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CRM for PPL pilots ?

I am member of a syndicate that has owns 7 aircraft (in several foundations).
It is an active community and we do quite a lot of flying. As a result, I am frequently flying with different PPL pilots.

With two PPL pilots in the front, things can get interesting… Some examples:

  • We flew IFR to Isle of Man (EGNS). I was PIC. We spent quite some time in IMC.
    The next day a VFR pilot was flying back. He was PIC. and I was sitting in the RHS. The cloudbase was at about 2000ft and I asked him at what level he was going to fly. He didn’t gave a clear answer. After departure he climbed straight into cloud. I thought: This is getting interesting and was watching what he was doing.
    He started to complain about the visibility (duh). I told him to keep heading and altitude. Two minutes later I had to recover the aircraft from a 45° bank.
    When talking afterwards, he told me he got over-confident since he had 2 IR rated pilots on board…
  • I was PIC on a IFR flight, and we got the next frequency from ATC. While I was writing it down, the PPL pilot in the RHS (trying to help) had already set the frequency in the radio and made it active. I wasn’t aware of that and was reading back and saying goodbye whilst already on the new frequency…
  • Before commencing a flight, it was agreed that I would do the radio/navigation from the RHS. Once airborne, the PPL pilot in the LHS is doing it all by himself, leaving no room for me to be helpful.
  • On a controlled airport. I’m PAX in the RHS. We got the startup clearance and the pilot in the LHS was going through the checklist. When he finished he nod at me and said: Ok, lets go! and started taxiing. I replied: Uhhh, don’t we need a taxi clearance?

In commercial flying this is addressed with CRM (Crew Resource Management). Unfortunately, this is not taught during the PPL training.
It was only when doing the IR that I got introduced to the concept of crew briefings.

Pilots having to work together in a small, noisy, sometimes stressful environment, must be an interesting subject from a psychological point of view. I have seen pilots that get their personality changed as soon as they enter the cockpit.

Is there something like CRM for PPL pilots ?

Been that very pilot, who keyed the frequency for lenthamen, while trying to be helpful I would agree that per default we pay too little attention to who is doing what.
And we were never taught to do it properly. As far as I can see, it is primarily a question of being open with each other and correcting each others mishaps if necessary and as soon as possible. Most pilots appreciate it.

Last Edited by kwispel at 18 Jun 16:02

I don’t think that’s necessarily CRM. Especially the last example. The first example isn’t about CRM but poor decision making. If a VFR pilot flies me unbriefed into a low cloud I would take over immediately rather than wait and see what happens – but having said that i wouldn’t ask him what altitude he plans to fly, he is the PIC, not me. No need to exert undue pressure :-).

The radio bit isn’t bad – the switch button has been hit too early, but that happens to me as well even when I do it on my own. I’m very happy if someone even if unbriefed pre-tunes my radio. If the LHS pilot feels comfortable doing the nav remind him you’re there to help and then by all means let him do it.

I’ve been taught PPL CRM but probably only because I’ve been taught by a very old-skool instructor…

This only confirms the complaint that has been made here repeatedly, and for good reasons: all of the training (not only for the PPL) is not aimed at making one a good pilot, it is aimed at getting pupils to their license. The better instructors will congratulate one with words like “Well done! You can now begin to learn being a pilot!”

BTW thanks for explaining the CRM acronym – very correct! I spent a couple of minutes at the toilet thinking of alternate explanations – “Crew Reciprocational Modus” was the best that came up…

Last Edited by at 18 Jun 15:58
EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

In commercial flying this is addressed with CRM (Crew Resource Management).

Just nitpicking, but it is called MCC as in Multi Crew Concept. Then there are SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that are the company specific way to implement MCC. CRM (now called “Company Resource Management”) is on top of all that.

Is there something like CRM for PPL pilots ?

Only if you implement it yourself. But if you can find some members in your syndicate who are also interested, then it should be quite straightforward to get some MCC and CRM traning organised for you.

MCC in a nutshell: The pilot flying, while flying manually, touches nothing but throttle and yoke. All the rest is done by the pilot monitoring (radio, selecting frequencies, getting gear and flaps up and down, reading checklists and so on). Whether he does it only on command from the pilot flying or automatically depends on the SOPs. Once the autopilot is engaged, the pilot flying usually (again SOP dependent) does everything himself except talking on the radio. He can, however, delegate whatever he wants to the pilot monitoring.

The main task of the pilot monitoring besides radio calls and similar tasks is to monitor (as the term says). If he sees develop a sitation – like coming close to clouds or an excessive bank angle, he is not supposed to correct anything, but to tell the pilot about it: “Check altitude” or “Check bank”. Only if the pilot flying does not react to these prompts, he must say “I have control” and rectify the situation.

Last Edited by what_next at 18 Jun 17:54
EDDS - Stuttgart

From a low hours pilot, this is indeed interesting. Geeky Flyer and I discussed who does what before our first joint flight which was along the lines of: PIC handles flying and radio during take off and landing under the rationale that the PIC needs to make instant decisions. En route, RHS handles nav and radio. What happened was that RHS, apart from switching frequencies, transponder and monitoring the nav, PIC did all radio and nav (and flying of course). Actually, this seemed quite natural but that may be a product of our training.

In contrast, we flew to LFAT yesterday for the “cross channel check” (great experience!) with an instructor as mandated by the school. He has been flying for 25 years and instructs part time. We had 2 G430s, but we used VORs all the way, with him setting up the next VOR, changing frequencies and occasionally setting the heading bug. [In passing re another thread, the LT NDB was helpful to point us to LFAT with a stronger wind than expected.]

I found this RHS support quite helpful as it reduced my workload on a slightly longer nav. (for me) changing frequencies 5 times. He was also calling out what he was doing and what he had done so I was constantly aware of what the status was..

That said, when does proper MMC/CRM training become necessary? On a short nav of less than 1 hour or so, it seems like good practice to manage things yourself to exercise multi-tasking (something my wife tells me my gender is incapable of but who tries to iron and make toast at the same time and not get them mixed up?).

EGLM (White Waltham)

PPL pilots don’t train for and in fact never operate multi crew. It can cause all sorts of problems with pilots in the right seat as there is not the discipline that what next describes. I have had pilots in the right seat do very odd things that nearly caused major problems. My briefing now to them is don’t touch anything unless I tell you it is OK to do so.

EGTK Oxford

I’m not sure that a MCC/SOP type actions is necessary.

For a simple aircraft I think all that is required is a clear understanding of who’s doing what, most importantly who’s in command, and the person not in command recognises who’s in command.

This can be particularly important where the person who isn’t in command is the more experienced or more qualified pilot.

If we look at the incident’s that Lenthamen reported (and I make no criticism here of him or those he flew with) I think we can see that the above is sufficient, and formal SOPs aren’t needed.

In the first instance, the pilot in command clearly felt that they were delegating command to the more experienced pilots on board. They may have even felt under pressure to do so, even though there was no such pressure. I think when a more experienced pilot flys as a passenger, they should make a point of making it clear that they understand that they are a passenger and that the other person is in command. The delegation of command is a recurring theme when two pilots fly together. One doesn’t have to be more experienced than the other for it to happen, but it certainly encourages it. It appears regularly in accident reports. Communication before the aeroplane ever leaves the ground is the answer.

The second incident is also about communication. One pilot trying to be helpful, but the PIC (Pilot in Command) wasn’t expecting them to do what they did. A clear discussion before the flight on what the PIC wanted the other person to do, is what should happen. Then the other pilot should not do anything additional without asking first the PIC if they want it done. I remember reading an accident report before about a gear up landing resulting for a similar incident. A go around was initiated and the non flying pilot took the gear up to help (they were used to doing that in their day job), but then something happened and the pilot decided to abandon the go around and land (might have been engine trouble…can’t remember). If you want the second pilot to help then give them the tasks that they are to do. If you don’t want them to help, then they should keep their hands to themselves, unless they ask first.

In the third case it looks like the pilot in command didn’t want any help (or interference) and the second pilot wanted to do something. The PIC failed to communicate that they didn’t want any help, for whatever reason. Perhaps they felt under pressure to agree to let the other pilot do something, we don’t know. But in any case, they failed to have proper open communication before the flight.

The third case is an error (perhaps down to lack of experience operating at larger airports). I don’t think there is anything here about MCC.

I think some clear communication before the flight is all that’s needed.

I regularly fly with three different pilots. Most times when I’m PIC, I’ll let the other person do the radio comms, and if we have an emergency they may have specific tasks to do (depending on who it is). But all this is agreed before the starter key is turned. If they what to do something else to help during the flight, they must ask/offer first. They may be given other jobs during the flight such as looking up frequencies, checking runway headings etc. It works well. Everyone gets to do something, workload is shared by there is no grey areas about who does what or who has the final decision.

Communication is King, but it must happen before the flight.

As I said, none of this post is intended as criticism. I just used these example to show how communication prior to flight can help avoid some of these situations when pilots fly together. What I do now, I’ve learned from similar mistakes in the past.

EIKH Kilrush

The basic concept og PPL is to pilot an Aircraft alone. This also means that you should organise yourself and the aircraft so the workload is well within your capabilities. Another pilot can certainly make life easier, but to lend a helping hand and to work together as a crew are very different things in my opinion. To work together effectively as a crew requires practice.

We have a SAR unit at our local club. We started organized flying a year ago. Unfortunately I have never had time to be on any of the missions or even the practice, only the meetings. But it is organised as a 3 person crew. One pilot, one “mission leader” and one spotter. The spotter is in the back seat with a camera, the pilot is in the left seat and the mission leader is in the right seat. The pilot just flyes the aircraft, which is demanding enough at 500 feet AGL in rugged and mountainous terrain. The mission leader is responsible for radio contact with SAR HQ and the mission (not the flying) and is also a spotter. Other clubs may have different organisation of the crew. The command line between the pilot and the mission leader can of course be an interesting one, but I don’t think there has been any problems so far. The key is to practice so misunderstandings are sorted out. The guy organising this in our club has multi crew background.

Myself, I think life in a single seater is top. The Pawnee was a blast to fly, and within a year I will be finished building my Onex single seat aerobatic aircraft. This SAR flying with a crew looks very fun though, good multi crew practice I am sure.


I think some clear communication before the flight is all that’s needed.

And this is, what elsewhere would be called SOP: You agree, before beginning to fly, how the tasks are divided among the pilots. Whether this is done by reading a manual, attending a course or talking about it does not matter.

As you say, the most dangerous flights are those with two pilots on board who have a very different level of experience. This is often the case when pilots take a “safety pilot” along and it ends either with both trying to fly the aeroplane or no one.

EDDS - Stuttgart
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