Lately, in one of my live videos on my Instagram, a lot of people who are dreaming of becoming a pilot asked me about how long is it gonna take for a pilot to start flying long-hauls and what are the main pros and cons of short and long-haul flights? So, I decided to write an article about it and explain more deeply the differences and the expectations of both flight types.
But before we start examing these pros and cons, I want to stress that the flight type doesn’t reflect the pilot’s quality, say if he is flying mainly short-hauls, this doesn’t mean he is not as good as the long-haul flight pilot.
Now let’s start with understanding what basically a short-haul flight or long-haul flight means.
The flights that take from 1 hour to 3 hours are considered as short-haul flights and are mainly operated by narrow-body aircraft like Boeing 737, Airbus A320, and these types of flight preparation processes are quicker compared to long-haul flights. The pilot’s lifestyle is also quite different for the short-haul flights. Working in the short-haul flight sector is like shift work, i.e., a pilot who flies in a short-haul flight can make several flights per day and return home, let’s say in the evening. One of the advantages of flying short-haul is that pilots implement more take-off and landing operations, but this doesn’t mean you will have more flight hours per flight. This can be one of the biggest disadvantages of this type of flight for a pilot, as he has to work hard to gain his flight hours. But if you are looking to gain good experience, short-haul flights can help you, for sure.
There is also a misconception that short-haul flight pilots don’t have layovers. Well, they can have, and this depends on flight regulations, and average layover time can be 12-15 hours.
When it comes to long-haul flight, we have to understand that the timing is totally different from short-haul flights, that every process takes more time, the aircraft boarding, catering, refueling are longer, the destination is further, the aircraft type is wide-body like Airbus A350, A380, Boeing 777 or Boeing 787. Usually, these types of flights that last longer than 10 hours are operated by 2 crews – A and B (sometimes 2 captains, 2 first officers, or 1 captain, 3 first officers). The crew A prepares the aircraft for the flight and implements the departure procedure. When the cruise phase starts, crew B takes over the aircraft control. At the arrival phase, the crew A re-takes the control of the airplane and implements the arrival procedure. But the return flight will be started by the crew B, and the cruise will be implemented by the crew A, the arrival procedure will be performed again by the crew B. The idea of having a double crew is for letting the pilots take rest during the flight. So, by flying to such long destinations, tiredness and jet-lagged become the most challenging and disadvantageous part of these kinds of flight types.
Pilots who are flying long or ultra-long-haul flights also need special training for crossing the Atlantic or flying to some Polar regions.
To summarize, I have to say that definitely, both flight types have their pros and cons, but to be able to fly on both can be a great experience. Pilots who have both short-haul and long-haul type qualifications can switch and operate both short-haul and long-haul flights. The main difference is the operation timing in both types of flights.
So I would like to know what you will choose?
Until next time, and as always, “We Speak Aviation.”
P. S. Short-haul flight hours = 1 – 3 hours
Medium-haul flight hours = 3 – 6 hours
Long-haul flight hours = 6 – 12 hours
Ultra-long-haul flight hours = over 12 hours