Let me take you through an everyday flight.
- You get to the office and have a short briefing with your colleague about the flight ie. weather on departure, en-route and arrival, significant notices from airports, technical status of the aircraft you’re flying for the day.
- You then proceed with your crew to the aircraft and get started with your preflight preparation. Setting up the aircraft for departure, listening to the latest weather report from the aerodrome, feeding in the details of the flight into the Flight Management Computers, calculating fuel required for the route and also performance (take off speeds).
- Once that’s done, you pushback, taxi out to the runway and prepare the aircraft for take off. Once you’re airborne, you engage the autopilot if you feel like. Here’s where people are mistaken. The plane just doesn’t fly itself on autopilot. You still control its parameters ie. speed, heading, altitude, etc.
- Once you’re settled in the cruise, you need to finish up paperwork, and constantly monitor fuel and aircraft systems at regular intervals.
- Approaching your destination, you obtain latest weather from that aerodrome, and begin preparing the approach on the Flight Management Computers.
- On approach too, you are in full control of the aircraft’s altitude, speed and bearings. Again, the autopilot will essentially “fly” the plane, but on your command. Based on what parameters you set and command it to.
- Shortly before landing, you disconnect the autopilot and perform the landing manually. Of course, disconnecting the autopilot is completely personal preference unless a company procedure is in place with a particular altitude restriction to. I’ve personally flown the entire approach down to the landing from 25,000 feet up with the autopilot disconnected. My company is one which encourages manual flight, so I’m more than happy to take control from the autopilot.
Flying planes is more than just pushing a bunch of buttons. Pilots are highly trained individuals for a very good reason, and are constantly put through rigorous training and checks at regular intervals.
Here’s wishing you clear blue skies and smooth flights. Happy flying!