When he travels, Florian Trojer packs his suitcase, makes sure he has his passport and license, and drives to the airport. He thinks about the flight ahead, who he’ll be sitting next to, and where he’s going — the destination is always in the back of his mind. He’s usually at the airport two hours before takeoff.
Though his travel preparations are nearly the same as any passenger’s, there is one distinct difference: Florian is the pilot.
While the passengers check their bags, go through security, find their gate, and wait to board, Florian is getting ready to fly a Boeing 777.
He meets with the other pilots, and, together, they go to the flight dispatcher who gives them the documents for their flight: the flight plan, weather information, alternate routes, and airport restrictions at arrival. The pilots — there are at least three on long-haul flights — assess the flight and anything special about that day’s flight.
They meet the cabin crew, who tell them about anything unique to their flight — VIP passengers, unaccompanied minors, passengers in wheelchairs, animals. Then they head to the plane as a crew, where the flight attendants prep the aircraft and the pilots prep the cockpit.
The pilots check the emergency equipment and enter the flight information into the computer. A mechanic briefs them about the technical status of the plane, and air traffic control gives them route clearance for the flight.
Passengers start streaming onto the plane, the loading crew gets the luggage into the cargo hold, and the cabin crew makes sure the correct number of passengers are on board. Then the doors are closed and the pilots get clearance to push back and start the engines.
They head to the runway, get takeoff clearance, and start to accelerate.
During takeoff, what sometimes comes across as tension to the passengers is really just extreme focus on the part of the cabin crew. Florian, in the cockpit, experiences everything a passenger does during takeoff — he just gets a better view.
Then, the pilot lifts the massive metal plane off the ground, and, finally, they’re airborne.
Florian’s office is at the helm of a 775,000 pound Boeing 777.
His colleagues work as one — monitoring the flight progress, checking the weather, communicating with various air traffic control stations along the route, making sure the passengers are comfortable. They chat about work, sports, politics, hobbies, their families, and the places they’ve been.
The view out Florian’s window is always changing. Sometimes it’s day, sometimes night. There could be icebergs, oceans, mountains, or deserts. Sometimes he sees the sun rise, and other times he watches it set. He watches cloud formations, and can often spot other airplanes crossing in the distance. No flight is ever the same.
Florian’s cousin was a pilot in the Austrian Air Force, and, when he was a teenager, they would go to the airport together to see the planes. He started flying gliders at 16. When he finished with university, all he wanted to do was start flying again.
While training to be a pilot, he learned about aerodynamics and the principles of flying. His studies included a lot of physics, math, geography, and meteorology. He learned about radio technology and communications, how to cope with stress and navigate changing time zones, and the mechanics of specific airplanes. Three years later, he was flying short haul flights around Europe, gaining experience that would eventually help him get his current job — flying Boeing 777s.
Flying just never stopped being interesting.
Today, Florian is still obsessed with flight. He loves the romanticism around flight, and how a rainy night flying into Hong Kong is completely different than a sunny day over the Rockies. He’s fascinated with the technology of the engines, the aerodynamic aspects of the planes, and the sheer size of the machines he operates.
About an hour before landing, the pilots brief the rest of the crew on their impending arrival. They check the computers and make sure everything is programmed correctly. They calculate the landing distance and study the ground charts for the airport they’re landing in.
Air traffic control issues descent clearance and eventually gives them permission to land.
Sometime during the descent, the pilots will switch off the autopilot. They’ll steer the plane safely onto solid ground.
Being a pilot has shown Florian just how special the world is and how much more there is to see.
Every time he lands, he’s ready to takeoff again.
All of Florian’s photos were taken during non-critical phases of flight, or from the cockpit observer seat as a non-acting crew member. You can see more of Florian’s photography on Instagram.