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Old 15th Feb 2011, 16:35   #1 (permalink)
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Two sets of hands on the throttles...why?

I am aware that this question must have come up at some point already but can't seem to find a good, complete answer anywhere on the web.

Why, seemingly more so in movies than in the real world, does both the captain the the FO push the throttle(s) forward to T/O power?

Is this often done in real-life or is it just a movie thing? Also, why would one suppose that Hollywood seems to obsess over this cliched scene movies? It's like they can't wait to show that whenever there is an aircraft in a movie. Seems very strange to me..not so much the practice of doing it but rather the showing of it in a movie.

I have wondered this for many years, can't wait to read some replies! Thanks guys.
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 16:44   #2 (permalink)
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Is this often done in real-life or is it just a movie thing?
Movie thing, unless your First Officer/Captain wants to kill you.
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 19:33   #3 (permalink)
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The problem all the movie makers have is simple, in an orderly cockpit there is no hectic, no rush, not much action.
It does not matter which kind of situation pilots have to deal with, they are trained to deal in an orderly manner.

The order is

Fly the aircraft
Deal with the problem
Fly the aircraft
Deal with the problem
Fly the aircraft

That is why we separate the crew into Flying Pilot and Non-Flying Pilot, obvious who deals with which task.

And because even an engine fire dealt with in a trained and professional way, for the audience this will be boring and appears to be unrealistic. So, the action in any scene involving a routine operation of air crew has to be "enhanced" to allow for audience attention.

And no, except perhaps during initial training, there are no two hands on the throttle at any time....
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 19:46   #4 (permalink)
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Regarding two hands on the throttles, or thrust levers during take off comes from a multicrew operation where the pilot flying (PF) will advance the throttles to the approximate thrust setting. The pilot not flying (PNF) or Flight Engineer as applicable will follow through with his hands behind the thrust levers and fine tune the setting before announcing, "Thrust Set". Usually at the 80 or 100 knot call the PNF will then remove his hands from behind the thrust levers in case the P.F decides to abort the Take Off.
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 19:54   #5 (permalink)
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I have seen videos of this happening in real life, and my conclusion leads me to believe it happens for one, or a combination of the following reasons.

In older aircraft, without the more modern and advanced autothrottles, the PF sets the approximate takeoff thrust, and then the PNF may tweak the power to the appropriate takeoff thrust setting.

It may also arise from older aircraft and prop's with adjustable throttle friction. Having two sets of hands prevents the throttle slipping back.

I'm sure someone would be able to clarify these points.
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 21:12   #6 (permalink)

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during the most critical parts of flying (takeoff and landing)...someone must have their hands near the throttles/thrust levers...I prefer throttles as you never see 'auto thrust levers' do you?

The pilot flying sets the power/thrust near the target and the other pilot (non flying pilot, or a flight engineer) ''tweaks'' the power and sets it exactly...monitoring the engine gauges so as not to exceed limits.

AS the decision point for takeoff...KNOWN AS V1 is reached, the flying pilot removes hishands from the throttles re-enforcing the GO decision.

The other pilot still has his hands near the throttle, preferably in a way so as to allow advancing the throttles to EMERGENCY FIREWALL POWER but not reducing power, should wind shear be enountered.

After the landing gear is retracted, flaps /slats retracted and a cruise climb established (about 3000' in the US), the flying pilot may command set climb power, or max continuous power (depends) and may himself move the throttles initally or have the non flying pilot set the power.

AS you approach for landing, as unexpected things may happen, the pilot flying shall keep his hand on the throttle to adjust the energy requirements for the approach...if wind shear is encountered he may start the throttles forward while calling "FIREWALL POWER" and having the other pilot continue the movement of the throttles. Should a go around be required, the pilot may move the throttles forward, followed up by the non flying pilot while calling goaround, set go around power ETC.

now a days, automatic throttles handle a huge amount of the burden...but a good pilot keeps his hands near by...and even the non flying pilot should be ready for anything.

during cat II ils approaches at my airline in a now retired plane, both pilots had their hand on the throttle below 1000'...the copilot actually controlling the speed of the plane, while the auto pilot flew the plane and the captain was ''ready'' to takeover and land or initiate a manual go around. this was called a monitored approach.

SO AS FAR AS THE MOVIES GO, see when the film was made. There is a very good chance that the use of the throttles at the time the film was made is accurately portrayed. The film maker hired someone who actually knew something about flying that kind of plane.

If you made a movie now, you could just press a button and go...steering a little and then putting a hot flight attendant (female) on your lap...oh that's another movie....
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 21:15   #7 (permalink)
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Another scenario that could see two hands 'on' the levers is a CAT II or III monitored approach nearing minimums. Depending on operator/SOP the PIC may have his hand behind the levers in readiness to take over and land from the SIC who is flying the approach.
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 21:17   #8 (permalink)
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Ah, simultaneous post.
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 21:24   #9 (permalink)

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Two sets of hands on the throttles
This is a real worry.

If there are two sets of hands on the throttles (should be 'thrust levers', by the way...) who's hands are on the controls to fly the aircraft?

The FE, maybe? An alien with three hands? Spock?
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 22:21   #10 (permalink)

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fantom...maybe boeing calls them thrust levers, Douglas calls them throttles...there is even a throttle lock!

one hand on throttles, one hand on control wheel.

of course, B52 pilots have bigger hands than most and you know what that means! (bigger gloves)
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 22:24   #11 (permalink)

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great pilots think alike!
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 22:34   #12 (permalink)
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Just to add one more variation to the mix here, we have the PF advance power, have it set by the PNF and from that point on the CA guards the throttles, since the abort is up to the Captain.

As far as the movies are concerned, I just watched Independence day the other night, and if I just flew a bunch of IMC only to be met by a wall of fire I think that as a CA I sould instinctively reach for the throttles and bend them over he firewall and do the same as an FO. As an FE I would help by kicking the throttles as far as they would go and then getting the pedals out and pedalling as fast as I could (I mean that literally). And please remember, this is a literal "firey wall of death" scenario, not you're average go around.
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 00:19   #13 (permalink)
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A tale by John Deakin who is reputed to have more 747 hours than anyone.

Pelican's Perch #76: Those Dreadful POHs (Part 2)

Levers And Fingers

Well, one late night in the DC-8 simulator at Japan Airlines (JAL), I was taking a six-month check with an arrogant Brit as my partner. Not many Brits are arrogant, but when you find a Brit who once was -- or fancied himself as -- a BOAC captain, you have the epitome of arrogance ... double last name and all. I'd flown with him on the line; I'd been at parties where he'd held forth; and now I had to put up with his utter arrogance and disdain for all things American or Japanese, as well as his crappy performance, which somehow always seemed to be someone else's fault.

As usual, one of us would play captain for two hours while the other played copilot; then we'd break and switch seats to get both pilots done. He went first in the left seat, struggled through the program with difficulty, and then we started my session.

The cockpit layout of the DC-8 -- and the tasks required of the FE -- meant that things were done a bit differently. For some reason the JAL culture was for the pilot-not-flying to fine tune the thrust setting for takeoff, relinquish the throttles to the pilot flying, then drop his hand to the base of the throttles to "back them up." The problem I saw with this was that the "run" levers were short, stubby levers right at the back of the throttle quadrant, and there was zero space left with the throttles closed. It was a real finger trap.

I didn't like this, but it was the "book procedure," so I always warned my cohort to either keep his hand out of that space, or he might lose a finger on a sudden aborted takeoff.

So I warned this clown during the cockpit briefing. He looked at me down a long nose, and frostily informed me, "It is SOP, old chap, and I, for one, follow the SOP. We'll do it by the book, if you please." I'm sure that made some points with the JAL check pilot.

We made a normal takeoff, and he dutifully backed up the throttles, "by the book." On the roll, I pointed to his fingers, and said, "You could lose a finger there, if we have an abort." Again, I got a snotty response, and a "Pay attention to the takeoff, old chap, I'll handle my own fingers, thank you very much."

JAL check rides are totally "canned," so we all knew that the V1 failure was coming on the next takeoff. (JAL policy was to abort at V1, another poor idea.) JAL had the weight and other parameters set in the simulator so that absolutely all the runway was needed for an abort, and I prided myself on always making it without going off the end. I knew the trick that JAL never learned. First, slam on the brakes, hard to the mechanical stops (let the anti-skid do the work) at the same time as you close the throttles and snatch on full reverse. It's hard on the airplane, but it's very effective, and it's the way they do it in certification.

I gave Mr. Snotty-Arrogance one more warning, about 20 knots before V1: "This is the abort coming, you'd better get your @#$%! fingers outta there!"

He didn't, and when the engine failed, I laid into it full force, and broke his finger in the process. Whooie, I'll bet that hurt!

Off he went to the hospital with that hand under the other armpit, and the check pilot filled in for him in the right seat. His only comment was, "That was a great abort, Deakin-san." We both got a chuckle out of that.

Anyway, that's another case in point where the POH is not always the best, and sometimes needs revision. It never did get revised, though.
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 02:54   #14 (permalink)
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Great story, Brian.

A lesser one from me - I was flying with an F/E who, after the thrust was stabilised at at about 1.2 EPR, had a nasty habit of shoving the power levers up to takeoff power very quickly which I was not happy with as if an outer engine doesn't spool-up past 1.2 EPR (Had it happen) it's very easy to punt a 747 off the runway and into the grass in seconds. I told him several times to push the levers up slowly, they had to be set by 80kts and not in less than a second.
The last time I flew with him I knew he'd ignore me and do it again anyway so I again asked him to push the power up slowly. So I got a good grip on the thrust levers and yes, when I asked for takeoff power to be set he gave them a good hard push up ..... but since I was only letting him push them up slowly and I'm literally twice the size of him he managed to push so hard his seat (which he didn't lock properly) started to rapidly slide to the very rear of the cockpit with his arm still reaching for the levers!
I didn't think it rated an abort so I set the power myself and kept going ....... quietly giggling away.
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 03:00   #15 (permalink)
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Could be in the mighty C-5, a set of throttles for each pilot. Interconnected, of course.

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Old 16th Feb 2011, 06:35   #16 (permalink)
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Kudos Brian, and much respect to you sir, nice to see someone else who lives in reality, thought it was just me and 2 other guys. That Brit you described reminds me of many of today's "Children of the Magenta Line" (same generation as me, but I have nothing to do with that group) which use CRM and SOP's as a veiled excuse to usurp command of an aircraft.

As for the "Mighty C-5", never flown one but I appreciate the capabilities of the craft, that being said I've seen the same throttle layout in old Douglas pistons, while Boeing and Lockheed provided seperate throttles for the Pilots and FEs.
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 08:03   #17 (permalink)
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How very dare people use CRM or SOPs....? Next thing you know, people will be making you read checklists!
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 11:13   #18 (permalink)
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quitely giggling away.

Nothing much to giggle about that I can see. PF opposing forward thrust lever movement whilst the FE is endeavouring to set TO thrust. FE's seat rolls back taking him out of position below 80 Kts and you think that is not unsafe and a laughing matter. No wonder you are a retired pilot at 45.
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 11:18   #19 (permalink)
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Usually at the 80 or 100 knot call the PNF will then remove his hands from behind the thrust levers in case the P.F decides to abort the Take Off.
Mostly quite unnecessary. If the captain suddenly decides to reject the take off at a low speed, he will not say "will you kindly remove your hand from behind my thrust levers as I am about to reject this take off and your hand will be severely lacerated between the thrust lever aft edge and the start levers (737) if I close the thrust levers quickly".

Fact is if any minor thrust lever adjustment is made by either the captain or the first officer after throttle hold, then in the meantime there is no reason to "follow the thrust levers" by the PNF. The AT sets the power in a certain sequence of movements unaided by hand.

If there is a need to adjust the final setting after throttle hold, all the PNF has to do is move his hand from his knee (or wherever he chooses to have his hand during take off) to the thrust levers - make a quick adjustment - then remove his hand.
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Old 16th Feb 2011, 11:29   #20 (permalink)
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both pilots had their hand on the throttle below 1000'...the copilot actually controlling the speed of the plane, while the auto pilot flew the plane and the captain was ''ready'' to takeover and land or initiate a manual go around. this was called a monitored approach.
I must say it sounds like an extraordinary complicated procedure - reminding me of the old saying "Who's up who and who's paying the rent"
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