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View Full Version : TWO MEMBERS CREW vs THREE MEMBERS CREW


bflyer
31st Jul 2007, 21:16
Hi everybody

My company is phasing out our B727-200adv and B747 SPs in favour of the A320 and the two-man vs the three-man crew is becoming a serious issue as most of the crew members are coming from three-man crew originally
I know this is a controversial issue, and a lot of ink has been spilled talking about it, nevertheless, i would very much appreciate your inputs on the subject

Best regards

Rainboe
31st Jul 2007, 22:33
I spent 16 years flying 3 crew, and 19 years flying 2 crew. When you need a Flight Engineer because of the design of the aeroplane, it's great. When you fly more modern gear and it's designed for 2 crew, dare I say, it's even better. The time of Flight Engineers in civil flying has passed. The new equipment does not need them. Even a 747-400 is quite adequately and safely crewed by 2. And it works well. It does mean there is slightly more to do and you must be a bit better organised (nobody to pass you manuals/charts at busy times), but do not fear- you will enjoy it.

bubbers44
31st Jul 2007, 23:00
It was nice having the FE to run the systems but that luxury doesn't exist any more because of economics. The checklists have been simplified so a two man crew can run them because now they are brief for abnormals

On a 3 man airplane you could isolate electrical faults like electrical smoke unknown source, now you do the basics, if anything and just land. Of course the SwissAir Halifax crash could have probably been prevented if they had an engineer to shut down the non essential entertainment system instead of just trying to land with it still being powered. It is all economics and we will never go back. Normal days everything will be fine.

john_tullamarine
31st Jul 2007, 23:09
.. except that, when the custard flies furiously at 0-dark-30, and the two guys/gals up front are working their little hearts out trying not to die ... gee but it is nice to have a competent third seat ..

(a) to look after the boiler room

(b) (presuming the company thrust is for basic operational competence as well) keep a relaxed eye on what is going on up front.

I can recall two events where (b) probably avoided a heightened level of anxiety, embarrassment ... or worse ...

Having said that, I have no problem with a two-crew operation .. the 737 works real fine .. but you do need to have two experienced and competent folk to make up for not having (b) ...

I am not at all terribly sure that the present trend to very low total experience in the RHS (which can put the LHS in a defacto SP operation if the workload really ramps up) is a sound equivalent ... as in, when it works well, two crew is great .. but, if it falls in a heap ... it can do so big time ..

Putt
1st Aug 2007, 00:14
I recall when Frontier Airlines went to two man crew on the 737 (circa late '70s), some Western Airlines crew tussled with a Frontier crew on a shared crew shuttle bus, in Denver, over this issue. I agree that having three crew seems safer. However, my observation is that overcompetence is as dangerous as incompetence, just more insidious.
Frontier Engineering realized one benefit of going to two crew...cabin altitude squawks went away!!
Went into Deerlake, New Foundland, in a snowstorm, on an Eastern Provincial 737...that was exciting!
Putt

411A
1st Aug 2007, 02:50
I am remined when, some time ago, SaudiArabian took delivery of their first A300-600, two FD crew.
Sitting in the obs seat on one flight deadheading to join my assigned L1011 flight, during the cruise, an overheat warning in annunciated on the ECAM, and the Airboos instructor pilot in the RHS, selects the appropriate page, only to find the ECAM suddenly goes 'dark'.
'Not to worry', says he, as he picks up the big thick ops manual, 'we find the solution here'............whereupon, the binder flips open, and all 293 pages fall to the FD floor.
Says he...'its times like this we wish for the Flight Engineer'.

I had no comment whatsoever, but could not stop laughing for at least five minutes.:}:}

zerozero
1st Aug 2007, 03:21
There can be no question that CRM is optimized when one person is dedicated to flying the airplane and two other people are working together on the emergency checklist.

In fact studies have shown the best CRM combo to be the Capt and FE working together while the FO flys the airplane.

Alas, things have changed and so must we.

john_tullamarine
1st Aug 2007, 08:04
I suggest that it's more a case of .. when things are going well or not too badly .. it doesn't really matter whether it's a well-oiled 2- or 3-crew operation.

However, if everything goes wrong .. three competent, well-trained brains, pairs of eyes, etc., etc. ... probably give you a better fighting chance than two.

More importantly, with the two-crew animal and, say, a new chum F/O starting his line training program and after the safety F/O (or whatever support is provided for the initial training program) is released ... the LHS is in a very awkward situation if a serious problem arises and the RHS is just not up to the requirement at his/her level of experience/training.


I wonder what Al Haynes would say about 2-crew ops in awkward circumstances ?

Rainboe
1st Aug 2007, 08:51
Putt- why did cabin alt squawks go away when you went 2 crew? And I go into Deer Lake, Newfoundland now, in a 737 (after a 2 crew ETOPs Transatlantic at 41,000' no less! How the Fluff Jet has changed since the -200 days!) snow storms or otherwise! Great place, but really surreal when you can't see the runway and dry snow is blowing across it. Very strange effect, and a bit unsettling.

I'm afraid the economics of carrying a third crew member on 100% of flights versus the minute percentage of flights where he would be ultra useful just don't add up anymore- there cannot be an economic case for it. Rather like carrying a ton of fuel extra per every flight versus the very low cost of an extremely unlikely diversion through not having that extra ton. Modern aircraft are quite happily flown by 2 pilots. Modern flight decks are no longer built for 3 in comfort. Hell- they're not even comfortable for 2 anymore! I know some airlines like Air France used to operate the 737 with 3 pilots, but surely that was archaic industrial practices? (there- blame it on the French again, whether it's their fault or not). I cannot imagine how it was effective (or comfortable).

TopBunk
1st Aug 2007, 18:33
j_t

Wouldn't Al Haynes be an advocate of four crew, not three?

Don't get me wrong, when the fan is involved 4 is better than 3 is better than 2 is better than 1 man and his v inexperienced co. Still not a reason to carry 3 routinely for other than LROPS imho.

[Possibly the same as the argument about the number of engines]

744 driver;)

Dryce
1st Aug 2007, 18:48
> Wouldn't Al Haynes be an advocate of four crew, not three?

The DHL A300 that got whacked by a missile in Nov 2003 also comes to mind.

A Very Civil Pilot
1st Aug 2007, 20:58
In fact studies have shown the best CRM combo to be the Capt and FE working together while the FO flys the airplane.


Didn't one of the classic CRM fatality cases occour when the Capt and F/E ganged up on the F/O - 'What's the difference between a duck and an F/O? A duck can fly.'

barit1
1st Aug 2007, 22:47
The was a comment on another thread that a greater % of the passenger's fare goes for airport "security" (yeah-...) than for the Capt. salary.

I don't know whether or how often this is true, but if an armed F/E were on board, he might be very useful in a number of roles, both technical and security, and reduce the "workload" back at the departure queue.

john_tullamarine
1st Aug 2007, 22:53
Re Sioux City and DHL ... we certainly can find examples on the fringes where the heavy crew has a better chance of survival.

Equally, we can find examples where an ill-disciplined three man crew performed rather indifferently.

The real world reality is that the Industry is headed toward the well known "one man and a dog" crewing philosophy. It's not going to go in reverse so we all had best get used to it and adapt to the management demands in the cockpit.

The flight management reality is that the commander has to apply an increased level of interest to optimal crew management to overcome any shortcomings in the smaller complement.

Me ? I was quite happy either with 2- or 3-crew where the company philosophy was to overtrain and the crew members were both experienced and competent.

Nowdays, with a management hat on .. I just hope that the folks up front approximate well trained and highly experienced/competent.

Feather #3
1st Aug 2007, 23:01
I transferred to a 2-crew type after 28 years flying 3[+]-crew.

Be very careful for the first couple of years. You don't realise what the 3rd guy was doing for you until a hole appears!!:ooh:

Stay safe!

G'day ;)

zerozero
2nd Aug 2007, 00:29
Didn't one of the classic CRM fatality cases occour when the Capt and F/E ganged up on the F/O - 'What's the difference between a duck and an F/O? A duck can fly.'

Yeah. That was Alaska Airlines in Ketchikan, Alaska in 1976.

The FO kept raising "trial balloons"--dropping hints about being too high, too fast, etc.

As they overran the runway the last words on the CVR were the FOs: "I told you!"

barit1
2nd Aug 2007, 01:48
(~1980) When Airbus was floating the 2 vs 3 concept, they called it the "FFCC" or Forward Facing Crew Concept - the F/E (optional - if the airline retained the 3-crew) sat facing the center console and managed the show from there. Eventually the third person was phased out. Did any carrier fly A310's with a third crew?

pakeha-boy
2nd Aug 2007, 04:19
Quote John T.."I am not at all terribly sure that the present trend to very low total experience in the RHS (which can put the LHS in a defacto SP operation if the workload really ramps up) is a sound equivalent"

John....a very valid point and couldnt agree more!!!

Have flown 2-and 3 man/shelia crews...immerse yourself into the "concept" and its not a problem...

The introduction of ths new MPL (multicrew pilots license)....is scary stuff indeed......the concept of having a 250-400 co-pilot flying with no real experience is a concept that I have a hard time accepting.......not saying they are not good enough at all......but experience is experience......and when things are turning to custard...correct me if I,m wrong......but Ill go for "proven" versus un-proven

Bingle
2nd Aug 2007, 04:46
If the aircraft is designed for 3 crew then all and good.
I flew B767's with a F/E and also as 2 crew. Much better as 2 crew. Some engineers were happy to follow the QRH when needed but most wanted to troubleshoot the problem instead of following the procedures.
Best option for me is long haul when I have another F/O on board.

galaxy flyer
2nd Aug 2007, 06:32
I always thought it interesting a committee headed by three men did the recommendation on going to two-man cockpits. One from industry, one FAA, one union.

To John T's point, I quite agree you can find examples of successful and unsuccessful crews, the number of crewmembers in the cockpit being irrelavant. The two-man crew on AF90 did not deal well with their icing problem at DCA, the three man crew in the recent C-5 accident performed horribly; but the three-man crew with Al Haynes or the other UAL 747 incident were absolute paragons of CRM and efficiency. I liked working with engineers, but insisted that they act as part of the crew and could speak up at anytime-emphasized that they would be killed by my mistake as I could be by their's.

My only reservation with two-man crews in an emergency is that one becomes very concentrated with flying, one with the emergency drills and NO one cross-checking the other, unless they are very competent and using the automation correctly and fully. Despite the claims of engineers, two-man planes can be a handful in emergency. In a two-man cockpit, I feel better if automation is being utilized, it is hard to be heads-down working an emergency checklist while I know the other is hand-flying a SID or an approach.

GF

BelArgUSA
2nd Aug 2007, 10:31
A few years ago, my airline decided to buy 4 747-400s rather than 4 747-300s. The cost of each 400 was around $35 million per unit, whereas each 300 would have been around $10 million per unit. I was a proponent of the 300. One of the issues, was the supression of the flight engineer position...
xxx
We did not need the extra few nautical miles of range offered by the 400s, our sectors can be flown non-stop by 200s and 300s... The 300 has the same cabin configuration and passenger capacity as a 400...
xxx
So the company bean-counters won, they got the 747-475s from Canada... and they could save on the salaries of flight engineers. But all our sectors with 747-400 are over 8 hours, therefore requiring a 3 pilot crew, captain, cruise-captain and first officer... so the unions and the company agreed to train our flight engineers to be cruise-first officers... 90% of our flight engineers accepted to become cruise-first officers, and kept their flight engineer salaries and high seniorities. We could have acquired the 300s that would not have required a "centavo" extra training, but instead, they spent a fortune in training the crews for the 400... at the time we were almost a bankrupt airline...
xxx
Now, our ex-flight engineers are happy, but our bean-counters are not, since the hourly cost of a captain, a cruise-captain and a cruise-first officer as cockpit crew of a 400 is higher than a captain, a first officer and a flight engineer is in the 200/300...
xxx
Nice thing is, with the 400, that the cruise-first officers (ex engineers) continue their duties as it was in the 200s... that is preflight walkaround, they participate in check-lists, in-flight documentation and logs... etc...
xxx
We are left with 2 747-200s which I still fly, when they retire these planes, I will be retired too, as our policy is not to transition captains over age 60 to new equipment (I am 63)... so my revenge is, that they will have to pay me a full salary until I hit age 65, should they retire the 200s before my birthday...
xxx
As far as my opinion is, I still believe a cockpit crew of 3 is better for departure and arrival, check-list perfomance, extra pair of eyes, and in case of a malfunction... or emergency...
:)
Very happy contrails

galaxy flyer
2nd Aug 2007, 16:30
BelArgUSA

Quite agree on the economic issues. Friends who were early in 767 int'l business (AA, TWA), were always amazed that the airline thought they were saving money by eliminating the F/Es, usually paid probationary or early hourly pay, and replacing them with mid-seniority F/Os. The F/Os made considerably more. I still don't believe it makes sense if most of your sectors exceed 8 hours.

GF

con-pilot
2nd Aug 2007, 20:18
As far as my opinion is, I still believe a cockpit crew of 3 is better for departure and arrival, check-list perfomance, extra pair of eyes, and in case of a malfunction... or emergency...

BelArgUSA, there you have it. In my outfit we had both PFEs (Professional Flight Engineers to those that are too young to know of PFEs) and pilots acting as FEs. Now, one thing that was very different from airline operations was that usually all 3 people in the cockpit were captains (government flight operations). Generally, 99% of the time, having 3 captains presented no problems, we all rotated as PIC one week from the next.

In fact on some schedules we would fight over who would get to be the FE. Hell, the pay was the same and all you to do was to sleep, read books and pass gas. However, as you so accurately posted for departures, arrivals and aircraft malfunction, and especially in case of emergencies that third person on the flight deck is very important.

I, as with most of the other pilots, would hand the approach plate back to the FE, if it was a pilot FE, after we had set up for the approach and have them recheck everything and agree with approach briefing. A couple of times mistakes were caught by the FE.

So, my vote is for the 3 person crew.

old,not bold
3rd Aug 2007, 01:14
John Tullamarine said;
Equally, we can find examples where an ill-disciplined three man crew performed rather indifferently.

i was thinking of a BA VC10 on which all four engines went terribly quiet one day in the cruise...HKK - BKK? ..rumour had it that the Capt and F/E were each fiddling with the engine settings without either realising they were both at it, or something like that....and didn't the BA VC10 fleet not use intercom because the F/E might interrupt a transmission?

The F/E, so the story went on, then performed a miracle getting one started using a drop down generator, then starting another from that, then another.....

Perhaps someone knows the real story of that incident? I don't claim accuracy. But it seemed to illuminate both sides of the 2 vs 2 + F/E argument.

Flight Detent
3rd Aug 2007, 02:49
There is no arguement here, the 2 + F/E is definitely the better option, all things considered!
comments -
"would hand the approach plate back to the FE, if it was a pilot FE,"
- and why wouldn't you hand it back to a PFE, most have pilot licences, and even the ones that don't have a very good understanding of the instrument settings/briefings required of the pilots for precision approaches. I find that comment a little insulting, piloting an airplane is not that difficult!

comments -
"Equally, we can find examples where an ill-disciplined three man crew performed rather indifferently"
- in my experience, the ones that performed indifferently were the FAA licensed pilots 'acting' as FEs. But I guess that's the American way!

Cheers...FD...:ugh:

SIC
3rd Aug 2007, 09:36
Not to metion that FE's know the best jokes, location of the best bars/cathouses and are really usefull friends to have when your car/boat/gun isn't working properly. I miss them dearly!

old,not bold
3rd Aug 2007, 09:53
In post 24 above, for HKK (Hokitika, NZHK) please read HKG (Hongkong, VHHH).......it was a senior moment...

BelArgUSA
3rd Aug 2007, 11:19
My airline now operates long range flights (747-400 and A-340)... Of course, these airplanes were designed to be flown by 2 pilots, no F/E required... But the designers of the airplanes failed to realise that you cannot dispatch an airplane on a 14 hrs long sector... with 2 pilots, this due to duty and flight time limitations... with our regulations (we use rules similar to US/FAR 121), a 2 pilot crew is limited to 8 hrs flight time, and 12 hrs duty time.
xxx
Occasionally, a A-340 might operate a short sector, where there would be no flight time or duty time problem, but if, after a night stop, that crew is assigned to a long sector, requiring 3 pilots, we, at the end, dispatch all flights with the 3 pilot crew complement, regardless how short/long sectors are, same for the 747-400... We only have one base, Buenos Aires, and if there was a need to vary crew complements in view of sectors, what we would gain in 2 pilot only crews, would be lost in hotel costs and 3rd pilots deadheading here or there. Crew schedulers are not rocket scientists, it would be a nightmare of logistics to vary crew complements, in function of various sectors to be flown. Remember, we can operate our 747-200s with our minimum crew up to 12 hrs flights and 16 hrs duty...
xxx
On other postings, in Pprune, there are numerous questions about the adequacy of airline training and qualifications of new hires. Well, I started my airline career with PanAm as a 727 F/E, then became 707 F/E before upgrading to a "window seat", as 727 F/O... it was excellent training in itself, to sit "sideways" a few months, before becoming a F/O... I hope that the new generation of pilots will get that exposure when selected as 3rd pilot for long range airplanes of this new century.
xxx
I admit that having a "3 pilot" requirement for 737s was ridiculous, as United, Western and Frontier did it in the early 1970s... Both 737s and DC9s were designed for 2 pilots, and flew short sectors.
xxx
Last word here. I asked a friend in the crew planning department, about the hourly cost factored for cockpit crew of a 747-200, compared to 747-400... The next day, he answered me that the hourly crew cost of the 747-400 is assumed to be US$ 85.oo higher, for the 747-400. I am so happy that my airline saved us from bankruptcy by selecting the 747-400. I would also like to know the banking interests paid to finance 4 airplanes of $35 millions each, versus the costs of selecting 4 of $10 millions each... QED...
xxx
:)
Happy contrails

AirRabbit
3rd Aug 2007, 13:46
The introduction of ths new MPL (multicrew pilots license)....is scary stuff indeed......the concept of having a 250-400 co-pilot flying with no real experience is a concept that I have a hard time accepting.......not saying they are not good enough at all......but experience is experience......and when things are turning to custard...correct me if I,m wrong......but Ill go for "proven" versus un-proven.
A very valid comment ... and not to be critical in anyway as I think all would prefer experience to a lack of it, but circumstances are what they are. IF experience is available I'm quite sure it will be grabbed up quickly, but, with the shortage anticipated, that experience is simply not going to be there. Additionally, the industry has "been there, done that" before. In the early to middle 1960's it was not uncommon to have very low time pilots (250 - 400 hours) hired by the airlines in the US. And, before some jump to correct me that these folks were hired into the FE seat (which WAS true in many cases) there were airlines that operated with "professional FEs" (like National, Pan Am, and others), where "new hire" pilots went directly into the right seat. It may be valuable to recall that these were the days prior to GPS and IRUs, FMS and sophisticated autoflight control. Shoot ... it was prior to flight directors and horizontal situation display instrumentation! It was also prior to the reliability we see in engines and aircraft systems that we almost take for granted today. If we HAVE to have 250 - 400 hour pilots in the right seat, I think I'd rather do it today than 40 years ago!

pakeha-boy
3rd Aug 2007, 22:16
Air rabbitt...ditto on your comments,and are old enough to have some of these youngies thrown my way as well,.....and I would agree with your sentiments.....

The problem we are seeing now,(and I should have mentioned) are very low time Capts....(1200hrs) flying with very low time F/O,s(250-400)..... as I witnessed last week whilst commuting(JUMPSEAT) on an ERJ 900...flown by a very well known carrier....M--a....out of Kphx,AZ..... I saw several things that I regarded as "ugly" to say the least,especially in a multi-crew operation.....not trying to point fingers......but if the ****e really hits the fan.....I hope I,m not occupying the jumpseat......

By the way,I did call a check Capt for that Airline,a personal friend who commutes on my flights and air my comments....not trying to DOB anyone,but I had concerns....

misd-agin
4th Aug 2007, 07:01
2 man vs. 3 man?

Years ago CA left the 727 for the S80. Guys advised him it was a poor decision. "With only one other guy up there you can't pretend to be innocent when you f*rt. He knows he didn't do it!" :=

BelArgUSA
5th Aug 2007, 10:21
The old FAA regulations standards required 2 pilots and a flight engineer, when the aircraft takeoff weight exceeded 80,000 lbs... Later, of course, the industry produced aircraft designed to be flown by 2 pilots, no required flight engineers. Was the case of 737 and DC9s...
xxx
My idea is that the crew complement should now be based on flight times and duty times. I am not against the 747-400, and now the A-380 designed to be flown by 2 pilots, for flights not exceeding 8 hrs... Our regulations here require 3 pilots (or 2 + F/E) for flights to 12 hrs... in excess of 12 hrs sectors, we require yet an extra pilot... 4 pilots in some of our A-340 routes.
xxx
Think of this... The KC-135 was (and is) flown by 2 pilots, yet a 3rd crewmember is in that cockpit, a flight navigator (not a F/E)... The airlines operated the 707 with 2 pilots and a F/E... although the KC-135 is... a 707...
xxx
The workload on short 1 to 2 hrs-long sectors, with multiple landings, as flown by 737s and MD-80s is extremely high. Our company policy permits operation of 8 hrs flying for 2 pilots, and provided not more than 2 landings are required. If a third landing is required, the flight time limit is reduced to 7 hrs, and further reduced to 6 hrs, if 4 landings are performed, etc...
xxx
I know some of you fly these regional airplanes, sometimes with 6 landings a day, in congested airspace such as in the USA or Europe. Would be curious to see your outstanding performance on your last landing of the evening, in icing conditions, holding above the IAF in turbulence and expecting an approach to "reported" legal weather minumums...
xxx
What is the name of your airline...? Gulag Air Express...?
:)
Happy contrails

Rainboe
5th Aug 2007, 10:51
was thinking of a BA VC10 on which all four engines went terribly quiet one day in the cruise...HKK - BKK? ..rumour had it that the Capt and F/E were each fiddling with the engine settings without either realising they were both at it, or something like that....and didn't the BA VC10 fleet not use intercom because the F/E might interrupt a transmission?

The F/E, so the story went on, then performed a miracle getting one started using a drop down generator, then starting another from that, then another.....

I recall this incident- I was flying BA VC10 at the time. Near TOD Tokyo, F/E feeding all engines from one tank- inevitable happened, subsequently positively banned (when you have 5 or 6 tanks whatever it was!). ELRAT (electrical ram air turbine) pulled out to restore electrics (all that was needed as VC10 used power control units for flight controls)- which disintegrated after 2 minutes. Following short gliding experience, engines restarted one by one, only pride dented- sent home in chains. Captain couldn't really fiddle with anything as F/E had ALL engine controls. One didn't dare touch anything in F/Es department!

VC10 didn't use intercom because like DC9/MD80 series, flight deck silent! Engines at back- no need of intercom. BA traditionally flew one ear off.

Quite honestly chaps, having flown 747-400 for 8 years, and 737 for 8 years prior to that, and 747-200 with 3 FD crew for 10 years prior to that, I am just as happy with a 2 pilot operation as ever with a 3 crew operation. We integrated 2, 3 and 4 pilot operation into the 747-400 as required for sector length, so heavy, long rangeand tired, you had the extra pilot/s. With a big world wide schedule, it might have been complicated to roster that, but BA did it OK and well. Long range ops like Asia/Australia, 4 pilots would depart, 2 would continue shorter range to Australia, 2 would turn around and come home. It worked well, and no pilots were left building up and gradually being forgotten in BKK (unfortunately) or SIN!