The crew normally meets in the crew room, usually about an hour before the flight to perform their planning. Aircrew in large airlines will often not know each other before the flight so introductions may be necessary.
During the pre-flight stage the flight crew is supplied with all data concerning the flight. Alternatively they will download and print it from the company’s network. This will include the Pilot Log (PLog) showing all data concerning the flight (e.g. waypoints, flight levels, and speeds), met data and NOTAMS. All data is checked. Delays, such as late slot times, are also checked.
The aircrew will also perform some basic weight calculations. Each individual aircraft has a unique Basic Empty Weight depending on the configuration of the aircraft (equipment, configuration etc.). Adding the flight crew and cabin crew to the Basic Empty Weight results in the Operating Empty Weight (OEW). However, all aircraft of a certain type usually have the same Max Take-Off Weight (MTOW). The difference between the aircraft OEW and the MTOW inform the pilots of how much fuel, passengers and cargo they can take. The passenger numbers and cargo load tend to be fixed and would only change if the flight cannot otherwise go ahead, but the fuel load can vary depending on external factors, such as weather. This is usually pre-ordered so that the fuelling team can start filling up the aircraft immediately it arrives from a previous flight.
The load figures are then passed on to the operations department who are able to calculate the aircraft’s weight and balance figures. Alternatively the crew will perform these calculations themselves. The crew need to know the aircraft’s final weight and balance as this must be within defined limits. For this reason the data is later also entered into the aircraft’s Flight Management System (FMS).
It is usually in the crew room that the Captain and First Officer decide upon who flies what leg. Similarly the cabin crew will arrive to perform their brief, which includes emergency procedures and roles onboard.
|Things to look out for
- The amount of ‘extra’ fuel that the flight crew bring above the required minimums and the amount of extra ‘time’ this equates to.
- The time and distance to the alternate airport, and the fuel that is carried for this.
- How weather affects the planning.
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