A career as a pilot is an esteemed profession, hidden behind a closed flight deck door that attracts plenty of curiosity.
From ‘do you start it with a key?’ to what happens on board if there's a medical emergency, we take a look at eight common asked questions about flying - and our pilots debunk the myths that surround them.
#1 Is everything on autopilot?
Or ‘doesn’t the plane do it all anyway?’ The short answer is no.
Think about cruise control in your car, its takes away some of the work, but you are still in full control of the vehicle. Autopilot works in the same way.
During the cruise, if autopilot is engaged it works to achieve the desired aircraft flight path as programmed by the pilot.
Thrust or power - Authothrust sets the Thrust/Power to help achieve the desired speed.
Roll - Dictates the aircraft heading using the Ailerons (nice name…)
Pitch - Controls how high/low the aircraft nose is pointing with use of the elevators.
Yaw - Ensures the aircraft nose is pointing in the correct direction laterally with use of the rudder. This is usually just kept in a neutral location by the autopilot in straight and level flight. However in the case of an engine failure the rudder will be required to account for asymmetric thrust.
Autopilot does not work without pilot input and cannot independently interact with air traffic control, or make its own decisions based on threats, environmental changes and weather. It requires constant pilot monitoring or new input.
Auto pilot does not mean disengage brain!
There are many things an autopilot cannot do, some of which are listed below:
#2 Do Co-Pilots actually get to fly the plane?
The phrase co-pilot is used to describe a pilot other than the one in command (Captain), but is it always only the Captain that owns control?
The short answer is no, but it depends what rank you are and which airline you work for.
In short haul aircraft like the A320 and B737 there are usually only two pilots, Captain and Co-Pilot and most airlines will encourage the pilots to alternate the ‘Pilot Flying’ to allow both pilots to practice their skills and get up their hours they need to log to progress in their career.
In long haul airlines, the co-pilot could be simply a cruise relief pilot. They will ‘fly’ the plane but this may only be in the cruise whilst operating the autopilot. They will eventually progress to carrying out landings and take-offs.
Regular flying is why Co-Pilots at short haul airlines can sometimes progress to become a Captain in half the time (from four years) it can take at long haul airlines (around 10 years).