Here is what a typical four day trip is like for me. On the evening before I began my trip I commuted in from Norfolk to Newark and spent the night at an apartment that a group of pilots and I share.
Day 1: The alarm goes off at 4:15 in the morning. By 5:00 am I am on the bus to the airport. My show time is 5:35 which means that I need to be in the weather room by then. We typically meet our Captains in the weather room and then proceed to the airplane together. At 5:50 the airplane is powered up, the walk around is complete and we are waiting for the passengers to begin coming down. While passengers are boarding we are busy entering all of the necessary information into the Flight Management System. This information includes our flight plan, weight and balance, and aircraft performance information. Departure time is 6:35 and at exactly that time the airplane is being pushed back from the gate. Two hours and an uneventful flight later we are touching down in Saint Louis. From Saint Louis we fly to Houston and have a three hour sit; which is dead time spent waiting for your next flight. Our third and final flight of the day is about two and a half hours and takes us to Charleston, West Virginia; where we spend the night.
Day 2: This time the alarm goes off at 5:30 am. I do not like to eat breakfast so early in the morning, so it will wait until we get to Houston. The Charleston Airport is built on top of a mountain and thus has very short runways (6,300 feet is pretty short for a jet). The short runway requires a bit of extra planning and taking off in a different configuration than we usually do. Due to the flight being so early in the morning we are able to get a few shortcuts from Air Traffic Control which enables us to get to Houston about thirty minutes earlier than we had originally planned. After a quick breakfast and a call to my fiance we are off to Torreon Mexico. Like almost all destinations in Mexico, Torreon is surrounded by high mountainous terrain. This also requires more preflight planning than usual and extra vigilance while reroute. Most airports in Mexico do not have precision approaches, just non precision, and Torreon is no exception. After completing a complete approach we land and are shortly on our way to the hotel. We get to the hotel around noon. The Captain and I have never been to Torreon before, so we get a taxi and go check out some of the local attractions. After some awesome Mexican food it is time to do some studying of the Company Flight Manual and then go to bed.
Day 3: Today I get to sleep in, till 6:00 am that is. We arrive early at the airport in Torreon and begin to preflight the airplane. The first preflight inspection of the day takes longer than all of the ones that follow. This is due to the fact that all of the access panels have to be opened and visually inspected for anything that should not be there. In addition to the access panels we also run through a complete check of all of the aircraft’s systems. These checks are not done on subsequent flights. Today is the easiest of our trip. We do the quick hour and a half flight back to Houston and follow that up with an even quicker flight over to Baton Rouge. Today we are finished by 12:30 in the afternoon. I use the rest of the day to work on my schedule for the upcoming month and to continue my study of the Company Flight Manual. The studying does not stop when one becomes an airline pilot, if anything it increases. Knowing the correct procedures at all times is absolutely essential to the safe operation of any flight.
Day 4: We start the day off early again, but early is good because it usually means that we will be finished early. We make the quick flight from Baton Rouge back to Houston. After thirty minutes on the ground in Houston we are on our way to Nashville and then on to Newark. At 1:30 in the afternoon my trip is complete. I am lucky today in that there is a 3:00 pm flight to Norfolk and that I do not have to wait too long for a flight. The flight is full, so I end up sitting in the cockpit on the jumpseat. By 5:00 pm I am at my house.
Note: This was a typical trip for me, not necessarily for everybody else. Some people like trips that start very late in the afternoon so that they can commute to work the morning of their trip. Many people that live within driving distance of Newark like to do one or two day trips so that they can be home more often. This trip was also free from any kind of delays, bad weather, scheduling reassignments, or anything else out of the ordinary. These things do not happen that often, but they do happen and can sometimes change your trip. However, I will say that whenever my schedule is changed it usually works out to be better for me than it was before.