What do pilots do during the cruise?

It’s quite often said that the job of a pilot is very much like that of an anaesthetist. It’s pretty busy at the start and end of the operation, but in the middle it’s a bit more relaxed. With the intensity of the departure complete, the atmosphere in the flight deck relaxes.

The pilots instruct the autopilot to do the dogs work of keeping the wings level and flying the route entered into the Flight Management Computer (FMC) on the ground. Whilst one pilot is always responsible for ensuring the autopilot is doing exactly what they expect it to do, it creates spare capacity for the crew to attend to other matters.

On a typical 10-hour flight from Los Angles to London, there’s plenty to be done whilst up at 37,000 feet. It may seem like the pilots are just there for the ride, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s what is going on in the pointy end whilst you’re trying to get some sleep.

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