Posted by: Korry | December 6, 2011

Techie Tuesday: Captain’s Normal Day

Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken a look at seniority, bidding and schedules, but I haven’t given too much insight into what goes on during a single trip. Well, a while back I came across a great video created by an American Airlines pilot that squeezes a three-day trip to Paris into a short video set to U2’s Vertigo. Since I spent about five years doing exactly this type of trip, I’m going to post the video here for this week’s Techie Tuesday feature. I know you’re going to love it!

For a little background info, most European trips depart the U.S. in the evening of day 1 (lets say between 5pm and 10pm Eastern time) and fly through the night so as to arrive in Europe in the morning of day 2 (approximately 2am – 5am Eastern time). Then, after a break of about 24 hours, the return flight leaves Europe on the morning of day 3 (probably 3am – 6am Eastern time) and arrives back in the U.S. in the afternoon of day 3 between noon and 4pm Eastern time. There are exceptions, but this is definitely the “standard” schedule.

The 24-hour break had to be managed carefully due to time zone changes and the differences between local time and body time (in this case, Paris would be 6 hours ahead of Eastern time in the U.S.). I would often sleep for 3-4 hours as soon as we got to the hotel, but then I would have to force myself to get up because if I slept much longer than that, I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. This would also give me time to go for a run, explore a little bit of the city and then meet the rest of the crew back at the hotel for dinner and a drink or two. Minus the strange hours, these trips are great, especially for the ability to tour Europe one day (and one museum) at a time.

If you’re wondering why there are more than 2 pilots, that’s because current FAA rules require one extra “relief” pilot for flights over 8 hours and two extra “relief” pilots if the flight is over 12 hours. This allows the pilots to take breaks during the flight and reduce the effects of fatigue. The FAA is set to publish major changes to pilot flight and duty time limits in the near future and when they do I’ll be sure to comment on the new changes and how it may affect you.

Do you have a technical question about airplanes or airlines that you’ve always wondered about? If so, email me at and you may find your answer in an upcoming edition of Techie Tuesday.

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