Question: What is a typical flight schedule for a pilot during a full week?
– submitted by reader Bob, Fort Myers, Florida
Answer: It varies significantly depending on the type of flying a pilot is doing. Pilots flying very long-haul, such as LAX to Sydney, will only fly two legs during the week, while a regional pilot may make 30 or more takeoffs and landings that same week.
In recent years fatigue management has improved, but crew fatigue remains a significant issue. Pilots fly at all hours of the day and night, often crossing numerous time zones.
There are a variety of trip types with different number of legs per day and rest periods.
It is not possible to give you a typical week’s schedule. The hard-working men and women that fly our airliners adjust to these varied demands every month.
Q: I know a general aviation pilot who is very proud of logging 1,000 hours. How does that compare to commercial or military pilot hours? He also made me wonder about the levels and types of licenses and certifications a pilot can get. Is there some kind of bottom to top ranking of flight privileges?
– Bill, Cleveland
A: Airline pilots have thousands of flying hours. Your friend has good experience for a general aviation pilot.
Airline pilots often fly over 700 hours a year, some near 1,000.
In the U.S., the progression of pilot licenses is Private, Commercial, Airline Transport.
There are ratings that are added to the licenses for instrument flying, multi-engine, glider, sea plane or lighter than air.
Q: How much time does it take to accumulate 1,500 hours of flying?
A: It depends on how often you can fly. While some pilots top 1,000 hours per year, 500 is more common.
Talking to the young men and women entering aviation via the flight instructor path, they tell me it takes two to three years to meet the 1,500 hours necessary to fly for a U.S. airline.
Q: Over the years, as planes have become more automated and autopilot functionality has improved, has that changed the calculation for “hours in command” or “hours on duty,” since a pilot is doing less work to fly the plane?
– Eric, Orlando, Florida
A: No, a pilot logs time when he or she is acting as pilot in command or second in command. Managing complex auto-flight systems is considered part of the duties, so it counts as flight time in the logbook.
Duty time remains the same too. When a pilot reports for the pre-flight planning until the post-flight duties are complete, he or she is on duty.
John Cox is a retired airline captain with US Airways and runs his own aviation safety consulting company, Safety Operating Systems.
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