Monday, 4 May 2015
You thought flying a commercial aircraft was the same in FSX and in real life because you have "slots" just like us?
Here's how it works on a CDM (Collaborative Decision Making) airport, that is: most major airports in Europe. This is a very simplified explanation but it's a good example of what we really deal with as airline pilots.
On the ground and once we are ready to pushback and start, there are mainly three "times" that decide what time we can actually get going.
- EOBT = Estimated Off Blocks Time = depends on Operational Flight Plan (OFP) filed to ATC (ATC tolerance usually +/- 15min).
- TOBT = Target Off Blocks Time (tolerance usually +/- 5min), decided by airline operations and filed to ATC, it's a more precise prevision of the OBT given the possible delays.
Maximum difference between EOBT and TOBT = usually 10 minutes. If more, new flight plan required (a new OFP generates a new EOBT).
- TSAT = Target Start-up Approval Time, generated by ATC (tolerance +/- 5min).
As it happens on at least a third of the flights (regardless of the airline), if we miss the TSAT, we have to ask for a new TOBT. However if the difference between EOBT and TOBT now exceeds 10 minutes, we also have to ask for a new EOBT (file a new Flight Plan). I know many colleagues are puzzled when required to "ask company for a new EOBT and a new TOBT", the difference between the two isn't all that clear.
For operations to file a new Flight Plan and a TOBT, ATC to receive both and issue us with a new TSAT, the whole process can take up to 20 minutes.
All sorts of issues arise on the ground. A simple passenger request can have big consequences on the tight schedule. Lets say one passenger forgets his/her phone in the terminal and wants to either offload himself (which requires us to have his checked-in bag removed from the hold and it can take a while to find it) or to go back in the terminal him/herself, get his/her phone and come back. Either way, we lose our TSAT. If it's a busy time, we get a slot and that can be some 2 hours behind schedule.
This kinds of issues happen ... a lot.
Hopefully this will convey a more realistic picture of what this job is about. The view is worth it but there's a lot of work to do before you get above the clouds. So, no, it isn't "just like FSX".
FSX is probably way more fun but the view is way better in real life.