6 thoughts on “Do the captain and first officer engage in light hearted banter once they reach cruising altitude?

  1. astarpilot2000

    I agree with John B. There is no idle chat during critical phases of flight, but once you’re established at cruise altitude on a long flight with minimal contact from ATC there is time to kill. Most airlines have a "Crew Resource Management" training program to help establish priorities for the flight crew and to establish guidelines for assignment of duties.

    I’ve got some 20,000 hours in heavy jets, mostly across the Atlantic on 8 to 12 hour long flights, and of course the pilots talk about all sorts of stuff on a friendly basis. I think the most common subject involves ideas to improve aviation safety, but also union-management issues, favorite hotels in far-away cities, ways to cope with jet lag, weather problems, painting the house, families, jokes, especially dirty jokes, "there I was" stories – all sorts of topics come up.

    One of my more memorable experiences was talking about UFO’s one time over Greenland at night with a co-pilot wearing a baseball cap issued by some type of UFO fan club – it turned out he was a real student of UFO’s and astronomy, he should have been a scientist! Anyway, as we were debating whether UFO’s were real or not, we saw an amazing meteor shower. Imagine two of us in the near-solitude of a cockpit over Greenland at 40,000 feet, in the dark, and the sky above was lit up by this huge meteor shower. Once the meteor shower was over, we got talking about astronomy and the meaning of life…no different than any two other reasonably intelligent people in a relaxed atmosphere would do. Of course we always had an "eye" on the aircraft and an "ear" on the radio.

    Most airlines now have a 3rd pilot on board for long flights, and they are usually called the "cruise pilot" to allow the other pilots to get a break from the cockpit duties. Also sometimes an off-duty pilot or one of the flight attendants would join us in the cockpit while the passengers were sleeping. So that ends up with friendly 3-way conversations about all sorts of subjects, but I admit they were usually aviation related. Whenever pilots get together – in the cockpit or elsewhere – inevitably aviation becomes a topic for discussion, for which my wife has frowned on me more than once!

    But on the ground, departure, and approach, cockpit conversation is 100% focused on the flight for which the pilots are responsible for. There is also a need for constant "situational awareness" – you need to know how the aircraft is performing (engine temps, fuel burn, etc) and you need to know at all times where you are and where the nearest suitable airport is in case an emergency diversion is necessary. All these things can be accomplished while "light hearted banter" is going on – but we certainly don’t sleep and depend on the autopilot as suggested by another post.

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  2. tellmewho

    Ya once it gets to autopilot. Pilots job is to only interween on exception basis like managing air turbulence at times. What they engage in i dont know, but everybdy can see the air hostess going into the cockpit

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    Yes, modern airplanes are so much easier to fly that once you are in cruising flight you can literally sleep. The automatic pilot will just automatically sound an alarm when the plane needs pilot intervention such as during landing and take-off.

    If one can sleep during flight how much easier it is to engage in pep talks. Just make sure that your airplane 2 way radio is off so that the airport controller cannot hear your backbiting against him/her.

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