Learning to operate the B737 is not a matter of 1, 2, 3 and away you fly; there’s a lot of technical information that requires mastering for successful and correct flight technique. Searching for a definitive answer to a flight-related question can become frustrating. Whilst respondents are helpful and want to impart their knowledge, I’ve learnt through experience that often there isn’t a definitive answer to how or why something is done a certain way.
Typical Pilot-type Personalities
Typical pilot personalities nearly always gravitate towards one answer and one correct method; black or white, right or wrong – virtual pilots or “simmers” behave in a similar fashion. They want to know with certainty that what they are doing replicates the correct method used in the "real-world".
In reality, the Boeing 737NG is flown by different crews in different ways all over the globe every minute of the day. Often the methods used are not at the discretion of the crew flying but are decided by airline company policy and procedures, although the ultimate decision rests with the Captain of the aircraft. Just ask the __________ (you fill in the nationality or airline) and they will tell you that they are the best and fly the correct way.
For example, climb out procedures vary between different airlines and flight crews. Some crews verify a valid roll mode at 500’ (LNAV, HDG SEL, etc) then at 1000’ AGL lower pitch attitude to begin accelerating and flap retraction followed by automation. Others fly to 1500' or 3000’ AGL, then lower pitch and begin to "clean up" the aircraft; others fly manually to 10,000’ AGL before engaging CMD A.
LEFT: First Officer conducts pre-flight check list & compares notes. Whilst check lists are essential in ensuring that all crews operate similarly, there is considerable variance in how flight crews actually fly the 737 (click for larger view)
Another example is flying an approach. Qantas request crews to disengage automation at 2500’ AGL and many Qantas crews fly the approach without automation from transition altitude (10,000’ AGL). This is in contrast to European counterparts in Ryanair which request crews use full automation whenever possible. A further example is the use of Vertical Navigation, Level Change and Vertical Speed; there are several possibilities.
Considerable Variance Allowed
I have been told by a Qantas pilot, that there is "a huge amount of technique allowed when flying the B737". "There are certainly wrong ways to do things; but, there is often no single right way to do something".
Therefore; when your hunting for a definite answer to a question, remember there are often several ways to do the same thing, and often the method chosen is not at the crew’s discretion but that of the airline.