A common misconception about pilots is that they only need to worry about taking off and landing while the rest of the flight relies on autopilot, which can be turned on with a single push of a button or the flick of a switch.
Gary Baumgardner, a 36-year-old pilot, has taken to TikTok to share with his viewers what pilots actually do on a daily basis. “I just wanna set the record straight for a second and clear up a couple of misconceptions there,” he began his video.
The pilot reminded passengers that the autopilot is “a tool” similar to the way a bat is a tool for a baseball player. He further explained the analogy in an interview with Newsweek. “While it is true we have tools and automation such as the autopilot, there are so many other things that are required to be a pilot,” he told the outlet. “Not to mention, all pilots are required to be able to fly without the autopilot. Training is expensive and takes years.”
“If you’re flying along and a thunderstorm shows up the autopilot cannot just automatically direct you out of that,” he added. “If ATC (Air Traffic Control) tells you to climb or descend or turn, that doesn’t just happen with the autopilot, we have to do that.”
He also added that there are multiple “system checks” that need to be done. “Not to mention there’s logs, ATC calls, all kinds of other things, system checks that we have to do. And that’s just if we have nothing else going on that’s non-normal or emergencies.”
Baumgardner said that if they are on a longer flight, the pilots also get the opportunity to eat and sleep. “Don’t quote me on the numbers, but on flights over eight hours, you have three pilots and I believe for flights over 12 hours, you have to have four pilots. I know for a fact that if you have a flight that’s 18 hours long, you have four pilots. We actually have our own beds and bunk beds up there...” he revealed in the TikTok.
If the plane does not end up having bunk beds for the pilots, they’ll reserve a seat in first-class for the pilots to rotate and get some rest. “But most of the long international flights have their own crew rest bunks for us,” he said.
Since being posted on 6 September, the TikTok has been viewed over six million times with over 2,000 comments. Some people addressed how tough the job appeared and thanked Baumgardner for the work he does. “Being a pilot requires so much skill, patience and a lot of money. And it’s tough being in the air for so much time,” one commenter wrote.
Another agreed while pointing out, “Not to mention the RESPONSIBILITY of close to 300 souls!!! It’s an incredibly tough job.”
A flight attendant also responded in the comments, mentioning the complaints they used to get about the pilots sleeping. “As an ex flight attendant I’m glad you explain this because people used to get mad seeing the pilots are asleep,” they commented.
Other commenters joked that pilots also have another job when up in the air. “What pilots do is practise how they can best mumble into the intercom so that no passengers understand a word of it,” one comment read.
The Independent has contacted Baumgardner for comment.