking off and landing and other manoeuvres.
We also have an Annual Line Check, where an examiner flies with us and makes sure we are good at what we do. There’s safety and emergency procedure training too, which is all about things like life rafts and safety equipment.
We have other types of training every two years, where we refresh our knowledge about things like dangerous goods, team management, stress management, and how to deal with unruly or dangerous passengers.
How many pilots are there on a commercial flight?
There needs to be a minimum of two pilots on the flight deck. The Captain and the First Officer have a discussion about who is flying and who is monitoring. Typically they share tasks 50-50. One is in charge of the controls and maintains the flight path and the other does the radio calls, the paperwork and offers general support.
How much of a flight does the pilot physically fly the plane?
It depends on the flying conditions, how rough the weather is, or how tired you are, but typically we fly it for three or four minutes from take off to 5,000 or 10,000 feet and then we engage the autopilot. It’s similar for landing. Modern planes can land themselves but most pilots prefer to do it. We generally disengage the autopilot at around 2,000 feet and fly the plane for around two minutes.