Ask the Captain: Why flying internationally is a point of pride

Question: What additional training, experience or qualifications are necessary to fly longer international or overseas flights on larger aircraft?  Are all international pilots necessarily more experienced?

— Submitted by reader Steve, Atlanta

Answer: Pilots are trained in international procedures, long-range navigation and international emergency procedures.

Often, though not always, pilots of larger airplanes are paid more than those flying small airplanes, meaning you’ll find the most senior pilots flying larger airplanes and internationally.

Pilots are trained to the same standard of competency regardless of nationality or size of airplane. 

Q: I have a friend who flies for a major airline.  He says that he flies a "wide body."  I'm not sure what this type of plane is, but he says it with obvious pride.  Why are wide body planes more desirable to a pilot?

— Tim, Richfield, Wis.

A: Pilots refer to twin-aisle airplanes as “wide body.” This includes many different airplanes, such as the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380. Many pilots see flying a large airplane to international destinations as the pinnacle of the flying profession. I understand why he would refer to it with pride.

Q: For international pilots, how frustrating is it having to go through customs after every flight and how fast do they fill up their passports?

— Jeff Burns, Raleigh, N.C.

A: Dealing with customs is a part of every international pilot’s life. Getting frustrated does not help solve the issues. You just work with the customs professionals to get through quickly. Many countries do not stamp flight crewmembers' passports to keep from filling them up. Many pilots have passports with extra pages.

Q: Several members of my family are "night people," and come alive when most get ready for bed.  I wonder if airlines select night people for long overnight flights?      

— William Hamilton, Painesville, Ohio 

A: No, flight crews usually bid for trips, including international overnight flights. In some cases flight crewmembers select trips to bid based on the hours of the flights. Airlines do not assign crews based on a crewmember being a night or morning person.

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