The pilots control their aircraft in accordance with air traffic control. Every clearance gives the cockpit crew the go-ahead for the next activity, from taxiing to the runway to instructions regarding the flight route, which is based on current traffic loads and the current weather conditions.
Aircraft with jet engines cannot reverse. They are pulled away from the gate by pushback tractors and pushed to the taxiway, where they then head for the runway on their own. The pilots start up the engines during pushback.
There are at least two pilots in a SWISS cockpit. The captain is responsible for the entire flight and the crew. The first officer is his deputy. Both pilots are trained to control, assist, monitor and communicate by radio.
Checklists are all-important. Pilots use them for manoeuvres such as take-off and landing as standard, and as required in the event of technical problems. They work through the checklists from start to end, missing nothing, to ensure that all the settings are correct and nothing has been left out.
In order for an aircraft to take off, lift must be stronger than weight. Aerodynamics, total weight and weather conditions all affect the speed that is required for take-off.
In the airspace managed by air traffic control, the aircraft all travel at given heights. The cruising height is between nine and twelve kilometres. At these heights, there is less frictional resistance and weather phenomena such as turbulence are rare.
The pilots enter the route and cruising height in the flight management system. The autopilot supports the crew in particular when flying on instruments and when there are no visual orientation points.
The correct approach speed for a safe landing depends on the type of aircraft, its current weight, how the load is distributed and the meteorological conditions.
Becoming a pilot
The basic training is around 18 months. Trainee pilots then move to SWISS, where they undergo six months of practical training on a specific aircraft type. Those who successfully complete their training are then fully qualified professional pilots. On the Airbus A320, for instance.
If you'd like to learn more, contact SWISS or any member of our association board for more details.