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While flying American out of Chicago yesterday I noticed that when the captain arrived he went to the check-in desk and first read the monitor of a computer there for a minute or two, then he printed out a one or two page document from a dot matrix printer at the desk. Then for several minutes he made notations on the printout with a pen. Finally, he printed out a much longer document, maybe five or six pages long, folded it up, then went down the jet bridge together with the FO who arrived just as he was finishing up with the printouts.

Can an ATP, ideally an ATP who flies with American, tell me what exactly those two different printouts were and what notations he would have been making on the first one?

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  • $\begingroup$ My guess is weather report and NOTAMs $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Nov 10 '15 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ @ratchetfreak There is no need to make notations on a weather report. He was not just jotting one thing down. He was writing for several minutes and referring to the screen. Obviously something complicated was going on. I want to hear from a real ATP who actually knows. $\endgroup$ – Tyler Durden Nov 10 '15 at 14:53
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The paperwork he was looking at is the dispatch release. This paperwork will have

  • Crew names
  • Fuel information
  • Filed route of flight
  • Alternates as needed
  • Current weather
  • Forecast weather at destination and alternates
  • NOTAMS for departure, destination, alternates, navaids and anything along the route of flight.
  • Deferred MEL items

There are also probably a few things I'm forgetting at the moment.

When the captain gets the release the first thing to do is make sure it is for you -- correct crew names and airplane. You'll check the route of flight and make sure it will work (weather) and evaluate the ordered fuel. You'll review the destination weather, see if an alternate is needed and make sure a suitable one was filed. You'll also check departure weather and make sure a takeoff alternate is specified if needed. If the paperwork isn't right, you call your dispatcher, otherwise you sign it and take it down to the airplane.


The one-page item the captain got may have been a pre-departure clearance. These are generally available via ACARS but can be printed if needed at a terminal. They could also be other information such as ground delay programs or ground stop information that affects the flight.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why would he spending 5 minutes writing things down on the paper? $\endgroup$ – Tyler Durden Nov 10 '15 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ I notice you did not mention a passenger manifest. Is that not generated? $\endgroup$ – Tyler Durden Nov 10 '15 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ @TylerDurden I had a flow with the paperwork to check off all required items, circle crew names, NOTAMS, etc just to make sure everything was legal and required. I'd also jot down temp in F and some other notes about it that I'd use in the PA announcement. He may also have had an amendment or was calculating something based on a PDC if he had one (seeing if fuel worked for the cleared route, etc). $\endgroup$ – casey Nov 10 '15 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @TylerDurden passenger manifests are for the cabin crew. The gate agent prints that for them and gives it to them directly. (at least in my experience) $\endgroup$ – casey Nov 10 '15 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ @casey probably to account for passengers that may not make it onto the plane. You don't want an incorrect manifest. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Nov 10 '15 at 16:27

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