Over the years, I’ve passed along posts from “Sam,” a fully-unnamed regional airline pilot out of Minneapolis who writes the “Blogging at FL250” blog about his life as an airline pilot.
I didn’t know his last name until today, when Flying Magazine published Sam Weigel’s article, “A Day in the Life of an RJ Pilot.”
What do we learn from the article? That’s there’s not much for pilots to do when flying an airliner.
The Embraer 175 is a wonderfully modern, pilot-friendly airplane with a clean, simple cockpit. Flight information is neatly presented on five large, crisp LCD displays. Flawless navigation is simple with twin flight management systems that feature GPS and INS inputs. Aircraft systems are mostly automated — with lots of dusty switches to be left in the auto position — and computer-monitored, with any malfunctions immediately displayed on the engine instrument and crew alerting system and synoptic displays. The autopilot and autothrottles keep the airplane right on course, flying more smoothly than I am able.
The one thing the Embraer does not do well is keep its pilots awake and engaged, least of all in cruise flight. There’s simply precious little to be done. Navigational cross checks, ETA and fuel calculations, maintenance notations, weather updates — all the housekeeping duties of years past are automated and available at the push of a button. So you have to find ways to pass the time, especially on long flights like our three-hour cruise from Dallas to New York. Noncompany reading material has long been banished from the flight deck, as have personal electronics in the wake of the Northwest 188 debacle. I suppose one could read the flight operations manual — but did I mention that the object is to stay awake?