what are the pilots doing?

crosscheck9 Guest

This morning, when we were boarding the MD-80, I looked in through the cockpit, and saw the pilot and first officer hard at working calculating a few things. What exactly would those things be. What are they doing, and why are they so busy during boarding. Also, about 100 miles before the beggining of our decent, the pilots said that they would no longer be talking to us, because from then on, they would be very busy. 100 miles before decent, what would they be doing? Thanks

4 Responses

Pro Member First Officer
coolsan First Officer

They could be doing calculations regarding weight, fuel consumption, V(1,2,R) speeds according to current temperature, reviewing the planeĀ“s maintenance record, reviewing approach charts for destination and alternate airport, etc.......that would be my guess.

Pro Member Captain
John Hodges (originalgrunge) Captain

When you are departing and arriving, the cabin has to be sealed with no distractions (i.e. no visitors, no stewardesses asking for orders, etc.) as a general regulation so the pilot can keep to the task at hand.

The approach can get pretty complicated. First, you aren't simply checking in with each center, you are now listening for altitude crossings and making appropriate changes to your FMC accordingly. Every STAR has published crossings, but ATC will usually give you clearances rather than simply following them as written. Also, to allow for spacing, the pilots are getting put into holds, speed restrictions, approach checklists, what to do in emergencies, etc. etc. Being 100 miles out in a busy airport can feel like your final approach at many smaller ones!

Try flying on VATSIM with the STAR charts + approach charts + FMC during one of their fly-ins at NY or Washington and you'll see how busy it can get =).

Pro Member First Officer
Pro-Sim First Officer

I agree with the above...


- Quick look at the pax list - any 'specials' (wheelchairs, etc)
- Load sheet - what is the Gross weight for take-off (for V1, VR,V2).
- 'Flows' - set procedures to get the plane configured for flight.
- FMC programming / review of flight plan route.
- Fuel Calcs and ordering fuel if not already arranged.
- NOTAMs. (Notices to Airmen - Airport closures, unserviceable ILSs, etc)
- Weather at each weather station for route of flight.
- Initial setting of MCP (autopilot settings such as initial ALT).
- Briefing to Crew (Flight time, length of taxi, etc).
- Departure Briefing to F/O. (including emergency Engine Failure procs).
- Before start / Receiving Aircraft checklist
- IFR flight plan clearance to ATC (just like in the sim!).
- Pushback and engine start clearance with ATC Ground.


- Check up to date weather area.
- Check and record information from ATIS.
- Possibly contact ground handling at arrival airport, for specials, etc.
- Calc Landing Weight (for VREF and VAPP)
- Check holding fuel available.
- Plan descent profile (manual or VNAV).

..... then into actually flying the arrival and approach procedure as detailed by ATC or the standard arrival and approach procedures where applicable.

So yeah, those poor guys (and girls) are really busy 😀 [/u]

Pro Member First Officer
Canyon (NoWorries) First Officer

A lot of the calculations at the beginning are based on the take-off conditions with the weight of the aircraft and meteorological conditions.

The pilots have to calculate the highest speed they can abort the takeoff, if they will be able to clear terrain if they lose an minimum climb. Very important little things that change drastically with the weight of the aircraft and constant changing weather conditions.

All times are GMT Page 1 of 1

Related Questions