The Truth About What Pilots Do on Planes: Debunking Misconceptions
Pilots must “do nothing” on planes as they all run on autopilot these days, right? Wrong. The claim was quickly shut down in a viral video by an airline pilot who debunked some misconceptions about what pilots actually do on planes.
The clip, which has gained 5.5 million views, was posted on September 6 by Gary Baumgardner, known as @garybpilot on TikTok. Baumgardner, a 36-year-old airline pilot currently based at LAX airport in Los Angeles, has more than 14 years of experience in the profession, having been hired by a regional airline at the age of 20 in 2007.
Dispelling the Myth of Autopilot
Baumgardner told Newsweek that one of the most misunderstood aspects about the piloting profession is the misconception that planes “fly themselves.” While it is true that pilots have tools and automation such as the autopilot, there are many other tasks and responsibilities required of pilots. Additionally, all pilots are trained to fly without relying on the autopilot, but achieving this level of proficiency takes years of expensive training.
Clarifying the Role of Pilots
In response to a viral TikTok video questioning what pilots do during long flights, Baumgardner explained that the assumption that pilots simply take off and land is not entirely accurate. He emphasized that pilots are actively involved in all aspects of the flight, including handling unexpected situations, as the autopilot cannot deal with certain challenges like sudden thunderstorms. Baumgardner compared pilots to baseball players in the field, who may have moments of relative inactivity but must be ready to respond with skill and experience as soon as the ball comes their way.
The Importance of Pilot Skills
Contrary to popular belief, pilots cannot simply rely on the autopilot for every task. When given instructions by air traffic control, pilots must manually execute the commands, including climbing, descending, or turning. Additionally, pilots have various other responsibilities, such as logging information, making communication with air traffic control, and conducting system checks. Their workload increases significantly during non-normal situations or emergencies.
Understanding Rest Breaks for Pilots
During long flights, pilots do have opportunities for rest. For flights lasting over eight hours, three pilots are typically present, while flights longer than 12 hours require a crew of four pilots. In the case of an 18-hour flight, there will be four pilots on board, and they are provided with their own beds and bunk beds for rest. Even on planes without dedicated rest areas, pilots are given a first-class seat where they can lie down and recharge.
The Rewarding Profession of Piloting
Being a pilot is not only an exciting and challenging profession but also one that offers competitive compensation. In the “100 Best Jobs” ranking by U.S. News, pilots secured the 48th position, recognizing the rewarding nature of the job. The profession is ranked fourth among the “Best Social Service Jobs” and ranks 10th among the “Best Paying Jobs”, with a median salary of $134,630 in 2021 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
By shedding light on the realities of piloting, Gary Baumgardner’s viral TikTok video has debunked misconceptions and highlighted the multifaceted nature of a pilot’s role. From managing the aircraft during unexpected situations to navigating through air traffic control instructions, pilots play a critical part in ensuring the safety and smooth operation of each flight.