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How Do Pilots Pass The Time On Long Flights?

On long-haul flights, which can exceed 18 hours, pilots have a range of responsibilities to ensure the flight's safety and efficiency. While passengers relax, pilots are actively engaged in monitoring and managing the flight. These flights often include a team of up to 4 pilots to allow for shift rotations, ensuring that pilots in the cockpit are always alert and monitoring the aircraft's instruments.



 Pilots continuously monitor weather conditions and are prepared to alter the flight path if necessary, especially when encountering various weather systems ranging from mild turbulence to severe thunderstorms. They coordinate with Air Traffic Control (ATC) for any route changes and rely on information from other pilots, particularly for phenomena like clear air turbulence (CAT) that aren't detectable on radar.


 The aircraft's captain holds ultimate responsibility once the flight is underway, making crucial decisions about the flight's operation and handling any emergencies or unexpected situations. Pilots also closely monitor the aircraft's performance, including fuel levels and temperature, to prevent issues like fuel waxing, which can occur if the fuel gets too cold.


 Besides active monitoring, pilots handle paperwork, documenting any deviations from the flight plan to accurately recreate the flight's course. They also coordinate their meal times to ensure one pilot is always at the controls. On longer flights, relief pilots are available so the main pilots can rest. On shorter long-haul flights, the two pilots only leave their seats for necessary breaks.


 As the flight approaches its destination, the workload increases in preparation for landing, marking a critical phase where pilots' attention and skills are crucial for a safe arrival.

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