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IFR approaches and departures in the real world in commercial flights


John McMurdo
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I am just curious exactly how much of a flight would be flown manually in the real world on a commercial airliner, whether the the SID would be flown manually or one would engage the AP before reaching the first waypoint.  Similarly at which point would one disengage the A/P and fly the final manually.  When on VATSIM,  I engage the AP straight away so I have my hands free to take down any instructions from ATC,  as for approaches it depends on how familiar with the airport I am.  If its one I am familiar with,  I will disengage the AP as soon as I am established on the localiser, other times  I may just let the aircraft fly itself adding flare and backing off throttle when needed.

 

I am currently practising 10 mile finals offline until I am confident I can fly into any new airport without the aid of the autopilot. I seem to be a lot better flying visual approaches than following ILS though,  probably because when I started simming,  I did not bother with any ILS or GPS or anything,  I just flew the old fashioned way, it was not until I thought about joining VATSIM that I thought maybe I should learn IFR too.

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17 minutes ago, Dace Nicmane said:

I don't know the answer to your question but I'm curious why does it matter how familiar you are with the airport. An ILS is an ILS at any airport, well, mostly (not talking about offset ones etc).

I suppose its just me and my lack of confidence.

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It depends on the SOPs of airlines. To make sure that they stay current, some airlines will motivate their crews to fly manually for more than just a few seconds. Others will prescribe "best use of equipment" and to them autoflight systems fall within the category "equipment" - they will expect their crews to engage the autopilot as soon as possible after takeoff and switch it off only at the approach minimum before landing.

My employer allows us to use our own judgement and common sense. Manual flying in London airspace is probably not the best idea when it is really busy on the frequency or when the weather is really bad. But why not fly the full approach/departure procedure to/from sunny Ibiza island?

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You also should remember that most airliners are crewed by two, so it's only natural that sim pilots should rely more on flight automation than real pilots.

That being said, it's commendable that you should push yourself to fly more by hand.  It's a great skill to have, particularly when last-minute curveballs come your way and reprogramming the FMC just takes too long.

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Cheers,

-R.

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There are tons of Youtube videos where you can see real world departures and approaches. From there you can see different practices.

And even if procedures are flown using AP, they many times are flown in selected, not in managed modes, i.e. "half-manually".

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I used to work casually at a 777 Fixed base Simulator Buisness (entertainment only) and we used to have airline pilots come in and try do the interview tests flight patterns with me. One of the reasons given by one of the pilots, for comming to us and spending money, is because if they start manual flying at work, other pilots start asking questions about who they are trying to get a job with.

Kirk Christie - VATPAC C3

VATPAC Undercover ATC Agent

Worldflight Perth 737-800 Crew Member

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2 hours ago, Kirk Christie said:

because if they start manual flying at work, other pilots start asking questions about who they are trying to get a job with.

Yeah, I heard that manual flying is not seen as a good thing by managers of Australian airlines/operators.

 

9 hours ago, Lauri Uusitalo said:

And even if procedures are flown using AP, they many times are flown in selected, not in managed modes, i.e. "half-manually".

I don't know what videos from what year of filming you are referring to, but since RNP is the primary means of navigation in many places, there is no more tolerance for not flying SIDs in (L)NAV-mode, otherwise you will end up with violations.

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13 hours ago, John McMurdo said:

I suppose its just me and my lack of confidence

Well, you know the saying, the smarter you are the dumber you feel, right? 😁 I've found it 💯 true on my part. Also according to the pessimistic reports about the VATSIM pilots I've seen and judging by your other posts on the forum you are among the top 10% of VATSIM pilots, mostly because of your conscientiousness and keenness to learn. Enjoy your flights and stay safe 🐱

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was an Instructor pilot at a large regional flying out of KATL and KLGA. 

As such, I would encourage "hand flying" the AC as mush as possible. That being said, common practice was to engage the AP around 1000 feet AGL.

On complex SID and STAR's in busy airspace, the extra workload that hand flying presented for a new pilot can cause the crew to get behind the AC.

Since most, I assume, are not flying a crewed AC in the sims we fly it would make the most sense to engage the AP as soon as possible to allow for the greatest situational awareness possible.

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