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Flight for Life - CHRISTUS Health - CHRISTUS Health
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Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight
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Insider Series: A Day in the Life of a Pilot — During the Flight
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Among Ravens Comedy Drama. Evening Once the power is set, the nonflying pilot calls out speeds that denote different phases of the takeoff roll — the first is typically between 80 and knots. This is considered the high-speed regime of the takeoff and the pilots will usually only reject it if there are serious malfunctions. The next callout will be V1. At this speed, we are committed to take off because we no longer have sufficient runway space left to safely stop the plane. Shortly after, V1 VR will be announced, which is the speed at which the flying pilot will begin the takeoff rotation.
Finally, V2 will be announced. In the unlikely event the pilots experience an engine failure, the pilots will climb out at V2 to attain the best climb rate with an engine failure. As the plane climbs, we raise the gear and begin accelerating. Most international destinations require the crew to reach 3, feet at their initial climb speed, with flaps extended all the way to reduce noise impact around the airport. At most US airports, however, that altitude is feet. As the plane accelerates, we raise the flaps, complete the after-takeoff checklists and eventually turn on the autopilot to allow us to better scan for other aircraft.
Shortly after takeoff, the tower hands us off to the departure controller, who gives us vectors to join our filed departure route. As we pass 18, feet, we set our altimeters to standard pressure and turn off the landing lights. Because we transit many weather fronts as we fly from airport to airport, pilots set standard pressure above 18, feet so all aircraft operating in the high altitude structure has a common barometric baseline. Once we near cruising altitude, we ask the high-altitude controller if anyone flying in front of us has experienced turbulence. At this point, we can start to relax since cruise-altitude tasks are not time-critical and we can take our time monitoring the fuel burn and watching various weather forecasts.
On transatlantic flights, we get oceanic clearance from Gander or Shanwick Oceanic Control, and once that happens, we reconfirm that the route is programmed correctly and coordinate with the domestic controller to get clearance to our coast-out fix and final cruise altitude. While flying over the either the Pacific or Atlantic, we do periodic position checks to confirm we are where we are supposed to be at the time we are supposed to be there with the fuel we calculated we would have. After everything is put in, the pilots will discuss the planned turnoff point from the runway and the initial routing we can expect — we also go over what the plan would be if we have to go around for any reason.
Right about now, the en-route controllers will start handing us off to the lower-altitude controllers, who clear us to ever-lower altitudes and give us clearance to our arrival procedure, and eventually, from the en route airspace to the approach procedure. Then, we end up with the approach controller, who will vector us from the arrival to the approach for the runway, slow us to approach speeds and vector us to sequence with other aircraft going to the same runway.