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How much democracy in the cockpit

I’m starting this thread because I have read in one of the other postings the sentence: Remember there is no democracy in the cockpit. This was related to Vickies trip report from Belgium to Turkey.

I do agree, that you have to have someone in the cockpit who takes the responsibility, but democracy doesn’t mean to take responsibility. In my opinion, if you are not flying alone you should take into account each source you have to make good decisions, and this means to communicate, validate and take the best action afterwards. It is the MCC and could be transfered also into an single engine one pilot cockpit.

To share with you one of mine experiences. Compared to my wife I’m a very experienced pilot, with a lot of hours more than she has. Once when arriving at an airfield I altos gh otherwise adviced I took the wrong landing direction with a lot of tailwind. She told me in flight that I was wrong. I just said “no I’m right”, she stopped to insist and I made the landing. On ground I realised my mistake and we had an argument why she stopped to point out my mistake in flight. The answer was : You are the PIC and you have much more experience then I have.

That was a good lesson to learn for me. Never to be overconvinced about what I’m doing is right. Just give room for communication and put more democracy into the cockpit.

What do you think about democracy concepts in the little aircrafts? How fare would you go with it regarding second pilots, instructors or passengers?

EDDS , Germany

This is a valuable discussion!

First of all, I think the term democracy is misleading. There’s obviously going to be no voting going on. It’s not like the PIC will go for the majority decision.

Apart from that, I think one important element is to clarify this up-front. To be honest, I’m not very good at that – but when you fly with other pilots in single-pilot operations, you should be very clear about responsibilities and how such communication (as above) should be handled.

I generally am more receptive to input even from passengers in flight than, e.g. on the road. I hate it when I drive and people interfere with their own ideas of how to drive, where to drive, etc. In flying, I rather appreciate input such as traffic sightings and I actively encourage passengers to do that.

Hungriger Wolf (EDHF), Germany

Like everyone, I sometimes make mistakes. So if a passenger points me to something during flight I will take that seriously.

When there is doubt (like in Viekes trip about runway direction during an intersection takeoff) I would ask ATC for clarity. If you feel uncertain when taxiing or flying you should always ask. Never assume!

I once was criticized by a passenger pilot “Why are you landing so long and not using the runway” while on short final where I was aiming for the landing markers. This guy had no clue yet he was distracting me in a critical phase of the flight. I don’t fly with this person anymore. I learned to be selective with whom I fly.

Most of the pilots here are trained for single-pilot operations in single-pilot aircraft. Therefore, all responsibilty stops with the Pilot in Command (PIC).

You may certainly delegate some tasks but it’s still your responsibilty to ensure that they are carried out correctly, even simple things like changing the frequency or transponder code.

Some of the issues of “task sharing” were highlighted in Vieke’s post. Things can go wrong quickly, particularly if, for example, the passenger is doing the radio and ATC ask a question, or if the passenger is “responsible” for navigation.

My opinion – don’t delegate radio or navigation. If a passenger makes a comment or suggestion, listen, think, and decide if it’s a good idea or not. We all make mistakes and sometimes a passenger will notice something that you’ve missed, so it pays to be attentive to their comments.

My 2c…

Last Edited by chrisparker at 03 Feb 16:17
Spending too long online
EGTF Fairoaks, EGLL Heathrow, United Kingdom

eddsPeter wrote:

you should take into account each source you have to make good decisions

Absolutely no. Pilot In Command means just that…there is only one person where the buck stops and who is solely resposible for the flight. Even when a second pilot is in the other seat they are no more relevant to the decisions that get made than any other passenger….Often a second pilot can be a bigger pain because they sometimes assume (esp. if they have more hours) that they can make PIC decisions and possibly start an argument or worse.

There is nothing wrong with another pilot offloading radio duty or getting weather reports, but the PIC must always be flying the plane and make the decisions.

When flying with another pilot, I share the task according to “my controls – your communications” (or the other way round). Switching of COM frequencies and transponder is done by the “communicating” pilot on his own, switching of NAV frequencies and manipulating the GPS needs to be ordered by the pilot flying. PIC monitors all that.

It’s always clear who is the PIC from the moment we start with the first checklist. Some pilots react a bit surprised to that, it seems ist is not always done like that especially in club environments.

I limit participation of passengers without licence mostly to airspace observation. If it makes the flight more enjoyable to them, they can also change altimeter settings or sqawk codes or the like – but only when the situation is relaxed and monitoring them doesn’t effectively increase my workload.

Last Edited by blueline at 03 Feb 17:03
LOAN Wiener Neustadt Ost, Austria

Well, like most here I suppose, I’m no authority on the subject; I can just share my own personal experience.

Most of my longer trips to unfamiliar places, have been with another PPL of similar experience.

We do split up the task before the flight, with one pilot in command and handling the aircraft, the other delegated to operate the radio.
But over the years, we’ve found some key things that help make it work well.

1. The PIC is explicitly agreed and stated before the flight. There is no question of joint authority or committee decision making. We each get our turn at being PIC, and the final decision for everything rests with the PIC of that flight.
2. Before calling for start-up clearance, the PIC briefs the flight with the second pilot. They explain desired departure route, exactly what they want to delegate to the other pilot, both during routine operates, and what they want them to do in an emergency. I think this briefing helps to reinforce who is in command for that particular flight, even if it’s not always necessary anymore.
3. While one might be handling the radio, they do not assume authority for decisions to be communicated with ATC. If ATC ask for something that isn’t already known or briefed, or offer an option, the pilot using the radio asks the PIC which option they want before responding.
4. We both agree that even thought one of us might be PIC, and have absolute authority for a particular flight, if the other is uncomfortable with a decision to the point that they feel it’s dangerous, then we won’t continue with that path, even though we have authority and believe it to be safe.

The last one may be seen as a form of democracy. After all, if you believe something is safe and the right course of action, and you have the authority to do it, why not, just because the other is a “wuss scardiy cat”? Well, at the end of the day, there is no point in doing something that makes your passengers feel in fear for their lives. There is no fun flying with someone if they make you feel scared for your life. On the other hand if someone gets scared constantly and it’s restricting your flying, you might choose not to fly with them again, but it’s not right to plough ahead anyway and leave them in fear of their life.

And of course, they just might be right, and you’re about to make a big mistake!

Thankfully we’ve never needed to invoke that rule. When things get though, we tend to discuss our options and usually end up coming to the same conclusion.

As for more routine things, you certainly should make a point of listening to others. But you are the PIC at the end of the day, and the final decision is yours. But if a pilot passenger is telling you that you’ve mixed up something you should give it more consideration than normal (they might be right!), but not defer to a majority.

In the particular incident that prompted this thread, the normal way of avoiding such an incident is briefing before start-up. At a large airport that you’re unfamiliar with, it’s a good idea to sit down with taxi & parking charts, before calling for start-up, and consider the most likely taxi routes that you’ll get. You also consider (and discuss) if you’re likely to be asked if you can take an intersection departure, where that intersection is likely to be, and how you’d most likely get there. Indeed the pilot handling the radio should also be told what intersection departures the PIC would be willing to accept, and which not, so that they are ready for that question if ATC ask. In the case mentioned this would have brought up the issue of intersection departures and those not familiar with them would have learned in time ;)

On the other thread, I mentioned that having a pilot that you regularly fly with and you you’ve grown to know and trust and they you, can be worth their weight in gold. These sort of things start to become normal with such a person. Briefings aren’t awkward, but rather expected and seen as a valuable opportunity to make sure you operate as a crew in a professional manner. It means when the weather starts to close in, you can happily delegate other tasks to the other pilot such as checking diversion options if needed, getting the latest weather or simply discussing whether it’s wise to proceed as planned and if not, what the best option is. It’s worth far more than an autopilot!

EIWT Weston

eddsPeter wrote:
you should take into account each source you have to make good decisions

USFlyer wrote:
Absolutely no. Pilot In Command means just that

Why would you ignore a good source of information? eddsPeter doesn’t mean that you should count them up and the majority wins; he just means that you should listen to what they have to say and see if they might have a point.

EIWT Weston

dublinpilot wrote:

Why would you ignore a good source of information? eddsPeter doesn’t mean that you should count them up and the majority wins; he just means that you should listen to what they have to say and see if they might have a point.

That’s exactly what I meant.

i.e. Two years ago we went to Le Mans. We did our radios an knew about three other aircraft in the traffic pattern. When turning to final my Co-Pilot saw that there was an other one on final around 20 meters right of us, just a little bit lower than we have been and without performing any radio communication (later on we were told that this guy never talks on the radio to avoid landing fees when no one is sitting on the tower). Without the source of my Co I wouldn’t have seen him and maybe we would have had an serious accident.

blueline wrote:

I limit participation of passengers without licence mostly to airspace observation.

So do I. I always give passengers the task to have a sharp lookout. And everybody up to now was happy about helping to achieve a save and enjoyable flight. And you may not imagine how often a passenger observed a glider I haven’t seen before.

Flying with my wife we have two strategies:
1. When she is flying I do all the communication, program the GPS and observe the sky. She concentrates on flying.
2. When I’m Pic I do most of the things myself, because doing the communication too let me better understand what is expected from me by radar. She double checks what I do read back to radar and what I do finally perform.
But I have to say, when flying together she is allows flying on VFR conditions, I do only jump on the left seat if the weather goes for IR conditions. So she has much more to do then me. ;-)

Flying with other pilots I’m normally the Co. And I do the communication if the other on agrees on. Beside that I do only give my advices if the other one asks for it or if a situation occurs where the PIC in my opinion is going wrong or where it starts to become dangerous.

EDDS , Germany

dublinpilot wrote:

count them up and the majority wins

Flying is not a “see who has a good point.” I know this sounds a little rigid, but flying is a serious and dangerous activity and there must be no question who is in charge of the flight and who is responsible for it’s safe outcome.

In fact, there is even the notion of a “sterile cockpit” where no one is allowed to say anything or touch anything or distract the PIC at all!

Even if the PIC offloads some of the radio frequency tuning and getting ATIS/AWOS…the PIC must always be responsible for the control of the plane, collision avoidance, communication with ATC, airworthiness of the plane, fuel management, and emergencies with no chatter or input from others…IMHO.

Last Edited by USFlyer at 03 Feb 18:11
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