Real Answers from Real Pilots

How much hand flying do airline pilots do?

How much handflying do pilots do? During the course of a flight I’ve heard airline pilots fly from takeoff to cruise or sometimes a lot less. Pilots fly through automation but how much handflying is there?

Funny you should ask, I wrote an article on that very topic a few months back. Check it out: Hand Flying at the Airlines

James,

It can vary depending on the operation. When I was at ExpressJet we did quite a bit of handflying and I also did as well when flying Interisland for Hawaiian. Now that I’m on the A330 (an airplane that’s really meant to be “managed” more than flown) it’s minimal. It’s not just the airplane (which you could of course handfly) it’s really more the type of flying the aircraft does. Long haul flights operate in RVSM airspace (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum 29,000-41,000’/FL290-FL410) requires the use of the autopilot as do many departures from most busy airports. That really only leaves approach and landing. That’s one of the reasons I’m happy to be going back to Interisland flying. I enjoy flying airplanes and since we never go above FL280 and the airports have conventional vector departures we can literally handfly all day long :slight_smile:

Adam

James,

I typically handfly as much as I am allowed to… we are restricted to autopilot only above 20,000ft but anything below that, workload permitting, I keep the A/P off and enjoy my job.

Yarden

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Adam-
So on the a330 takeoff is not manual?

James,

Takeoff is manual on all planes but if we’re flying a RNAV SID (Area Navigation Standard Instrument Departure, which is common at most major airports) it’s “recommended” to have the autopilot on by 500’ so you’re talking less than a minute of flight time including the takeoff roll. Now while it’s not required to be on, if your company “recommends” something and you fail to do so and then mess it up you’ve got some SERIOUS explaining to do.

Adam

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