THE ENROUTE PHASE
On some days, the enroute phase of a flight can be very boring; on other days it can be
the best part of a flight. So enjoy the view, the serenity and the privilege of flight. But remember, there
are tasks to be completed.
Every pilot knows that the following things will have to be done at some point, before he or she lands:
· Go through the cruise checklist.
· Receive ATIS information for the destination airport.
· Review obstacles at the destination airport.
· Review arrival and/or approach procedures at destination airport.
Some of these items will have been reviewed during the preflight and planning phase. In that phase, we insured
that all our runway and airport facilities were adequate. But arrival and approach procedures change with the
weather, so be prepared for other contingencies. It's always a good idea to complete your tasks sooner rather than
later. For example, try to receive your ATIS information as soon as possible, and try to review the obstacles,
arrival and approach information as soon as possible. The reason for this is that these tasks are "known" tasks—you
know you'll have to do them. There are an infinite number of unknown tasks that could pop up at any time, so it's
best to get the known tasks out of the way. The more diligent we are in the beginning, the more time we'll have to
deal with unforeseen situations later. These situations don't need to be emergencies to throw you for a loop.
Something as simple as ATC expediting your arrival, or maybe a short turn to final or a short turn onto the
approach, can make a pilot very busy. In this section, we are going to talk about enroute procedures and cockpit
Let’s begin the enroute phase with the climb-out. We ended the last section (the Takeoff phase) right after
takeoff. In the preflight briefing (done with two pilots, or just in your head) we talked about reviewing the
departure. Route – What is your first heading and altitude after takeoff? What is your first fix?
Climb-out - Since you reviewed the departure in your head, there is no scrambling for charts or programming of
navigation equipment needed at this time. FLY the airplane first and when you're able, reply to ATC instructions as
expeditiously as possible. Complete your “after takeoff” checklist to insure the aircraft is cleaned up and nothing
is forgotten. If you are flying in a high density area and have an autopilot, it’s good advice to use it. A modern
professional cockpit is managed, not flown. Hand flying should be done where altitude bust or other errors will not
result in a midair collision. CRM (crew resource management) is a management of all your resources. On an ATP
(airline transport pilot) check-ride, an applicant would probably fail the ride if he/she did not use the autopilot
for some part of the flight. Part of good cockpit management is delegating tasks and, of course, turning on an
autopilot is delegating the task of flying to allow you to attend to other jobs.
Just as we discussed in the Takeoff phase, you should refrain from unnecessary conversation, maintaining a sterile
cockpit till cruise. Look to the Manual Builder for more insight on the Sterile Cockpit.
Every flight is unique. The enroute phase can be very short or very long. The weather can cause you to travel many
miles out of your way, or it can be smooth and clear. The main issues a pilot deals with enroute are:
It helps to have SOPs—Standard Operating Procedures. Pilots should have a procedure in place to scan the
instruments for signs of trouble. Pick something that works for you in your airplane. An example might be:
Every time the clock is on a quarter, check engine instruments, check course, check fuel, check ETA.
Every hour on the hour, check weather (this time can be adjusted depending on the weather.)
Callouts - Callouts are used to maintain situation awareness in various phases of flight. Just as in the Takeoff
phase, these procedures can be used in a one or a two pilot crew. If you are not in a two pilot crew, you should
complete these tasks in your head. If you ever have the opportunity to fly in a professional cockpit, everyone will
be amazed at how fast you pick things up.
In cruise, the callouts generally required are for altitude changes, and also when approaching an altitude while
climbing or descending. When the aircraft approaches 1000 feet to go to an assigned altitude, the callout by the
non-flying pilot would be:
PNF (pilot not flying) - Out of 4 for 5 thousand feet.
PF (pilot flying) - Roger, we are armed and engaged for 5 thousand feet (flight director is armed and autopilot is
Roger, we are armed and hand flying to 5 thousand feet (flight director is armed and he/she is hand flying the
Note: This example is for a two pilot crew with autopilot and flight director. Develop a
procedure that works best for the type of flying you do, and then use it diligently.
This insures everyone is in the loop, and both pilots then monitor the capture and level-off by the flight
When ATC assigns a new altitude, the PNF places the new altitude in the altitude window and reads back the
assignment to ATC. The PF then will usually acknowledge the new altitude so that both pilots can confirm they heard
the same number, it made sense, and that the new clearance is being complied with...situation awareness.
Situation awareness is a term generally used for IFR flight. It means the pilot is completely aware of his/her
aircraft's situation. This includes the aircraft's:
· Heading and location
· Relationship to fixes and the airport
· Mechanical condition
Losing situation awareness usually occurs when a pilot is overloaded, either by a distraction or by operating in a
situation above their skill level. It's easy to get tunnel vision and lose the big picture. This could happen
during VFR, but it is more common during IFR.
Finally—A professional is always doing something. It is important to relax and regroup, but being diligent and
prepared for the next phase of the flight is paramount if you want to stay ahead of the airplane and not be
“hanging off the tail,” as they say. Being ahead of the plane and being prepared means using the slow times to
catch up and get ready.
Most pilots enjoy having a good conversation in route, or watching a beautiful sunset, or viewing the skyline of a
great city. Most of us started flying because it was exciting and enjoyable. I believe if you practice these
techniques, if you are well prepared ahead of time, and if have clearly defined boundaries and limitations like the
Personal Operations Manual, you will find you’ll enjoy flying more than ever. It will change the way you fly, and
transform the way you look at aviation. You will be more relaxed and confident and better able to enjoy your