Hi everyone, my name is Eric, I’m an Airbus A320 First Officer and I’ll be taking you along with me (virtually) for a week at work!
Whether you’re in training or looking forward to starting training, you might be wondering how we actually organise our lives doing this job. So here I am, and the first thing I’ll tell you is that our “weeks” don’t always start with a Monday morning.
That’s right. My working pattern this week has started on a Friday!
Starting off with a 4-sector day
FRIDAY The end of the actual week for everyone else is the start of mine!
I’m flying over the weekend, having two 4-sector days and one day with a long journey.
Today is SXF-EDI (Berlin Schönefeld -Edinburgh). By this I don’t mean flying from Berlin to Edinburgh but instead operating the London-Berlin and return, then London-Edinburgh and return. This will be a total of 4 flights, or ‘sectors’, in one day.
I flew the first flight of the day, London-Berlin and the last flight of the day, Edinburgh-London, with the Captain flying the middle two.
The weather was good everywhere, which made this a textbook day!
I returned home at 21:15 and went to bed about an hour later to get some well-deserved rest.
SATURDAY I had a great start to the weekend, flying the very first A320 NEO delivered, down to Tenerife.
This new aircraft provides 15% savings in fuel consumption, and produces half the noise of a standard A320! Plus flying it to the beautiful landscapes of Tenerife was a real luxury.
The flight time was a bit too long for my taste, just over 4 hours outbound, and 4 and a half on the return, due to a head wind of almost 100 knots.
We reported at 11:30 for this flight, and landed back in London at 22:00 - long day, second only to the London-Tel Aviv route!
This week I have only had scheduled 3 days of work.
SUNDAY is my last day at work before days off!
It was another 4-sector day, to Inverness and Paris. Once again I agreed with the Captain to fly the first and last sector, as I fancied a landing in Inverness, which I decided to fly fully manual, meaning with no autopilot and no auto thrust from around 7000 feet. What we do usually instead, especially due to the congestion of other places we fly to, is keep the autopilot engaged until around 1000 feet, when already aligned to the runway, and leaving the auto thrust engaged fully until touch down.
It is also important for us to maintain good manual flying skills so whenever workload and traffic around us permits we do go full manual, and it’s a real pleasure to fly ‘the bus’ like you would in a Piper (…well, sort of!)
The Captain then flew us back to London and onto Paris, which is a massive airport with long taxi routes to get onto stand. This can be made even more confusing by the use of French instead of English between the Tower and the French pilots, when talking on the radio
But, having flown there many times we begin to learn where to go, from memory.
On the last flight, my sector back to London, we had a little “event” on the take-off roll as well, definitely a first for me…
As I was speeding down the runway waiting to reach the rotation speed, in the light beam of the landing lights appeared an animal of the dimensions of a cat approximately, I reckon it was a rabbit but I couldn’t distinguish it at that speed (around 185mph!) in the middle of the runway!
It appeared to be trying to cross the runway from one side to the other and as it got just left of centerline, pretty much aligned with engine 1, it decided to go back to the centerline - thankfully!
Thankfully because it would have been much better to hit it with the nose gear then with one engine, if we really had to hit it at all!
Fortunately as soon as the Captain called ‘rotate’ (pull up) I immediately lifted the nose gear then continued with take-off procedures.
We monitored the engine parameters just to make sure the little ball of fur didn’t smash a couple blades, and acknowledging that everything was good, we carried on to London, which made for a lovely view as the sky was clear - something rarely seen in the UK!
I must admit my heart beat was rapid during take-off in Paris, but with a deep breath everything came back to normality. So is life in this field - something happens, take a deep breath and deal with it. I believe that to be the biggest learning point of flight training, you can be the best at securing an engine on fire, but if you get caught by panic or anxiety, it’s another story altogether!
Now I’m onto 3 days off, then I have a flight to Tel Aviv, then 2 weeks of holiday, for which I will travel to Milan to visit family and friends!
After all, once you’re in the industry, taking a plane truly becomes equivalent to taking a cab into town…
I hope you enjoyed this brief breakdown of a Pilot’s work week!
To the ones about to start or that are undergoing flight training, good luck!
Happy Landings everybody!