My question: what are you doing in the cockpit prior to takeoff? Pilots seem to be there 30-40 min (right?) before the flight. What all are you doing? (And please don’t just say “getting ready” haha). Is the airplane cold and dark when you get in? Are you really loading up the FMC or is that done automatically, etc., etc.
Thanks again, really enjoy your writing.
Yes, we show up to the flight deck about 30 to 40 minutes prior to push back. (Check-in is 1:15 prior to launch). Nine out of ten times it's the first time I will meet the F/O. With nearly 400 A320 captains and 400 F/Os based in Toronto it may be the last time you see or fly with this person. (No, no, not because they will bid around me (lol) but that's what usually transpires with a large company. But some senior Captains and senior F/Os fly a lot together because of the preferred flights. But for me - the middle of the road- I tend to see new faces).
I usually ask the F/O which leg they prefer while walking to the gate. Most F/Os gladly take the first leg and they also like me offering to do the walk around.(It's a first officer duty) I always thought both were good gestures to start the pairing when I was F/O. (For the wide body fleet, the walk around is done by maintenance).
We settle in our seats stowing our flight bags to the side. The Airbus flight deck is roomy. The ADIRS switches (inertial reference system) are turned on prior to me sitting and I grab the logbook and check for "open" snags, when the last inspections have been done (a minimum of a two day inspection must be completed) plus whether this will be a "first flight" of the day.
The "first flight of the day" requires a few more checks.
The F/O initializes the Datalink, we both agree to the Lat/long for ADIRS "alignment" and we get a digital ATIS ( I asked the last new hire class whether they have seen Datalink - not one. I told them they are going to love it - no more listening to the ATIS and the clearances will be sent to the flight deck).
The PF (person flying) begins the ramp check with the other watching. For Airbus, "black is beautiful" is the rule of thumb for switch locations. Black means the lights are out, the switches are on.
Somewhere along the way, the in-charge must be briefed (Transport canada regulation mandates this be performed by the captain), plus a garbage bag is recruited or we ain't going. :) Usually drinks are offered and our quota of bottled water is offered. Crew snacks may also be part of the "dining" experience depending on what time of day it is.
The ramp check is completed with an instrument cross check initiated by the captain.
Then the PDC (Pre departure Clearance), arriving about 30 minutes prior to sked departure, is read to the F/O by the captain.
The F/O reads back the PDC number to "clearance delivery." This is not usually done in the States. The American ATC, however, makes us guess what the take off runway is. In Canada, its spelt (spelled) out.
Then the PF briefs the departure, and sets the heading and initial altitude in the FCU loctaed along the glare shield.
Finally, the flight plan data is inputted into the flight management computers. Each "page" is inputted in the exact same order.
The PF then gives a "take off" briefing. We must also review certain emergency procedures prior to each pairing called, "I wills and you wills." Sort of like wedding vows. Initiated by the captain, we brief a rejected take off, engine failure or fire after V1 and emergency descents.
"In the event of an abnormality prior to V1 I will call "continue" or "reject." If the decision is to reject, I will.....blah, blah, blah."
By this time, things are starting to happen. The "lead" is checking in from down below getting a "communication check." Plus they usually want to pull the external power so the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) should be up and running. If not, things get dark really fast. :)
We note the cargo doors closing up and the in-charge is at the door asking whether they can close the cabin door. The passenger count is given and we will compare our "final" figures" with theirs. For the Airbus the tolerance is 3:6. The count must be within 3 passengers for each cabin zone and the total must be within 6.
Once the flight deck door is closed ( we are locked in our cubby hole), the jetway has moved away from the plane and our final load figures is received from the datalink, and reviewed, we get a push back clearance. BUT not before a "before start" checklist is complete.
The F/O reads it and the captain responds.
Ext-pwr/Fuel/NWS..."light out, checked, disconnected"
Y-Pump/X-bleed..."OFF" and "auto"
Beacon & signs.. "On, on, auto"
The F/O then says"Before Start Checklist Complete" (Every checklist must be acknowledged as complete).
Pushback is requested...we are on our way!