One of the first things that an aspiring pilot will learn about their vocation is that it isn’t like the typical 9-to-5 job. Although the world of aviation demands a rigorous, structured, and disciplined way of life from pilots—even as early as when they’re in aviation school—it differs from that of a regular job, where schedules are often fixed for the day or for the week. Image Credit: Pexels
For someone who wishes to graduate from a pilot school in the Philippines and eventually become an airline pilot, what should they expect? What factors dictate an airline pilot’s schedule, and how should they prepare for the job?
To answer these questions, here’s a glimpse into the regular life of an airline pilot. If it’s your dream to complete aviation school and earn credentials like an airline transport pilot license (ATPL) and type ratings, this is the kind of life you should plan for.
What Factors Affect an Airline Pilot’s Schedule?
First things first, no two commercial airline pilots can expect to have the same schedules. An individual pilot’s schedule for the month depends on several factors, including the following:
Their Existing Company Contracts
The pilot’s contract with their employer is the primary basis for how many hours they’re in the air, the maximum number of flight hours they can accumulate, and how much they get paid per hour. In the Philippines, these company contracts—and subsequently, the employment schedules that pilots are expected to follow—are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
Airline pilots’ monthly schedules also depend on their seniority, or their rank relative to other pilots who are employed in the same fleet. The most experienced pilots who’ve been with the company longer can bid for their preferred schedules, and they usually get first dibs on the most favorable arrangements.
How Many Flights Are Scheduled for the Month
Of course, another factor is how many flights are actually scheduled to leave the airport in the coming month. The final schedules depend on variables like customer demand, the availability of aircrafts, and additional regulations set by governing bodies (for example, how many flights are permitted to leave the country in alignment with the country’s COVID-19 response).
The Aircraft They’re Scheduled to Fly
Lastly, some schedules are dictated by the aircraft that will be flown and the pilot’s readiness to fly them. For example, if the airline’s Airbus A320 is meant to ply a particular route during a certain week, a pilot with the credentials to fly this aircraft and to occupy a seat on its flight deck may be scheduled for those flights.
Some Important Considerations Pilots Make Before Flying
Other logistical and technical considerations that affect an airline pilot’s final monthly schedule include these:
What Are Other Pilots’ Schedules Like?
The fleet’s monthly schedule serves as a basic structure for all its pilots to follow. But in case of emergencies on the part of staff, like a pilot getting sick or injured, the schedule should be adjusted so that a pilot on reserve duty can step in. Pilots on reserve duty are either summoned on “short call,” which means that they should report to work within 2 to 3 hours, or “long call,” which means that they must be ready for duty in the next 12 to 14 hours.
What’s the Weather Like?
Meteorological conditions can also affect airlines’ flying schedules. If it isn’t safe to fly due to a thunderstorm, hailstorm, strong winds, fog, or other bad weather condition, pilots may see their initial flights delayed or cancelled entirely.
What Other Issues Are Affecting the Flight Schedule?
Technical problems like engine trouble and maintenance issues may also keep a plane on the ground for longer than expected. In these cases, pilots get their schedules adjusted and are required to wait until it’s safe to fly again.
Final Words: Time Management, Coordination, and Wellness Tips for Pilots
Now that you have a rough idea of how your monthly flying schedule may be determined, below are a few tips that will ease you into the pilot’s life.
Account for Your Monthly Schedule
It’ll be tiresome work to keep abreast of all of the updates to your schedule, but no one else can do that job for you. Find the most effective way to remind yourself of your upcoming schedule, such as through notifications on one of your mobile devices.
Maintain Open Lines of Communication with Your Employer, Colleagues, and Crewmates
An airline’s flying schedule can only run smoothly if its team members communicate honestly and frequently. It should be second nature for you to check your calls, messages, and emails and to exchange info on your whereabouts with your superiors, fellow pilots, and crew members.
Eat Well, Sleep Well, and Keep Your Body and Mind in Good Shape
Regardless of whether your schedule will be observed to the tee, always make sure that you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to fly whenever duty calls. Get enough rest every night, eat healthy and balanced meals, and observe work-life balance for the times you’re not actually in the air.
Basing it off of your monthly schedule, your life as a commercial airline pilot will not be an easy one. But once you get into the groove of it, you’ll be rewarded with perks like an increasingly competitive salary, upwards career mobility, and lots of time to do what you love—that is, flying from one awesome destination to another.