So – who’s the pilot anyway?

I need to share something with my friends in the press.
Some education apparently is needed.

Years ago, reporters used to specialize and had knowledge of specific fields.

Mine was aviation and medial reporting.

I owned a plane at that time.

Today, local reporters (and more than a few national ones) seem not to know much about passenger planes other than how cramped the seats are.

Case in point…

Problems with airplanes have been in the news a lot lately.

crew-01-sizedWhy does an organization that supposedly cares about getting the facts correct keep leaving the impression the co-pilot on the plane is some sort of person in training?

Last week everyone got all crazy when the captain of a Delta flight was locked out of the cockpit.

Heaven forbid – the copilot had to land the plane in Las Vegas.

So what?
It’s perfectly normal for the co-pilot to fly the plane.

In fact, in many cases he or she may have more experience than the Captain.

A copilot, or more properly the First Officer, is fully qualified to operate the aircraft.

They are fully trained and can have more flight hours and years of experience than the Captain.

He or she shares flying duties with the captain.

app_briefing_checklist-sizedFor example, in a trip with 4 stops, the First Officer usually alternates with the Captain taking turns taking off, flying and landing.

If there’s a flight from Honolulu to Las Vegas, the Captain will usually fly one way and First Officer the other.

So why the different titles if both the Captain and First Officer do the same thing equally well?

Somebody has to be in charge and responsible.
There has to be a boss to make the final decisions and take the heat if something goes wrong.

That’s why the Captain makes more money.

It’s a common thing during emergencies or some situations that the captain gives the co-pilot the responsibility to fly the plane while the captain can give attention to communications, troubleshooting, coordinating the checklists.

Finally, if co-pilots are so good why aren’t they Captains?

They will – some day.

Right now seniority rules everything.

It’s not uncommon to find a crew where the co-pilot is older and more experienced than the captain.

FlightAware_LAS_STAR_CRESO-THREE-sizedThe biggest problem that Delta First Officer faced without the Captain was the workload.

There’s the the usual things involved in finding the airport, following controller instructions, lining up for an often complicated and precise approach, doing the necessary checklists and handling the controls.

Add to that working the radios and move a lot of switches and levers normally handled by the other person – who wasn’t there.

There’s very few shortcuts so you suck it up and get it done.


Obviously not.

Remember there two pilots in the nose of that plane.
Both superbly trained, experienced and part of a team.

To my reporter ex-colleagues…
Stop freaking out.

You’re making me grumpy.

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