- Pilots fly free on all domestic routes, regardless of airlines. All airlines have an agreement to lets each others' pilots occupy empty seats.
- If no seats are available, the travelling pilot can also occupy an extra seat in the cockpit that is usually empty.
- Pilots retire at 65(!).
- The pilot I spoke with had been flying for 30 years. His pay/benefits today are half what they were 20 years ago (adjusted for inflation).
- Until ~10 years ago, most commercial pilots came from the military (air force/navy). Now, it's about 50% military and 50% from pilot schools.
- For pilots, career all about seniority. If this guy (a captain currently) were to leave his airline and join another airline he would start as a flight engineer. That's one level below first officer, who is below captain. This is a result of unionization.
- Flights longer than 8 hours require 3 pilots (1 captain and 2 first officers) to rotate flying duties. Flights longer than 12 hours require 4 pilots (1 captain and 3 first officers). They usually fly 3-4 hour shifts.
- Pilots at traditional airlines (American, Continental) make more than pilots at startup airlines (Virgin America, Jet Blue).
- Airlines like Horizon Air/American Eagle/etc serve as training grounds for pilots, who then move to the more lucrative airlines.
- On average, pilots fly between 9 and 14 days a month.
- Pilots train on simulators every 9 months, and typically work on hard scenarios like dual engine failures once every couple of years.
- Boeing and MD planes have "steering wheel" type controls. Airbus has fly-by-wire joystick like controls.
- A 737 needs about 6000 feet to land comfortably. Headwind makes a huge difference in amount of runway needed.
- Airbus planes felt more "robust" to this pilot.
- Bird hits are more common than passengers realize.
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is the hardest airport that he's landed in. Overshooting the 5000 foot runway drops you off a cliff and on to a strip mall. There have been 2 crashes in the last few years, with one dead pilot.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
On a recent flight, I sat alongside a pilot who was returning home to the Seattle area. A lot of interesting things came up in my chat with the pilot, stuff I didn't really know about: