My typical day is probably very different than Chris’ and both from Eric’s. Fact is there’s really no such thing as typical day because there are so many variables depending on the airline, the airplane, the operation etc. For example when I started at Hawaiian I was flying the 717, 6-8 landings a day, 20-30min flts with 20-30 min turns. Now I’m on the A330, 1 leg a day, 5-12hr flts. Interisland preflight is fairly simple, the route is direct, Hawaiian weather is usually great and the weather report you get won’t change much in 30 min. Something goes wrong Maui’s over there and you land. Easy. Flying to Beijing on the Airbus preflight is significant. There are a multitude of routes available based weather, winds etc and the weather can change dramatically in 12 hrs. There are fuel alternates and weather alternates and you’re monitoring your fuel and systems constantly. Interisland I’m home every night, Airbus you’re gone 2-5 days. I have friends that fly cargo and are gone 17 days in a row. When I was at ExpressJet there were1,2,3 and 4 day trips. Some with 1 flt, some with 6. Ain’t no such thing as typical.
As for the auto-pilot, we’re not “really flying” here goes. The autopilot is a wonderful tool. It does a great job and flies with great precision and is actually required in certain airspaces, That said it’s a tool and the autopilot only does (or doesn’t) do what the pilots tell it to. Again conditions change, storms, turbulence, restricted airspace, the autopilot doesn’t care. What that all means is while no, we don’t have our hands on the controls for 12 hrs, we are constantly monitoring, imputing and altering what the autopilot’s doing. Manipulating the controls is actually the easiest part of flying, it’s the planning and decision making that’s challenging and the autopilot allows us to focus on that. Cool?
The Jepp Private is a great book and a great place to start.