26.7.13

Questions I get asked as a pilot (2)

This week was quite interactive for me, finally! My website and my blog have been getting more correspondence lately, and I have to say I am delighted.

Tonight's post comes as a continuation of last week's, since the feedback has been positive and I got asked a few questions that I will address in this post and over the coming posts

+Atharv Khatod asked me "How often do you fly a month?"


Blocks, the origin of the term Block Time
This has to be an "It's all relative" answer, personally, I work for an airline that has suffered of a shortage of pilots over the last years and this year things are finally stabilizing. Regulation vary by region and by airline and in many cases according to union contracts.

Pilots are usually credit by the block hours, roughly meaning from the time the "blocks" are removed and the aircraft starts moving and engines are started to the time the aircraft stops and "blocks" are inserted around the wheels.

My outfit follows the maximum of 900 Block Hours a year, but -unlike a misguided executive in our company once wrongly assumed- this does not equal 900/365= 2.45 hours a day!

First we are allowed 8 days off a month, in 12 months this is 96 days free of duty in addition to 36 days of annual leave. This means we get 132 days free of duty per year, so we should be able to operate for 233 days a year. This is the at the extremely low end for airlines. Most airlines guarantee anywhere from 140-190 days free of duty per year, some airlines are known to have guaranteed 243 days.

A block hour is not an accurate indicator of how much you get to work, on a regular day you start working an hour or more prior to the flight's time of departure, which is the time you need to conduct briefings for your fellow crew and to check the flight plan and your planned route and the weather forecasts. Sometimes your flight gets delayed due to many reasons, maybe there is some congestion at the airport or maybe there is a shortage of the necessary equipment to get you moving. Also, you usually have to perform a few post-flight duties as well.

Therefore, the industry came up with another method of measuring work hours, the Duty Time. Anytime you are required by your outfit to report for a duty a timer starts and it ends when you have no more duties to perform, this is therefore more representative of your actual effort. My airline allows a maximum of 190 duty hours in any 28 consecutive days and 60 duty hours in any seven consecutive days, these are basic requirements of the European Regulators.

Americans do things a bit differently, their maximum is 1000 hours a year but have different ways to calculate their monthly maximums.

A pilot in my airline will be in one of three major groups (fleets), since pilots can only fly one set of airplanes at a time.
  • We have the wide-body fleet which can manage to fly the maximum while doing three flights a month which are long-haul by definition, and so get to spend a greater deal of time at their homes, and a greater number of days abroad. They can expect anywhere from 4-10 days abroad and a minimum of 16-18 days free of duty every month. They usually fly a single sector each duty, sometimes they fly 2 in a short-turnaround. The average sector length is around 8 hours.
  • Next comes the narrow-body fleet with their short-to-medium-haul which allows for a higher number of duty days and sectors but with a variety of turnarounds and night-stops and layovers. They can expect 2-6 days abroad and 10-14 free of duty a month. They can also expect to do more than two sectors in certain situations, but usually two is the norm. The average sector length is around 3 hours.
  • The Regional Jet is the last group in our airline, these are the toughest jobs to do, they fly many short sectors, fly back-to-back sectors and sometimes fly up to 5 or rarely 6 sectors in a single duty. The can expect a couple of night-stops a month usually for a couple of hours a night and they get around 8-10 days free of duty a month. The average sector length is around 1 hour.

Finally, I can say I get to spend more free time in Amman than most professionals I know, the fact that it's sometimes on the backside of the clock is more due to my bidding and requests than my profession. However, most professionals I know can clear their schedules on short notice for important engagements that arise, that's not my case. 

I still wouldn't trade it for the world

Do you have any questions you would like a professional pilot to answer, if so, contact me: 
+Radi Radi  
radi@radiradi.com  
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