How often do airline pilots work? (Flight Time Limitations) 2019-10-11 16:57:28 2019-10-11 16:44:44
Pilot George
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How often do airline pilots work? (Flight Time Limitations)

11 October 2019

A commonly asked question...

ground equipment pisa

* A view of the terrain from Pisa airport *

For the vast majority of the population it’s considered fairly standard to work the 9 til 5 lifestyle, or at least a variation of it should flexible working be considered. If you tot up those hours you’ll have done a 40 hour working week. At 5pm you pack your things and head home. Your day is done. You might even fancy a beer or glass of wine afterwards - why not... you had a long day.

For those of us working in the airline industry however, our working week is far from 9 til 5. The somewhat significant change of lifestyle that being in this industry brings could well be seen as a shock to the system for those so new to it. There exists long hours, sometimes in excess of 12 hour days, all at antisocial times. We work early shifts, days and even throughout the night. Christmas, New Year, Birthdays, Anniversaries etc are no longer guaranteed days off. Ultimately it’s not your normal life. Trying to lead one can be tough at times... but it’s certainly workable, otherwise many of us wouldn’t ever consider doing it. 

Now... it certainly wasn’t my intention to open up this topic with a negative outlook. I love my job but like all posts I’ve ever made to date I feel it’s important to be accurate and provide a true to life insight into a career in this industry. The hours we pilots, cabin crew or anyone else involved work are antisocial. However, the hours nurses, doctors etc work are equally so. The major difference is just everything that encompasses commercial aviation. I’ll say at this point I know very little in the way of working limitations for the NHS. Are surgeons limited to working hours as we are? I’ve no clue. It was merely a comparison based on the long days we can sometimes share.

Ultimately, this post was written after a few aspiring pilots asked me for insights into the lifestyle, rather than the obvious questions of pay and the view out of the window. It also follows those comments from people along the lines of “You pilots have so much time off” - “You mean you get three days off in a row?!” - “I bet you get really cheap flights”. They become tiring to hear after a while. So, I felt I’d share the actual working lifestyle of a short-haul pilot.

The basis for this blog does not focus on any one airline operation it instead is rather generic. Airlines in Europe all follow the European Flight Time Limitations directives which set strict, hard and fast rules for airline operators and pilots to comply with when it comes to the working day. Ever heard the phrase “Your pilots are out of hours?“ and wondered exactly what it meant? Well it’s linked to these limitations which from now on I’ll refer to in the abbreviated form of FTLs.

I hope you this blog post interesting. I've split it into sections. Click a heading to get started.

If you have any further questions about the life of a pilot then be sure to get in touch and I'll consider writing a further blog post for you about that topic.

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