How Do Pilots Prepare For A Flight?

A pilot has an important and difficult job to do, especially when he has the added responsibility of passengers’ and crew members’ safety. Needless to say, flight preparation is crucial to a successful journey. Read on if you have ever wondered how pilots prepare for a flight.

How Do Pilots Prepare For A Flight?
Pilots have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, and flight preparation is key to ensuring the safety of passengers and crew. Photo: Oliver Holzbauer via Flickr

The flight crew

On commercial airlines, the flight crew will consist of at least two pilots. These are designated as the captain as first in command, and the first officer as second in command. On flights where three pilots are present, there will also be a position for a second officer or flight engineer. With newer aircraft outfitted with modern monitoring equipment, the use of a flight engineer on an aircraft is slowly being phased out.

Pre-flight briefing

A pilot usually arrives at the airport a number of hours before a flight. This is the opportunity for the flight crew to go over the details of the flight and to ensure that the administrative procedures have been followed correctly. During this period, the pilot will be looking at the route and flight details prepared for him or her and analyzing it thoroughly.

At this point in time, further data is observed in order to prepare the pilot for weather conditions en route. Planning is made at this stage for the correct amount of fuel required for the flight. The next vital part of the pre-flight analysis will be verifying the altitude and speed the aircraft will be traveling and ensuring that these details are correct. These discussions will also include alternative plans should the need arise to adapt to new conditions or circumstances.

The captain and flight crew will also meet with the crew of the aircraft on its previous flight to run over issues encountered, if any. Once all the details have been confirmed and discussed with the entire flight crew, the pilot is ready to move to the aircraft.

Pre-flight inspection

Once the flight crew reaches the aircraft, the pre-flight inspection of the aircraft being used takes place. Whilst the captain briefs the cabin crew, the first officer will proceed in doing the physical inspection to ensure that everything is in order and that the aircraft is safe to fly.

After completing the physical inspection, the pilot(s) will convene in the cockpit to do a check of the controls and flight software. This check includes confirming that the communications system is working, as well as the emergency procedures.

How Do Pilots Prepare For A Flight?
Communications checks are extremely important during the cockpit inspection. Photo: Alessandro Caproni via Flickr

Once the crew is satisfied that the aircraft is ready for departure and in good working order, the captain will sign the flight release. The flight release confirms the condition of the crew and that the pilots have reviewed all the required information.

Take off preparation

The final paperwork to be completed is the pre-departure clearance form, as received from the control tower. Once the pilots have the final administration completed, the cabin crew is instructed to close all the doors and the captain gives the order to push back from the gate. At this point, the aircraft is ready to taxi to the runway and prepare to take off.

How Do Pilots Prepare For A Flight?
Once all checks have been completed, the captain will give the order to push back, ending the pre-flight preparations. Photo: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr

As technological development leads to innovation in aircraft systems, one wonders at which point pilots may become obsolete. As referenced earlier, flight engineers are already being phased out. Will commercial airliners follow the self-driving car, or will it forever remain vital to have a pilot in the cockpit?