What are the short-haul highlights and challenges for pilots?

Martin-Reade-photoWe ask Martin Reade, a commercial pilot who flies the A-320 series for a large short-haul carrier in Europe.

I: You fly for a short-haul carrier in Europe. How many different destinations might you fly to and how many legs might you fly in the course of a day?

Martin: As a short-haul pilot for one of the biggest airlines in Europe I could fly to any of the destinations we serve all over the continent. I normally fly from a base which serves 30 destinations, but could be sent to operate from another airport, for example Gatwick, which serves 100 destinations! Typically, I would fly either two or four sectors in a day, which means one or two return trips. A single return trip would typically be a long one, for example southern Europe, a double trip would inevitably be two shorter ones of about 1.5 hours each sector.

I: In your experience, are there notable differences in ATC practice and airport infrastructure within Europe?

Martin: ATC practice and airport infrastructure are similar on general level, but if you delve into any detail, differences emerge. These entail different standards of operation, buildings, facilities, navigation aids, and so on. The differences tend to be national and there are differences in what may be expected due to cultural and economic factors.

I: What are the things which you enjoy most about flying short-haul?

Martin: The most enjoyable things about short-haul are the different destinations, the different challenges posed by operating to northern Europe in winter, then southern Europe in summer, the number of take-offs and landings, and for a family man, sleeping in your own bed most nights!

I: And finally, what do you consider to be the main challege of this sort of operation?

Martin: The main challenges of short-haul are coping with the weather, which can vary enormously, the frustrations of slot delays when you are ready to go (especially at peak times) and the risk of fatigue when working multiple sector days back to back with minimum rest.

4 + 17 =