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How do commercial pilots keep busy during long, non-eventful flights?

Pilots finding ways to keep occupied while flying

Whether it’s short to medium haul (30 mins – 6 hours) or a long-haul flight (6 – 8 hours), Commercial Pilots often need to find ways to keep themselves busy during those non-eventful or long-haul flights.

Commercial Pilots spend most of their time checking a wide range of things. However, throughout much of the flight, the autopilot is effectively flying the plane. Understandably there can be some boring stints, especially when flying at night with the soothing hum of the engine you can easily find the perfect combination for cruising into passiveness.

A commercial pilot’s main goal is to stay awake but also to still be focused on the task at hand which is flying the plane and not get too distracted. 


Commercial Pilots keeping busy


To help stay focused on non-eventful / long haul flight, here are a few things commercial pilots can do to pass the time:

  1. Get weather updates: Pilots can check in on how things are progressing at the next destination and make sure the forecasts are holding true. It’s good to keep updated as to what the pilot is flying into, to ensure they are prepared for any unexpected changes. There can be quite a bit of data to process, which helps pass quite a bit of the time, especially when contingencies need to be brought in on a newly planned route.
  2. Have a plan B and C: Review the aeronautical charts and procedures and spend some time playing what-if and revising checklists and emergency procedures. It’s good to have alternative plans based on your flight path, should something potentially go wrong. As previously mentioned unforeseen weather patterns could arise forcing an alternative.
  3. Call in a pilot report (PIREP): Pilots can help each other out by reporting real weather conditions, even if the weather is good it's nice to let others know what they can expect.
  4. Chat with the other crew: It’s amazing what information (news, history, facts and even gossip) the crew members have - there's almost always something to talk about! And if the conversation runs low why not pull out a deck of cards and have a friendly game of cards?
  5. Quiz Master: Spend some time picking your co-pilot’s or crew’s brains by quizzing one another about systems and procedures – you may just learn some valued information you did not know!
  6. Music is great: Why not practice your karaoke skills? Just make sure you don't have a switched on microphone and broadcast your debut for the world to hear unless you are John Travolta rehearsing for your role in Grease. Yes, he is a pilot too.
  7. Exercise: Get the bodies circulation flowing by moving the seat back and doing some stretching and breathing exercises. A little activity, even when seated, is a good way to keep the blood flowing and the mind attentive. A short walk can also do wonders.


These are just some of the things that pilots do to keep themselves occupied. Make no mistake there are numerous technical and safety checks to be done during a flight as well which only leaves brief periods where pilots need to keep themselves busy.


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