What is it like

I have been reading each and every thread here for a while now, and I figured I would try to get some fun questions answered and directed to the more experienced gentleman here, to get a break from the repetitive topics… :sweat_smile:

So here we go:

  1. I had my intro lesson recently, and I am working on planning on a starting date. As a more general question, how different is it to fly a Cessna, versus a big jet? I am sure that they are vastly different (like my old first car, a 1990 manual Nissan Sentra compared to a Tesla with autopilot :smiley:), but in what ways? What is better or worse about each?

  2. What are your least favorite things about the job? Anything that most people may not think about?

  3. This question is more for Chris, since Adam’s flights are quickies. What do you do to pass the time on long flights? I imagine there is a lot of “downtime” on a cross country EWR-SJC.

  4. Do you have to inspect the outside of the aircraft before each leg, or just before each trip? How much does it suck to do it when the weather is lousy, like our Northeast winters :upside_down_face: ?

  5. What are your favorite routes/airports to fly in and out of, and why?

That’s it for now! Hopefully you will have fun answering them. I will definitely think it will be interesting to read them :sunglasses:


Thank you, a break is nice sometimes :slight_smile:

  1. It has been a long time since I have flown a little airplane, but I remember them feeling “snappier” on the controls and the engine was faster to respond to power changes. In jets, the controls feel heavier and the engines can sometimes be rather slow to respond, so you really have to stay ahead of the airplane. That being said, our airplanes are so incredibly well equipped with every piece of technology imaginable, that really spoils you.

  2. Commuting. By not living in base, I give up a significant amount of my days off going back and forth to base, plus I miss out on some of the last minute, lucrative trips that other pilots get. This is a choice on my part, but I would not recommend it to those entering the industry.

  3. I look out the window and talk. Anything west of Denver is always interesting to look at and I like to get to know who I am flying with. We are prohibited from reading and electronic entertainment is strictly forbidden and a really bad idea.

  4. Each and every flight. I take turns with my Fosses doing the walk arounds, I actually enjoy doing them as it is a chance to stretch my legs and take a first hand look at what I am about to go flying in. I have never minded the super cold ones, they really don’t take that long anyways.

  5. San Diego and San Francisco. They are both interesting airports with slightly challenging approaches, they are scenic, and there is always good Mexican food when I get there.



Here’s some answers:

  1. DRAMATICALLY different! I don’t think your Sentra to Tesla even does it justice. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the difference between a C172 and say the A330 is comparable to the difference between riding a bike and driving a car. Aside from the fact that you’re really “managing” systems vs actually flying, the stability is probably the biggest difference. I flew in a 172 a few years back and honestly I thought it was pretty scary and couldn’t believe I spent so much time in one!

  2. I LOVE my job. My least favorite thing is flying with people who don’t. I often say I wish you had to work at least 1 or 2 other jobs before becoming an airline pilot just to give you perspective. People who haven’t done anything else seem to take how fortunate we are for granted. Makes for a VERY long day.

  3. While you asked Chris I’m going to chime in. I was on the Airbus and trust me EWR-SLC IS a short flight compared with HNL-JFK or PEK. There’s usually things to keep you somewhat occupied (position reports, fuel scores, etc) but honestly the long flights drove me crazy which is why I transitioned back to the 717. 6,7,8,9,10,11,12hrs is a LONG time to be on an airplane. Many pilots love it but I did not.

  4. Different airlines have different inspection (aka “walk-around”) requirements but it’s usually just before the first flight of the day. I was based in EWR for 9yrs so I’m quite familiar. I’ll throw the question back at you. I just checked and it’s currently 7deg in EWR. How lousy do you think it would be to be outside on the ramp inspecting an aircraft right now?

  5. I get asked that a lot but honestly I couldn’t say. There are just so many and even places you wouldn’t think are good turn out to be fantastic.


Interesting about the difference between pre flight inspection requirements. Continental and United have always required one for every flight.

Probably because you don’t do 6-8 flights in a day :wink:


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  1. I just flew a 172 last week. It had been two years (as a CFI) since I had flown one. The first thing I noticed was how sensitive it was. Those planes are light. So, the slightest movement of a control surface will be felt immediately. As a result, my first landing in it for that day was so ugly. My flight path from the threshold to the touchdown point looked like a sign wave haha. Still fun to fly. Very stable and semi maneuverable. Just being able to fly VFR again was a treat. It reminded me of the sense of freedom I had when I first started learning.

  2. I love all of the aspects of the job except when we are forced to swap circadian rhythms in the middle of a trip. It should be prohibited in my opinion. There’s a lot of regs that protect us from fatigue. I think adding another reg would be a good idea.

  3. Share stories, eat, sip coffee, look out the window, read our manual, take bathroom breaks, track our performance, etc. Other than that every thing else is against company policy.

  4. At my airline, the FO does the preflight walk around and the CA does the post flight. So, the CA will do more post flights if there is more than one leg that day. It only sucks to do it in cold weather if you’re not prepared.

  5. Honestly, my favorite destination is home. I enjoy seeing new places, but I primarily do my job for the quality of life that it offers.


Thanks for all the answers! Very interesting stuff.

I kinda figured a Cessna was a very different experience. Good to confirm.

Chris, I love SAN, and specially flying into SAN and sitting on the right side haha. Doesn’t SAN have a slightly steeper glide Slope?

Agree on the Mexican food. Always excellent there.

The discussion on Boeing vs. Airbus was really interesting. Any insight on a comparison of ERJs vs. CRJs?

And as far as passing time in the cockpit, you mentioned flights like HNL-NRT, but don’t you at least get some rest time for those long hauls? On a cross country there are no relief pilots, but the few times I flew EWR-PVG there were served crew seats in business class for Pilots. I also know some aircraft have crew rest bunks(they look so cool haha).

But I think you have it really good Adam. Being home every night sounds amazing. Plus you get to live in paradise.

One more question:

How do you plan vacations in advance since you only get your schedule tye month before?

As I thing of more general questions I will keep posting on this thread.



Opinions may vary but what I can tell you is when I was at Xjt and Continental was using ERJs and CRJs we were able to out perform the CRJs on many routes. While the CRJs were often weight restricted, the ERJs seldom were. Also the larger ERJs were created from a new platform where the CRJs just got stretched with bigger engines. That’s my take.

Sure we have bunks but you’re still on an airplane for a VERY long time.

As always it varies from airline but most let you bid for vacation slots at some point the year prior. That said as with all things seniority rules so until you build some you can forget Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring or Fall break, Easter, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Arbor Day, Halloween, Macy’s Super Sale, my birthday…



There goes my plan to host annual Festivus Parties :sob:

Also, the E175, but not the 135/140/145, has auto throttle which makes it capable of flying Cat III autoland approaches. It also has a magic button called FLCH, or Flight Level Change, which is often used for climbs and descents. It’s a very convenient vertical mode that requires no manual selection of climb or descent rate. The airplane will give you the best rate it can while honoring the selected airspeed as long as the auto throttles are engaged. Without this feature, CRJ pilots, from what I’ve seen when jumpseating, use a different vertical mode called vertical speed. Vertical speed allows the pilot to manually select the desired vertical ascent or descent rate, but airspeed is not protected.


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The glide slope for runway 27 at SAN is 3.5 degrees, whereas a normal glide slope is 3.0. This is actually a significant difference and is why 27 has a localizer approach and not a full ILS approach. The steeper glide slope does make it challenging to fly. The reason for the increased angle is to account for both the hill at Balboa Park and the parking garage on short final. If you ever get a chance to go up on that hill (where the flag pole is) I recommend it. The view of landing airplanes is pretty neat.

I do not have enough experience on the CRJ (just a few simulator hours) to actually comment on it. The Embraer 145 is a nice little airplane, but I have to say that the 170 is much better.

On the transcontinental flight we usually eat, talk and stare out the window. Of course that is in addition to monitoring fuel, weather and aircraft systems.

We bid our vacation weeks in January for a twelve month period running May through April, so it is relatively easy to plan vacations in advance.


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Thanks for the interesting thread - I will try to keep it going.
Here is another question:

What traits/personality do successful pilots have in your (subjective opinion)? In other words, what makes for a successful student pilot and airline pilot?

I like to joke that I am an excellent driver, and I am rule stickler when it comes to driving, so that will be make me a great pilot haha. But of course I am sure in practice it is not that simple. :grin:


Being a safe driver means you’re a safe driver. Pilots are people, just like everyone else. They all have different personalities. Personality traits are not a direct correlation to a pilot’s abilities. They are personality traits. And this is a good thing. Can you imagine if all pilots were the same?

It’s a pilot’s attitude that deserves attention. The FAA recognizes a handful of attitudes as hazardous. You’ll learn about them in training. Or, I encourage you to read chapter 2 of the PHAK https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/handbooks_manuals/aviation/phak/media/04_phak_ch2.pdf

Being a safe pilot is more about, among other things of course, assessing risk, decision making, and resource management, all of which are taught during flight training and becomes every pilot’s foundation.



The link you posted is really interesting. The “Five Hazardous Attitudes” are pretty interesting! They make perfect sense. They answer my question in a sense that I think of one’s attitude relates to their personality.

I remember watching a documentary once about the the two 747’s that crashed in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), and how one of the causes of the crash was attributed to the cockpit culture of not questioning authority even when you feel like the actions are unsafe.

Thanks for the reply!

This is particularly interesting:

From page 2-12

Five traits were discovered in pilots prone to having
accidents. These pilots:
• Have disdain toward rules
• Have very high correlation between accidents on their
flying records and safety violations on their driving
• Frequently fall into the “thrill and adventure seeking”
personality category
• Are impulsive rather than methodical and disciplined,
both in their information gathering and in the speed
and selection of actions to be taken
• Have a disregard for or tend to under utilize outside
sources of information, including copilots, flight
attendants, flight service personnel, flight instructors,
and ATC

Certain cultural norms have proven to cause catastrophic aircraft accidents. Asiana flight 214 comes to mind whenever this topic is mentioned. I’m glad that you found the information to be insightful.


Ah yes. There’s some good info there. Easier said than done! That’s one of the main reasons why airlines are so big on safety and CRM.



I feel that most pilots are very contentious. Every detail matters, and pilots tend to take pride in a job well done.

I have actually noticed that good driving skills lead to good flying, especially being smooth on the wheel, brakes and accelerator.



Questioning authority is not something that comes easily to me, but doing so respectfully is a skill that is essential to safe airline operations. As a first officer, it is rare when you will need to do so, but it will probably happen at some point in your career.


Here I am parked on a hill in San Diego next to the I-5 watching planes land at SAN

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