Airplane and commercial pilots fly airplanes and helicopters.
Airline pilots fly for airlines that transport people and cargo. Commercial pilots fly for other reasons such as rescue operations, crop dusting, and aerial photography.
Pilots must complete certain procedures before taking off. They must:
- Check weather conditions along the route
- Create a flight plan
- Calculate the amount of fuel the plane will need to complete the flight
- Compute the takeoff speed they must reach
- Check the condition of the plane and make sure all instruments and mechanical systems are working correctly
Pilots coordinate their flight plan with air traffic controllers. When given the signal by the control tower, pilots taxi the airplane to a runway and take off.
If the flight is rough or bumpy, pilots talk to air traffic controllers about flying at a new altitude. They may need to use instruments to help fly the airplane when visibility is poor.
Once the plane has landed, the pilot taxis the airplane to the gate. They sometimes write a report of the trip and file it with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Commercial airlines usually have at least two pilots on board during flights. The captain is the pilot in command and supervises all crew members. The copilot helps the captain communicate with the tower, monitor flight instruments, and operate controls. On large aircraft a third pilot, called a flight engineer, monitors instruments and makes minor repairs during the flight.
Pilots who fly smaller airplanes may help load the aircraft, handle passenger luggage, and supervise refueling.
Pilots may fly airplanes used for crop dusting, skydiving, and advertising. Some pilots teach people how to fly airplanes. They give exams and flight checks to students who are applying for a pilot's license.