Pilots are an interesting subject of discussion, because their 9 to 5 isn’t exactly 9 to 5. It requires so much more than simply steering the aircraft. I sat down with one of my favorite pilots and asked him all about what he does. In one of the most fascinating discussions of my life, this is what I learned about how pilots train, what maneuvers they must do to pass flight checks and earn their stripes, and so much more.
They All Have to Ride Backseat
In order to earn their stripes – 3 of which are required for a commercial multi-engine license – they all must ride backseat on flights with their peers. They are expected to observe though they’ll all be happy to show you the spectacular birds-eye-view photos they’ve taken while up in the air.
Everyone Must Fly Solo
The first solo flight for a pilot is a big deal. They do this in a Cessna 172, a single-engine aircraft. There are 3 different kinds of solo flights, all must be completed before being awarded their first stripe. Two of those solo flights involve merely staying around the departure airport, while the third one involves a cross-country flight. In pilot talk, a cross-country flight isn’t something like New York to Los Angeles. In their terms, it is what is referred to when you leave one zoned airport, for example, Miami, and fly to another zone, like Jacksonville.
Flight Checks are Stressful
Pilots must practice many maneuvers before they attempt to pass a flight check. When passed, a flight check allows them to go on to the next level. Should they fail, they have a chance to try again but the pressure is double. During the flight check, they must complete all maneuvers asked of them as well as satisfy the flight instructor’s orders.
And speaking of maneuvers…
Perhaps the most fascinating thing a pilot can tell you about are the maneuvers he must excel at in order to become a pilot. Every maneuver requires that the pilot follow a specific procedure in order to perform it correctly. Like a checklist that he must adhere to at all times. Here are just some of the many maneuvers these guys are capable of:
There are two types of stalls. The first one involves shutting off the engine while in the air. As the plane stalls, the pilot recovers and turns it back on. The second type of stall involves a bit of physics and requires using the angles of the aircraft to create a stall while keeping the engine on. In both types, it’s essential for the pilot to recover the aircraft and keep it in the air.
While this one is never on the flight check, it is important for a pilot to practice. It involves the pilot coming in for a landing and simulating what it would be like if the speed on the approach was too high or some other factor that could affect a safe landing. In a go around, the pilot flies close to the ground as though to land and then goes into full power, pulling the plane back up into the air again.
Even if you like roller coasters, the spin maneuver might be a little too thrilling for you. It involves stalling the plane and letting it spiral. If this sounds like something you could handle, then you should absolutely become a pilot.
It’s Much More than Air Time Too
While it’s true that pilots spend a lot of time with their heads in the clouds navigating the blue skies above, on land they are often submerged in their studies. Every time they prepare to fly a new model of airplane, they must completely study everything about the aircraft. Think of it like taking the owner’s manual to your car and reading it backwards, forwards and inside out. Just remember though that you don’t need to read a manual to know how to drive your car, but a pilot needs to know every single part about the airplane he’s in command of.
They’re Excellent Planners
Knowing many pilots personally, I can tell you that these guys are always on time. That’s because they’re expected to adhere to a schedule. It’s good practice because you don’t want to get on an airplane with a pilot that has no regard for time. Additionally, when flying cross-country, they must develop their own flight plans and have them approved by their instructors. The determine checkpoints to keep a visual guide of their flight plus they must calculate things like fuel, time, and ground speed into their plan.
A pilot’s world is an incredibly interesting world, one that is much more complicated than you can ever imagine. The next time you fly, be sure to thank your pilot for a job well done. Chances are, he’ll be glad you noticed!