Ever Wondered What Pilots Do On Long Haul Flights?

On a typical long-haul flight, most of us watch movies, read books, sleep or drink some wine to pass our time. But have you ever wondered what pilots do?

While we are trying to relax and hoping for the flight to end as soon as possible, pilots are doing just the opposite.

Even though most airline pilots switch to autopilot seconds after take-off, they still have plenty of work to do.

To give you a glimpse of life inside an airplane cockpit, here are a few ways in which pilots keep themselves occupied on long flights.

1.Monitor Weather Changes

Weather is a huge hurdle for pilots on a long flight!

On an average, the temperature outside the airplane in mid-air is about -76 degree Fahrenheit and on a single flight, the pilot has to fly through 3 to 4 weather changes varying in type, intensity and level of difficulty.

Most of the airplanes today have advanced ‘Weather Mapping’ technology that can help the pilots in this case. They are trained to monitor and anticipate the weather changes which may happen on their flight route.

2. Constant Communication

There are multiple radio systems for pilots inside an airplane.

They have to constantly communicate for reports of weather turbulence or other unexpected problems, which cannot be picked up by a radar.

One pilot is responsible for talking to the Air Traffic Control, in case there needs to be a change in the course to avoid a thunderstorm, while the other pilots maintain ‘Air -To-Air’ communication between airplanes on their same flight path.

For Instance, in remote areas of the airspace, pilots tune in to a common frequency to check on weather severity and time taken to reach a particular destination.

3.Act As The Primary Authority

Once you’re onboard and the airplane’s door is shut, the pilot or ‘Captain’ is responsible for everyone inside the cabin.

They have to solve all the major issues that may happen during a flight and are legally the primary authority. Even though the laws governing a pilot’s jurisdiction is complicated, the pilot’s word is accepted as the final judgement, globally.

They have to decide whether the flight needs to be diverted in case a passenger situation arises and are responsible for it.

4.Planning & Analysis

Most of the work pilots do is strategically thought of!

This is mainly due to the fact that airplanes are complicated machines and at 30000 feet , they cant leave anything to chance.

Airplanes have numerous gauges and other systems, such as engine oil pressure, hydraulic fluid contents and cabin temperature, which they have to analyse at regular intervals.

For Instance, airplanes don’t carry an abundance of extra fuel to save on costs and it is the pilots job to do the calculation throughout the flight to make sure they have enough fuel to reach their destination.

5. Keep Flight Record

While one pilot monitors all the systems, the other pilot has to do all the paperwork.

Pilots are given a ‘Flight Plan’ before their departure, and they are responsible to keep a record of any changes to that plan throughout the duration of the flight.

These notes have to be so detailed, that the inspector is able to recreate the aircraft’s exact flight path based on it.

6.Monitor Auto Pilot

Auto Pilot is not a device you set and forget about. It won’t fly the airplane according to what the pilot is thinking. It has to be programmed correctly to fly on a certain path.

If it’s not done right, there can be a huge problem for the pilot and the airline as well. On an average, monitoring an auto pilot system takes 20 % of a pilot’s flight time.

7. Eat Their Meal

We know it sounds a bit obvious, but there is an interesting fact attached to this.

Pilots have a choice to have food from the business or first class but they are not allowed to eat the same meal, to avoid food poisoning.

Also, pilots usually eat after the passengers have had their meal service. If they feel like snacking at unusual hours, they have access to a tray of snacks, salads, and sandwiches

The pilots can eat in the cockpit, but they tend to not eat at the same time so that one of them is always at the controls.


If all airplane gauges look good, it is flying smoothly and there is peace inside the cabin, pilots often take a break and relax.

They take breaks at different intervals of the flight and the length of it varies. This is because the break time of a pilot is governed by a complex set of rules and regulations based on the pilot’s individual work day.

To counter fatigue, airlines usually have extra pilots on a 12 hour or more flight. This gives the captain time to slide into the bunk space just behind the cockpit to sleep, read, or just relax.

Pilots take care of you in the sky, but if you want someone to help you on the ground, look no further. Simply download the AirWhizz App to get all your information you need about airlines and airports along with Real-Time Flight updates to plan your trip on the move.

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