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Until Friday I'd flown only with EasyJet and Alitalia. In the last weekend, however, I took two Vueling flights and felt that the way the aircraft manoeuvred during the flight was very different when compared to EasyJet and Alitalia.

  • Take off seemed more "brutal", and we seemed to rotate much earlier, where the EasyJet or Alitalia flights will use more of the runway.

  • After take off, the airplanes did a lot of maneuvers during climbing. While EasyJet's planes usually do a variation of "turn, long climb, another turn", the Vuelings' performed a number of turns during climbing.

  • Landings, from the point of view of turning, are the same (as it should be). But after touchdown...it seemed to me the pilot maintained a higher rollout and taxi speed for much much more time, so that in both cases after the gear touching ground the plane reached the apron in a matter of seconds - and in both case the planes were yawing a lot when completing their landing roll and taxi, compared to the EasyJet or Alitalia flights.

In general the impression was that pilots were piloting in a more "sporty" manner (to use a motoring analogy), if you'll allow me the expression, and other passengers noticed it too.

So, question is: was it really just an impression? And if not, is there some kind of "direction" the airlines give to their pilots in how handle the plane?

Notes:

  • I'm NOT criticizing in any way the pilots. I know standards are pretty high and is not the kind of job one can improvise or do careless; I'm not saying or implying that they did pilot badly.
  • Airplanes are pretty the same, I've flown with EJ's A319 and A320, both with winglet fences, and the Vueling's one was a brand new A320 with sharklets.
  • Air conditions were not extreme. In fact, I usually fly Easyjet in winter in north Europe (MXP/LGW/CDG) in bad weather conditions, while the Vueling flights were during clear days between MXP and BCN.
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  • $\begingroup$ P.S. notice that, as I'm not an English native, I had difficulties to post a question in a good format for the site. Please anybody feel free to edit it for improvements, but the note about this is not a criticism against pilots has to remain. Thx $\endgroup$ – motoDrizzt Aug 17 '15 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ Did you fly another airline on the same route or a different one. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Aug 17 '15 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ Different carries may also have different SOPs, e.g. minimise taxi time; and ops schedules, e.g. quicker turnarounds so less time on ground. $\endgroup$ – Simon Aug 17 '15 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ An Immelman during landing would be very impressive! $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Aug 17 '15 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ The departure path for BCN runway 25L requires a prompt turn to the left for environmental reasons. Maybe this was the reason for the "brutal" takeoff. $\endgroup$ – orique Apr 24 '16 at 15:23
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Pilot in command, a.k.a. captain, has the last say in how the aircraft will be handled. However most of their decisions are driven by something:

  • Obviously performance of the aircraft. This is affected by weight (both cargo and fuel; aircraft only take the amount of fuel they need for the route they are flying and it makes a big difference) and weather (mainly temperature and head-wind).
  • Standard operating procedures (SOP). Certain operations can indeed be done in more than one way and each airline may indeed make slightly different choices. These are reflected in the recurrent pilot training.
  • Route flown. Airline flights are carried out under instrument flight rules, so the route is assigned by the air traffic control.

Take off seemed more "brutal", and from a position slightly more at the beginning of the runways.

There is some freedom in choosing the take-off setting and standard operating procedure of different airlines may make different choices. Usually if the runway is long enough the engines are not set to full thrust, but so called “flex” thrust that is calculated sufficient for the take-off to limit wear of the engines.

What thrust and flap setting are possible is determined by weight, runway length, wind and temperature, but within the possible range, different airline may have different preference in their SOP (higher power or less flaps for faster climb v.s. lower power for less engine wear and more flaps for lower gear wear).

Noticeable difference might be in using “rolling take-off” where power is added immediately after turning on the runway without stopping there first. Whether it is possible depends on ATC, but some airlines seem to never do it.

After take off, the airplanes did a lot of maneuvers during climbing. While EasyJet's planes usually do a variation of "turn, long climb, another turn", the Vuelings' did "a lot" of turns during climbing.

This depends on the departure route assigned by the controller. Note that even if flying the same route, the departure route could be different if different runway was used or if different routing was selected due to congestion (European airspace gets very busy at times and then the plane may wait or use different route).

Landings, from the point of view of turning, are the same (as it should be).

Not necessarily. Arrival routes may differ similarly to how departure routes do. In fact even more so, because on arrival the aircraft are often vectored, that is get ad-hoc headings assigned by controller instead of flying standard route depicted on the chart, to achieve appropriate separation. On take-off the aircraft simply wait on the ground until the previous aircraft is far enough so it's not needed often.

But after touchdown...it seemed to me the pilot kept an higher speed for much much more time, so that in both cases after the gear touching ground the plane reached the apron in a matter of seconds

Again there can be differences in SOP regarding preferred auto-brake setting, but usually every pilot will want to vacate the runway as soon as possible, so it seems more like difference in what exits were available.

It might have also been difference in the aircraft. There was some talk about Airbus implementing “brake to vacate”, where the computer handles the brakes so the aircraft slows down just before the next suitable turn-off, on the new A320, but I found no reference whether they already did.

and in both case the planes were swinging a lot.

The vertical tail acts like a weather-vane and the thrust reversers reduce lateral stability, so the aircraft always needs some directional corrections during landing.

In the air the aircraft turns by banking, so you don't feel any lateral movement. But on the ground it can't and due to the speed you feel even very slight turns.

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Whoever is pilot in command decides how to fly the plane. Commercial airlines have professional instructors who examine the more junior pilots and give them guidance on how to fly smoothly. In general, pilots with passengers try to avoid flying in a way that would make them uncomfortable. However, it is completely up to the pilot at the end of the day.

If a particular pilot or crew generate a lot of passenger complaints, the airline might warn the pilots or even fire them.

Note that different flights will have very different maneovering requirements depending on the flight path. So, even if you take the exact same flight multiple times, factors like wind direction and traffic can result in much different amounts of maneovering during ascent and landing.

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