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Changing commander in the air (can a non-FI PIC sit in the RHS)

What are people's views on this?

I have been involved in one or two situations where a flight departed into a marginal VFR forecast with person A as commander, the plan being that if flight into IMC became unavoidable then person B would take command (and perhaps control as required). Obviously the reason being that person B holds an IR/IMCr and person A doesn't.

On some club flyouts I've been on, this is used as a get-there strategy: simply make sure there is in an instrument qualification in each aircraft, regardless of who is nominally in command.

My biggest question around doing this is who makes the decision to change commander? And if that decision is made by the person taking over command, doesn't that essentially make them the commander from the start?

Thoughts?

EGLM & EGTN

Definitely not a problem in FAA-land. PIC can change as often as you like, logged as such. Only exception would be an a/c where the POH states a specific position (e.g. LHS) for the PIC.

Oh I wasn't asking if it was legal (pretty sure it is), just whether people thought it was a good idea and if there were any know pitfalls.

EGLM & EGTN

There'd have to be something agreed before taking off so an orderly hand-off can be made in the case of VFR-to-IFR transition. A friend of mine was in this situation (in the US) and the VFR-only PIC without warning decided that he didn't want to continue, which left my friend with rather less time than he hoped to prepare (the weather wasn't that marginal, hence why it caught my friend by surprise - the VFR PIC decided he couldn't continue when the conditions were still VMC for the forseeable future).

Andreas IOM

Thoughts?

A lot of thoughts, but no conclusion... This has been an ongoing debate for years and years everywhere: Aviation forums, literature, incident/accident reports, even litigations before court.

It is a bit easier to handle in countries like Germany where there is no instrument flying without flight plan. If the weather gets bad and the "safety pilot" has to take over, a flightplan must be filed one or the other way. Either by landing somewhere and doing it on the ground or still in the air via radio (not recommended in some countries!). From that moment on, no one but the instrument rated pilot can be the commander.

Under different circumstances it is more complicated. For example: If I fly as "safety pilot" with an inexperienced pilot or a pilot who has no recent experience and he asks me to to the landing, because he doesn't feel comfortable with crosswind and/or turbulence, this is his command decision. He remains commander and I will act as pilot flying for that landing. But if he tells me "I'm not comfortable with these conditions, what do you suggest we do about it?" and by "suggest" he intends "decide for me please" (which would be the usual meaning under these circumstances) he effectively passes command to me because only the commander can take that decision.

Whenever I did/do this kind of thing (i.e. accompany someone as "safety pilot") I made sure / will make sure that things are clear from the beginning. If there is a chance that we might have to fly IFR we fly on an IFR plan under my command right from the start. Who actually handles the controls depends on the other pilot's ability. If it looks like stable VFR conditions, the other pilot is the commander all the time. I will then not touch the controls unless I feel that I will lose my life if I don't (hasn't happended yet).

EDDS - Stuttgart

Two thoughts.

1) Crew coordination. If I fly with someone as "safety pilot" and they are PIC, I make sure we both agree that the usual "I/you have control" hand-over applies, with the indication that I would only initiate if I believe the other chap is about to kill us, while he can do it any time he wants. This works if there is a clear "experience/rating gradient".

2) The logbook. You do whatever you like, as long as only one person is PIC. Personally, as long as I do not have to substantially fly a large chunk of the flight [never had to], I won't log anything, so if the other pilot wants to deduct 10 minutes from his PIC time because I did fly the 5 minute cloud break to get on top and below again on a two hour flight, up to him...

Biggin Hill

My biggest question around doing this is who makes the decision to change commander? And if that decision is made by the person taking over command, doesn't that essentially make them the commander from the start?

This part I agree with. I can't see how a passenger can assume PIC unless the PIC agrees to relinquish it.

Likewise the PIC wishing to relinquish command, can't make a passenger PIC.

Of course the solution to it is a clear discussion on the ground about what circumstances will result in a change in PIC and how it will happen.

EIKH Kilrush

My biggest question around doing this is who makes the decision to change commander? And if that decision is made by the person taking over command, doesn't that essentially make them the commander from the start?

Only the pilot in command can make such a decision: Article 87

87 The commander of a flying machine must, before take-off, take all reasonable steps so as to be satisfied that it is capable of safely taking off, reaching and maintaining a safe height and making a safe landing at the place of intended destination

Articles 141 and 142 also apply:

141 Every person in an aircraft must obey all lawful commands which the commander of that aircraft may give for the purpose of securing the safety of the aircraft and of persons or property carried in the aircraft, or the safety, efficiency or regularity of air navigation.

142 A person must not while in an aircraft: (c) intentionally interfere with the performance by a member of the crew of the aircraft of the crew member's duties.

Personally ... I won't log anything,

Same here, unless, as I wrote, we have to fly IFR and the other guy doesn't have the rating.

If I fly with someone as "safety pilot" and they are PIC, I make sure we both agree that the usual "I/you have control" hand-over applies,...

Yes but. Here is where the (possible legal) trouble starts. Suppose you fly with some guy on his airplane or an airplane rented by him. You get scared by his (lack of) flying skills and ask to take over control. But he is perfectly happy with his flying and doesn't want to let you have the controls. What now? The only way to be sure that he will always hand you over the plane is to agree before the flight that you are the commander and can take the controls at any time. Just like an instructor on a training flight.

Or even worse: You take the controls very late on a bad landing and can't prevent the aircraft from getting damaged. Under whose responsibility did the accident happen? Who pays?

EDDS - Stuttgart

In my logbook there is no column for who is "Acting as PIC" or as you call it Aircraft Commander. The only column I have is one that indicates Pilot in Command and is a logging column that is often unrelated to whom is acting as PIC. If I am qualified to log PIC according to 91.51, I log it, regardless if I am acting or not as PIC. For example anytime I am with an instructor and are rated in the aircraft, I log PIC for all the time I am the sole manipulator of the controls. I can also log any time I act as an authorized instructor as PIC, regardless if I am acting as PIC. If I am the safety pilot and by prior agreement I am also acting as PIC, regardless if the pilot under the hood is qualified or not, I can log PIC for the time while the other person is under the hood even though I am not acting as an authorized instructor or ever manipulating the controls.

KUZA, United States
62 Posts
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