Every pilot receives his schedule once a month, listing flight- or instructor’s duties.
Every flight number signifies one-leg, out- or in-bound route.
For instance: Zurich – Paris: LX 635
Paris – Zurich: LX 635
Zurich – Hong Kong – Manila: LX 136
Manila – Hong Kong – Zurich: LX 137
On the basis of a Crew Time Table the pilot prepares himself approximately one day ahead of Departure accordingly.
- Flight number, departure and arrival, also change of time-zone
- Route information, air traffic control areas, general climate and weather, high terrains,
- Intermediate aerodromes
- Destination information (arrival charts & procedures, flight information &procedures)
- Emergency equipment procedures & check lists to be studied
- Hotel information: local facilities (fitness, restaurants etc.)
- Crew-call and pick-up time.
Prior to departure / day of duty
On the day of departure check-in time is 1 to 1½ hours before take-off at the latest in the OPS Center. Cockpit-crew meets there alone followed by a joint preflight briefing with the cabin crew. Beforehand the captain and copilot will get the crew list so that they know who is part of the crew. At the ELS, Meteo and dispatch the cockpit crew receives relevant flight information, in order to complete the flight planning. During briefing the cockpit crew informs the cabin-crew about the route, weather conditions, duration of flight and possible specialties about the respective aircraft.
The cabin-crew discusses passenger numbers, meals, flight procedure and organization of services. Special care duties, such as unaccompanied children or medical cases are being assigned. Emergency procedures with spot -checks are made, local destination procedures, hotel information and mentionable items regarding the destination are being discussed. Approximately 40 – 60 minutes before departure following joint preparation, the crew will be picked up by the crew-bus and brought to the aircraft.
On the plane
The co-pilot starts with the preflight checklist, to examine if everything is in order and the captain does the PFC (Preflight check). He makes a walk around using a checklist. This means he is Checking tyres, hydraulic leaks, engines and whether there are any irregularities.
In the meantime the co-pilot inserts all data requested (take-off cross weight, routing, load information etc.) and programs the flight management system FMS and sets the communication frequencies. The passenger boarding begins. The Maître de Cabine, and if time permits, the captain or first officer are welcoming the passengers After completing the boarding the Red Cap informs the captain about aircraft loading completed and the load-sheet is being delivered. The load sheet lists passenger data, cargo, baggage mail, and center of gravity calculations. Once verification of the load-sheet, which also includes the correct head-count of passengers, the last door will be locked and the aircraft is ready for start-up.
Take-off / Flight
After receiving permission by ATC Controller the take-off roll begins. The work sharing is such that one pilot is responsible for the flying operation and the other takes care of radio communication and acts as assistant. The responsibility of the flight naturally lies with the captain during the entire rotation. Both pilots are totally concentrated with the take-off phase. The flying pilot keeps the aircraft rolling on the runway centerline and the non-flying pilot monitors the instruments and calls out V1 (take-off decision speed) followed by V-rotate (aircraft rotation speed). In climb established and autopilot engaged, communication contact, continuous monitoring and adjusting of relevant parameters for the flight operations have to be performed. Follow-up on automatics and systems must be checked during the entire flight. Once reaching cruising altitude,sufficient flying time and workload permitting, pilots can expect a planned crew meal. Since Sept. 11. 2001, cockpit visits by passengers are, for security reasons, no longer permitted. The only visitors allowed during a flight are cabin-crew-members.
Landing / stop over
Depending on the length of the flight approx. 30 minutes before arrival, preparations for landing are taken. Crew awareness for eventual alternate airport re-planning are part of this procedure. This concerns latest weather conditions at destination. Fuel reserves and possible passenger handling have to be re-checked.
Following landing and after goodbye to passengers the aircraft will be prepared for either the return flight (European routes) or secured for a night stop, or in case of long-distance routes, for handing-over the aircraft to a new crew. Crewmembers then will proceed through custom clearance and fetch their luggage. A hotel shuttle-bus usually waits in front of the airport and then will bring the crew to the designated hotel where reservations have been made. It depends on how the schedule is set the crew is off for either a few hours or lay-over-time (night/day). On those days time is at their disposal, such as excursions, visiting friends, whatever the crew members desire.
For the return flight from abroad (home-bound) the crew meets at the stipulated time in the hotel lobby for homebound departure to the airport. Proceedings are pretty much according to the out bound flight.
After a rotation / pairing all crew members are free for a specific number of days before the next assigned duty.
Now and then every pilot has ‘on-call duty’. This means that he has to be ready for flight duty within 1 to 2 hours, be it, because someone became ill, had an accident or because of some changes in the flight operations. After some years of experience pilots may possibly have a chance to become an instructor, an additional challenge to a pilot’s career. Every pilot is assigned to one type of aircraft only, except when aircrafts are of very similar flying characteristics such as Airbus A 320 and A 330. Someone flying a MD11 cannot fly another type of aircraft at the same time. After several years the co-pilot may be called to take a promotional training to captaincy. Every six months pilots have to perform a mandatory proficiency check. In this simulator-check He/she has to prove his standard of performance, whereby his flying skills are to be checked, such as
handling emergencies and dealing with various technical mal-functions and problems. In addition, every pilot has to undergo a medical check once or twice a year in order to examine their state of health.