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Getting you there on time, more of the time – Captain Simon Lewis

easyJet has a great record of on-time performance and for business travellers, where time is at a premium, it’s even more important that we deliver you to your meeting promptly. So how do we manage this? Well as an easyJet pilot we have a very important role to play, let me explain more…

When you board your flight as a passenger everything is prepared and waiting for you. However, the aircraft you board forms part of a wider operation that began a number of weeks earlier when both the crew and aircraft were rostered to operate the flight.

For this particular flight, the first wave departure to Glasgow, the crew arrive in the crew room at least 60 minutes prior to departure. By then they would have already been subject to the same security checks as the passengers. As the captain of the flight, my initial role is to make sure, when I check-in at a computer terminal, that I have all of my crew ready and prepared for the day ahead.

Finding my co-pilot, is not always the easiest task in a crowded crew room especially if we have never flown together before but if that is the case this is our time to find out about each other. Together we review flight plans for the day. These flight plans are continually updated and prepared throughout the day and night in order to provide the most efficient, expeditious and commercial routing available. Consequently this tells us exactly how much fuel we will need.

However, in the same way that you wouldn't fill your car to the exact amount of fuel required for your journey, we can carry additional fuel to account for any delays, holding patterns, bad weather and contingency fuel for the infrequent instance that a diversion to an alternative destination is required. The fuel figure is then sent through to our ground operations company, so that the aircraft can be fuelled ready for when we arrive to board. Aircraft are sometimes filled with fuel overnight to make sure they are ready for their early morning departure. You may not know that aircraft fuel is stored inside the aircraft wings.

easyJet has put into action a number of plans to further improve on-time performance. For the first flights of the day this means that pilots and the cabin crew hold the pre-flight briefing once on-board the aircraft and not in the crew room. So when we are all onboard the aircraft, I will close the door and bring everyone together in the middle of the aircraft. Here, without any distraction, we will discuss flying conditions for the day, whether any turbulence is forecast on any of our routes, flight times, crew working positions and any special requirements.

Before passengers can board the aircraft, the cabin crew must carry out very important pre-departure security searches. The crew must also make sure there is enough catering on-board for your early morning coffee and breakfast. This morning I will be the Captain flying the aircraft to Glasgow, whilst my co-pilot will be operating as the pilot monitoring. Once the refuelling is finished I will check the amount loaded is correct and sign the aircraft off. I will do a full security and cockpit preparation of the flight deck, whilst my colleague does the walk around and checks everything is as it should be on the outside in addition to the Engineering check carried out the previous evening. The flight plan for today's flight is downloaded to the FMGC (Flight Management Guidance Computer). This contains various information including our flight number for air traffic control and cruising height.
As passengers start boarding, it’s starting to get quite busy in the flight deck. My co-pilot will have returned and he will be writing down the departure weather and then putting that information into his Panasonic tough pad in order to work out our take-off performance and limitations for the particular runway in use. A load-sheet will then be computed and the weight and balance data calculated and then entered into the FMGC. Copies of the technical log and load-sheet are then passed back to the dispatcher, who you might have seen as you boarded, as they co-ordinate the turnaround of the aircraft.

Once I am happy that everything is set up correctly, it is time to go through the take-off briefing with my co-pilot. The purpose of this is to inform my colleague of the planned course of action for both normal and abnormal situations during the take-off. It is also a recall of both of our standard emergency procedures. Once we have completed all that, I will ask for the before start check list.

My cabin manager will come in and confirm the total passenger number with our load-sheet and I will ask them to close the doors for departure.

This is generally my cue for the welcome announcement where I will introduce my crew and give some flight details as well as ask passengers to observe the safety demonstration by the cabin crew. And now we are ready to go! Hopefully, this will be either before or on the departure time advertised.

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