Airline captains are responsible for safely flying the aircraft to its destination. In a commercial airliner, captains fly with a co-pilot who can fly the plane should something happen to the captain. The initial tasks performed by the captain before taking off include receiving weather information, conducting preflight checks on the navigation systems, and communicating with tower controllers to ensure no collisions occur. Once in the air, the captain and co-pilot rotate flying responsibilities to avoid either becoming too tired; additionally, modern aircraft include a cruise control or auto-pilot that helps keep the plane on course automatically. During flight, the captain also communicates the status of the flight to passengers, as well as checks location, flight path, and weather patterns periodically to confirm accuracy of the computer's flight plan.
A typical day for an airline captain may involve several flights a day, but commercial airline pilots are not allowed to work more than 12 hours. In a week, a captain may fly three to four days. An airline captain's job may become high pressure in emergency situations, requiring the ability to make a split-second decision under pressure that could affect the outcome of many lives.
There are two main routes to becoming a pilot. The first is military, and many pilots are former military personnel with previous flight experience and substantial technical training. The other route is civilian; a civilian must have a bachelor's degree and be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). To become certified by the FAA, an individual must be at least 18 years old, pass numerous exams, have 20/20 vision, and have at least 250 hours of flight time logged. Beyond the certification, most commercial airlines require at least 1,500 hours of flight time in many types of weather conditions and be at least 23 years old.
Airline Captain Tasks
Evaluate situations and determine necessary changes to the flight pattern.
Responsible for safely flying aircraft and for the safety of passengers and crew.
Communicate with ground control and authorities.
Lead flight crew, monitor and evaluate data before and during flight.
Report and respond to emergency situations.