Pilots control their aircraft in accordance with air traffic control. Every clearance gives the cockpit crew the go-ahead for their next task – from taxiing to the runway, to instructions regarding the flight route – and is based on the current traffic loads and weather conditions.
Aircraft with jet engines cannot reverse. They are pulled away from the gate in the "nose-in position" by pushback tractors and pushed to the taxiway, where they then head for the runway under their own steam, as it were. The crew starts up the engines during pushback.
Checklists are the be all and end all in a pilot's life. They use checklists for manoeuvres such as takeoff and landing as standard, as well as in the event of technical problems. The pilots work through the checklists from start to finish, making sure that all the settings are correct for the current situation and that nothing has been left out.
In order for an aircraft to take off, the lift must be greater than the weight. The takeoff speed is calculated in relation to the aircraft's aerodynamic properties, its current weight including passengers, cargo and fuel, as well as the current weather conditions.
In the airspace managed by air traffic control, all aircraft travel at predetermined heights. They cruise at altitudes of between 9 and 12 km. At these heights, there is less frictional resistance and less in the way of weather phenomena such as turbulence. And jet streams, which are fast flowing, narrow air currents, can shorten the flying time when they occur in the form of a tailwind.
Originally, the automatic control systems were only used to stabilise an aircraft, but today's autopilots can do much more. The pilots enter their route and flying altitude in the Flight Management System. The autopilot is particularly important when the crew are relying entirely on the aircraft's instruments.
The correct approach speed for a safe landing depends on the type of aircraft and its current weight, how the load is distributed and the meteorological conditions. Just before touchdown, the pitch angle is raised slightly to lower the sink rate so the aircraft lands gently and precisely.
There are at least two pilots in a SWISS cockpit. The Captain is responsible for the entire crew on board, the operation, that is to say the flight, and for the actual aircraft. The First Officer is his deputy. Both pilots are trained to control and monitor the aircraft and communicate by radio.
The basic training at SWISS Aviation Training takes about 18 months. Trainee pilots then move to SWISS, where they undergo six months of practical training on a specific aircraft type. Those who successfully complete their training become fully qualified professional pilots. On the Airbus A320, for instance.