Is flying the plane hard?

I love a challenge, and I know that being a pilot can be very challenging; but what about mid flight? It is my understanding the you are almost always using autopilot when cruising so do you get bored mid flight? How often do you use autoland?

Will,

Yes when you’re at cruise the autopilot is generally on. It’s actually a required piece of equipment above 29,000’ (aka FL290) and the FAA actually says it “should” be engaged (which means if it’s not and you bust an altitude you better have a good reason why it wasn’t). There’s usually plenty else to do, communication, monitoring weather and fuel etc but yes at times on longer flights it can get boring.

In my experience autoland is only used when it’s required for certain low visibility approaches or a system check. Most pilots enjoy landing and welcome the chance to “show our skills”.

Adam

Will,

Check out this article I wrote on the very topic you asked about: Hand Flying at the Airlines

Chris

Thank you guys so much!

Will,

How much hand flying you do can be determined by the airplane you fly as well. For example, at Skywest there are two fleets: the CRJ and ERJ. CRJ pilots fly the 200/700/900 which are older and less automated. The ERJ pilots fly just the E-175, brand new out of the factory and very automated. The culture on the two fleets is very different.

On the CRJ, it is very normal to hand fly up to 10,000 or even 18,000 ft switch the altimeters to standard and kick the autopilot on. Same for descent, especially if you’re cleared for the visual approach to a smaller field. Typically we’ll kick the autopilot off and hand fly from 10,000 feet to the runway. I have friends on the ERJ that can attest that hand flying is utilized much less with such advanced automation.

Hannah

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Former ERJ driver :raising_hand_man:t2: Spot on, Hannah. All I can say is my desire for hand-flying the 737 has increased. The best way to explain it is the 737 is more forgiving than the ERJ. Plus, I was never a fan of the ERJ “ram horn” style control wheel. The sensitivity of the ERJ combined with the control wheel design both contributed to my distaste for hand-flying that plane. The ERJ loves to fly the FMS. That’s what it was designed to do.

Tory

You all are wearing me out with your hand flying. Autopilot on at 1,000 and back off at 1,000 :slight_smile:

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Guess I’ll chime in. I have always enjoyed hand flying which is one of the reasons I love interisland. Short flights in good weather lend themselves to it. There are days I never turn on the autopilot and the 717 is a blast to fly. I also LOVED the ERJ and didn’t mind the ram’s horns at all (maybe because I ride motorcycles?). The only plane I never enjoyed flying was the A330. You’re not really controlling anything. The stick is simply an input device for the computers. No feel and LOTS of laws (aka protections) that prevent you from doing anything the computer doesn’t like. It’s just dumb.

Adam

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Tory,

I love hand flying the Q400, but I guess I won’t get too enjoy that too much longer since I’ll probably be in training on the E175 by the end of this year with Horizon phasing out the Q. I’ll be curious to see what you mean about the control wheel and the sensitivity when I get into training and then on the line in the ERJ.

Kyle

You’re at Hawaiian right? Pretty awesome?