View Full Version : Is this bad pilot practice or am I being harsh?

28th May 2001, 20:48
Travelling as SLF from Scotland to London last week, on BA narrowbody aircraft. (Won't give anymore details than that, so as to keep this identity free...)

Approximately slightly north of EGBB (I could see it below a few minutes later...), Captain appeared from flight deck, & started talking to other SLF in row 1.

He looked like he'd had a long duty day, no tie, and top three buttons undone, hair very messy etc etc.

I then felt the aircraft start descent, out of the FL330 that Capt had previously stated on pa. Also, we started a couple of gentle turns, which I expect were due to ATC vectoring (after all that's some busy airspace in that area...)

The skipper didn't seem bothered that the aircraft was conducting such manoevres, and kept talking with row 1 for about another 3 or 4 mins before returning to flight deck.

So, my question - should the skipper have returned immediately, upon feeling the aircraft's attitude change ? Wasn't it a bit too much to expect f/o to do this alone in such busy airspace? Is this bad pratice? Should he have put his tie on, and looked a bit smarter for the SLF ?

I may be wrong, esp. as I'm not a pilot (I am in the industry), but I reckon he was wrong on both accounts... Please correct me as neccessary.... for I am willing to be told so...

Comments ?


Lee Dingedge
28th May 2001, 21:14
Yes, as to the state of his dress which, with pilots, often seem to reflect the state of their flying disciplines as well.
As to the start of descent, there are still two pilots up front, Autopilot and Copilot, and between them they should be able to cope with a couple of turns!

28th May 2001, 21:22
Zones - <<I may be wrong, esp. as I'm not a pilot>>: These 2 statements are the only sensible things in your posting. Glad you have nothing better to worry about apart from "Only me, you don't want to do it like that..." BTW, what exactly DO you do in the business if you're so well informed then?

Nil defects
28th May 2001, 21:28
There is the possibility that he was in the jump seat as a route check captain, or training captain. Still would be better if he looked a bit tidier in front of SLF of course.

28th May 2001, 21:34
Barcode: Without wanting to otherwise interfere, "Zones" is part of the Freight business (like me).

rgds Rat

Sleeve Wing
28th May 2001, 21:34
Don't be such a prat, Barcode.
There is such a thing as self respect, you know.
.......or perhaps you're one of those ultra modern d**k***ds who thinks we should come to work in jeans ?

:rolleyes: ;) ;)

28th May 2001, 21:36
I think you probably hit the nail on the head with "He looked like he'd had a long duty day.."

It is obviously desirable to always present a tidy appearance however on the grounds of been there, done that, and got the (grubby) tee shirt, It doesn't always happen.

Being human, the pilots often need to answer the call of nature in flight, and sometimes just need to stretch their legs. It often happens that using headsets all day, hair does get messy. Clothing gets crumpled and stained with biro's and window grease and meal trays and spilt coffee etc.
On short flights (eg shuttles) it may be necessary to leave the flight deck even though the aircraft is manouvering. This is not desirable but it sometimes happens.

As any Pilot will tell you, manageing an aircraft can sometimes be a tireing, hot, grimey, busy, frustrating business. We would always like to present a tidy appearance but it doesn't always happen. If this is all you had to worry about on your flight then I don't think you have too much of a complaint.

Old King Coal
28th May 2001, 22:02
Leaving the other guy - Each pilot is certificated (to the same operational standard) by the CAA to fly the aircraft - on their own, if needs be.
Certainly when in the upper flight-levels I wouldn't be too concerned about only one chap at the controls, but if one of the pilots was still chatting with pax in row 1 when the gear came down.... well that's a different matter.

Ties, hats, grooming - No tie, a few buttons undone, hair a bit dishevelled ? Who cares !
I'd much rather the bloke was comfortable & cool (in all respects) and doing a good job, e.g. just how many twats do we all know who hide behind their sharp suits / uniform in lieu of their ability ?! Gotta say that, imho, it cuts a certain dash, i.e. a veritable exhibition of the stable extravert trait so desired in a good pilots personality profile ! e.g. I fit right in ;)

Long Duty Day - Now this is indeed worthy of comment.
If our office bound brethren had to work the length of day that we as flight crew have to work on a regular basis they'd be up in arms and spouting on about either the 'Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963' and / or the newer Working Time Regulations (http://www.tgwu.org.uk/fea/wtr/tng_g_wtr.html) - both acts which I understand the air transport industry is, strangely, exempt from ?! I.e. your aircraft won't crash coz his tie wasn't on, or his hair wasn't brushed - it'll crash coz the crew are knackered !

[This message has been edited by Old King Coal (edited 28 May 2001).]

28th May 2001, 22:57
It's SOP in our airline that you do not visit the cabin for social purposes.

28th May 2001, 23:00
The description sounds like my medical examiner !

28th May 2001, 23:07
I dont know about who should or should not be on the flight deck, but never forget the travelling public's perception of flight crew. The majority of us who work and travel in the industry probably couldnt give a rats ass whether the crew are dressed in a morning suit or just their underwear, as long as they can do their job to the best of their ability we're generally happy.
The majority of other passengers who aren't quite as savvy, expect the crew to be smartly dressed and look the part. Even if you've had a long day, got lipstick on your trousers, etc. you have an aura of professionalism to maintain, and it doesnt look good if you wander around with your pants down. http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/tongue.gif

It wasn't me.

28th May 2001, 23:09
It does sound as if this pilot had had a hard day. However, it doesn't take 2 secs to make a slight improvement (3 buttons undone), if for no other reason than to show a bit of resect to the cabin crew who are supposed to look their best. Also, if the pilot looks unshaven and tired, it doesn't inspire the SLF who want him/her to be at their best to land the sucker.

When the chips are down I don't care if the guy in the other seat looks like he's just done ten rounds with Tyson, so long as he's good at what he does.

Personally I try and look reasonable when the SLF are about, and to set some sort of example to the CC.

Old King Coal
28th May 2001, 23:57
If what you wear is a measure of who you are then according to the 'rules' espoused above Richard Branson (who never wears either a suit or a tie) shouldn't really be where he is, should he ?!

And what about Sir John Harvey Jones - a bloke more commonly known for his flamboyant suits and ties, than for his stewardship of the multi-billion corporation that is / was I.C.I. !

Ps. Come to that, what a about Big Bird (well, everybody has heard of him, right ? ) , e.g. ever noticed that it's nearly always the non-conformists who seem to be the ones raking in the mega-bucks ?!

29th May 2001, 00:02
Zones you are wrong on both accounts!! Simple. Tell us what u do then we will come along experience 2hrs in your occupation then tell U how to do it!

Do us all a favour and travel by train next time!

[This message has been edited by CRP5 (edited 28 May 2001).]

Eff Oh
29th May 2001, 00:11
Well Guys. I fly B757 from UK to most holiday destinations in Europe, Med, Canaries etc. Our company manuals suggest that it is best to remove your tie whilst operating for comfort reasons!!!! As for his hair.....My hair (when in need of a cut) often get in a state because of my headset!! :)
PS Must be a mistake...A BA captain with hair???? :) :)
Eff Oh!

Captain Airclues
29th May 2001, 00:21
There are many BA Flight Crew who live in Scotland. A large percentage of domestic flights have a crewmember positioning on the flight deck, and it is possible that this gentlemen was one of these people.
While I do not excuse his dress sense, I feel confident that you were in safe hands.


29th May 2001, 01:54
Thought Zones asked a reasonable question asking for comments? Judging by some of the replies, no wonder pilots are held in such high regard! If you can't answer in a civil manner, wouldn't Sigmund suggest a certain personal inadequacy??

29th May 2001, 02:29
Walter, given the above I'd imagine that you mean 'which is it then to be ?!', i.e. would you rather a pilot who's a shrinking violet, or a pilot who's a cutting & thrusting type chap, or perhaps a pilot who's somewhere in the middle, i.e. the preceding, in various combinations ?! possibly a case of damned if you do, and damned if you don't

Also, I for one, certainly don't see a need to defend my profession to lay-people whom cast (what is almost certainly) dispersions on my / our profession and fellow colleagues - and certainly so when their prognosis is based mostly on how a chap looks (neigh, the cut of his jib), and / or their limited knowledge of airline operational procedures / practice, etc..

29th May 2001, 06:02
Barcode and crp5,
I think zones has asked a very reasonable question , after all is it not the case that heading and level instructions are confirmed with the other pilot before being input into the auto pilot( or is Daventry just such an easy piece of airspace that this is not necessary). I suspect the guy was positioning but your defence does your profession no good whatsoever.

29th May 2001, 06:38
I agree with Captain Airclues. I too think that you were in safe hands, but I do get a bee in my bonnet when I see those in our profession who chose to present themselves in public looking like characters from 'On The Buses'.

However, with a military background, being at times under heavy public scrutiny, my sense of appearance & bearing is slightly heightened in comparison to those that are not.

Old King Coal
29th May 2001, 09:31
Jeez it's not like your sitting in some 60's turboprop, and the bloke is hand flying it. Your in an advanced jet airliner, with the autopilot engaged (the third man), a highly trained / vigilant pilot at the controls, ATC are watching you, TCAS is fitted, etc.

Also, w.r.t. 'after all is it not the case that heading and level instructions are confirmed with the other pilot before being input into the auto pilot'. Erhm, so just when are you suppposed to answer a call of nature ? e.g. I can see it now (somewhere over middle Italy, at FL330) "Roma please do not give us any ATC instructions for the next five minutes, whilst our Captain leaves the flightdeck to take a crap"...... get real !

29th May 2001, 09:54
Was the F/O male or female ? ;)

Smooth Trimmer

29th May 2001, 10:18
Aha !

So that's what that nice little mirror on the inside of the cockpit door might be for !


29th May 2001, 10:34
Personally I do think that flight crews should do their best to look smart and professional at all times. Having seen some of the scruffy looking youths who fly for a certain airline from STN (not Go or buzz), if that's the sort of oik who flies for them then I certainly don't want to be a passenger on their airline!

As someone else has said - the hard working cabin crew are expected to look their best at all times and the flight crew should do the same.

pied piper
29th May 2001, 12:56
>>do us all a favour and travel by train next time<< wayne kerr

Next time one of you pilots asks an uneducated question in Computer and Internet do we techies tell you to do us all a favour and use a piece of paper next time?

29th May 2001, 13:33
There's always a few who just have to answer a reasonable question with a snide 'put down'. I would hate to imagine what their CRM skills are like. http://www.stopstart.fsnet.co.uk/smilie/confused2.gif

The original poster asked a reasonable question, qualified it with a statement that he or she wasn't a pilot and then a few of you prove to everyone else that it only takes one or two sad gits with big ego's to make it appear as though we are all condescending "know it all's". No wonder the press have a field day winding us up.

Back to the subject, Zones, it will differ from company to company but the fact that you 'felt' the a/c descend may have not been a descent at all but just a decelleration. Quite often in that area, inbound to a London airport you may have been informed about holding and there is no need for anyone to rush into the holding pattern.

The a/c may have been descending but if the Captain had gone to answer a call of nature and seen a friend in the cabin and decided to have a chat then that is no big deal either. The F/O is more than capable of handling the a/c in a terminal area and indeed has to be able to do everything including land the thing in the event of an incapacitation.

It is far more difficult to do this sort of manouvering somewhere like the Greek islands or Spain where the accents can cause confusion or the 'bigger picture' is not as obvious due to some a/c being directed in their own language. When in the London area you will invariably find the controllers calm and eloquent which is not usually a problem for a pilot to reselect the ALT, hit FL CHG, twiddle the HDG SLCT knob or line select something on the FMC.

As for appearance, well that comes down to the attitude of the pilot. Not the end of the world but it doesn't take that much effort to have a quick peek in the mirror and do up at least two of the buttons. With or without tie should not even be a consideration.

Hope that answers the question in a slightly more civilised manner. Some of those other replies remind me of a Captain I once flew with who managed to make a 35 minute positioning flight feel like a 9 hour long haul sector. You finished the duty as fatigued and stressed because this one person knew it all and just had to let you know all the time how clever he was and you were not worthy to even ask a question.

It's always the pompous ones!

[This message has been edited by OzDude (edited 29 May 2001).]

29th May 2001, 13:46
Thanks Ozdude.


29th May 2001, 14:26
We seem to have got off the thread here. The question wasn't so much what the guy's sartorial sense was(although it could have been better), but whether he should have been on the flightdeck. Sure we all have to answer the call of nature, especially those of us whom age has blessed with a very short-haul bladder, but I would have thought that any change in the aircraft's attitude, speed or power setting would have most captains scurrying back to the pointed end. Could be the other pilot has been incapacitated? Could be his workload is building up? As for "one pilot, one autopilot and TCAS is enough", not in the London TMA it isn't. Ore am I just getting too old and crusty?

Flap 5
29th May 2001, 15:00
The question is well made. London to Edinburgh / Glasgow is a short and busy sector. If you are doing your job properly there is not enough time to go back for a chat, possibly a quick pee and that's it. Certainly the Captain should be at the controls during such a busy sector to verify ATC calls with his F/O.

I expect the F/O was getting quite worried and was probably considering dinging the call button to ask if there was any chance of the Captain comimg back!

Gentleman Aviator
29th May 2001, 16:23
Why on earth would a competent F/O be worried about doing his job?

A qualified pilot needs to be at the controls. I couldn't care less if he is Training Captain, Captain, SFO, FO or SO. As long as he has passed a recognised training course he or she should be perfectly competent to fly he aeroplane on his own with the wing on fire & hydraulics shot to bits. Normal day to day Ops should be a piece of cake.


ps. perfectly reasonable question IMHO.

29th May 2001, 16:30
One of the few things that really p1zzes me off in this industry is pilots who take themselves too seriously. Flaps 5, I think that you might be one of those. There is plenty of time to go for a pee on an EDI LHR.

The "box" will have been set up, briefing will be standard (probably) RT is being monitored under active radar control, a/c is on autopilot and there isn't exactly a lot if hills around BHX area. What more is there to do?

As for dress, I see nothing wrong with top button undone with no tie. It looks a damn site better than top button undone with your tie hanging around your waist.

The original question was a valid one and has received some valid answers. A good discussion point.

Barcode and CRP5, god help me if I have to fly with you and the **** should hit the fan. If your colleague in the other seat came up with a reasonable suggestion that you do not agree with would your reaction be the same? I hope not.

29th May 2001, 16:56
Thanks for the sensible comments. Pretty much what I thought.... and I expected the dross comments, so no worries... once you've been on Pprune long enough you get used to it.. i'm sure many agree.

Not being a pilot, I wasn't sure the exact workload at that stage of flight, esp. in such a busy piece of airspace.

One fault in my post though was to omit that it is entirely possible he was positioning.

But that doesn't excuse the dress standard, regardless of length of day... Even when I've had a long "duty" day, then battled through London's underground at what seems 30degC, I manage to look "resonably" well kept for my after work dinner appointment.... but I do tend to look a little worse for wear later after a few beers... which is they way this guy appeared!!

This guy was NOT bothered by his appearance. Ok, one doesn't expect perfect hair-do (headsets etc), but at least a quick pull on the tie, and covering up greying chest hair with a couple of buttons isn't hard.


PS - Would love to put down a copy of my cv, or such like, to address the industry thing. But sorry, I want my anominity on this forum. Please just accept that I'm in the business, have been for a while, but I'm not a pilot....

29th May 2001, 17:29
Assuming that the captain was part of the "operating crew" and not positioning, then yes he should by all means have put his tie on when he went down the back. I am an F/O for a major holiday charter airline and it is our company policy to always put our ties on whenever we go out the flight deck door. What we do on the flight deck is up to us - you can wear a baseball cap if you want - but on the other side of the door it is essential that you look professional. It is hard to keep the hair under control at times because of headsets but if you have a tie on it makes all the difference.

There is a huge number of captains I fly with who complain almost daily about the dress state and presentation of the passengers we carry (ie flip flops, tattoos from head to toe with a stud through the bridge of the nose to boot), and to not wear a tie when going down the back reduces us to that level. How can we possibly demand higher salaries in our pay deals when we present ourselves as if we are in the queue at the DHSS? This captain could be the greatest most talented and skilled pilot in the world which is great but if the passengers see a dishevelled mess than they will think the opposite and there are a great many people who are very nervous when flying and may decide to fly with another airline next time. Remember who pays the bills.

As far as the argument over whether or not he should be in the flight deck in the descent through the London TMA I would like to comment as well. It is of course possible that there was in fact no descent and "Zones" was mistaken, but assuming for a second that they were in the descent, yes the captain should be present during the descent. It is our company policy that as soon as the aircraft enters the descent (regardless of where in the world it is) both pilots must try to stay on the radio at all times (ie avoid calling handling agents etc) - sometimes it is not possible but we try - for the following very important reason: If only one pilot is maintaining a listening watch on frequency it is twice as likely that he/she will misunderstand a clearance to a flight level (ie will hear "descend FL160" when the actual instruction is "descend FL 170" ). In the London TMA it is one of the busiest terminal areas in the world and the controllers are working so hard that it is entirely possible that they may misunderstand the incorrect readback as well. Having two pilots "listening out" reduces this possibility drastically, and these mistakes do happen from time to time but are picked up by the other pilot. I don't care what anyone says - yes each pilot can fly the aircraft single handedly - but you must have two pilots listening out to ensure maximum safety and anything less is foolish and increases risk. Having one pilot not even in the flight deck during this critical phase of flight is obviously not conducive to safety. Coming out of the flight deck for a chat or a pee in the cruise is a different matter though - very low workload.

So, "Zones" you are not being harsh. If everything you suspect was actually true than you have every right to be upset. You, as a paying passenger, have the right to expect nothing but the best in terms of safety and I am afraid that this captain has let you down badly. Any so called "pilot" who thinks that it is OK for safety to be compromised in this manner is a safety hazard as well.

great expectations
29th May 2001, 17:30
I think this was a great question. Surely safety will only improve when the public realises that it IS their place and responsibility to question anything they see as unusual or alarming. This was not an attack launched on that Captain, merely a concerned query. I think there should be more of them. Potential lessons to be learned out of each one! GE xx

29th May 2001, 17:56
Has anyone noticed that we have not had the "benefit" of our dear friend C411A comments and his unique slant on life the universe etc etc??

29th May 2001, 18:08
LAZLO said it all, no need to comment further. Satisfied?

29th May 2001, 18:20
As an ATSA, I fly on as many "Fam Flights" as poss, both with "Schedule" AND "Charter". My dress "guide" is to be "smartly dressed". (One airline does state that "ties need not be worn". I wear a tie. I don't to work, cos I am hidden from Joe Public, but on a Fam Flt, ESPECIALLY on the flight deck, I am represnting both my employer NATS/CAA and to a lesser extent, the airline. In 40 years of blagging flight deck trips, the worse one was a "German Airline". The F/O was very smart apart from a pair of cowboy boots!
I think that zones had a possible one off.

Our aim is to please, [that doesn't upset the cleaner] :)


29th May 2001, 19:14
Hello, just looking through this topic and all the comments that have been made, well...what can i say! I am not a pilot because im still young, but want to be when i get my grades and i admire every single pilot out there and think they all do a great job. Regarding the pilot the 'Zones' mentioned...everyone has probably given the reasons, headphones may have messed up his hair, he may have wanted to feel abit more comfortable so he took off his tie, his looks wont affect how he flies the plane.
I have complete respect for every pilot, keep up the good work guys ;)

29th May 2001, 20:46
It's good to see that the vast majority of pilots treated the question with the respect it deserved and didn't descend to the patronising or insulting.

While I sympathise with pilots over the extreme scrutiny they endure from the media and the public, I must point out that it has always been the nature of the job, and it couldn't exactly have come as a surprise to any of you. Being a pilot is in many respects a glamorous profession, attracting respect and admiration, not least from members of the opposite sex! :) The downside is that everything you do necessarily comes under the microscope.

Furthermore, with yours being such a technical profession, it is understabdably frustrating when the ill-informed make spurious judgements and expound them publically. However, once again this is only to be expected, and yours is hardly the only technical profession about which half the world seems to consider itself qualified to spout ignorant opinions.

To those who say they feel no need to defend their profession from anyone outside it, I would recommend that maybe you should start thinking about it. Everyone else has to justify every aspect of their profession to the world at large (doctors, engineers, even train drivers, to name but a few); what makes you believe that pilots should be exempt? My advice would be to grow up, deflate your ego by a few psi and stop being so introspective. Pilots do a wonderful job, and you have a lot to be proud of in your profession. Surely it is your duty to maintain that level of respect by inviting and welcoming constructive criticism, instead of sulking and drawing the veil of elitism around yourselves?

Lazlo's post was spot-on, IMHO.

Humbly submitted by SLF! :)

30th May 2001, 23:41
IMHO it is all about professionalism - our customers (you guys) very rarely see us, but it doesn't stop the majority of ATCOs and ATSAs at my unit wearing shirt and tie while those who don't are still smartly dressed.

31st May 2001, 01:02
I agree with most on this thread. The pilot should have looked presentable. The only reason we are given a tie for our uniform is for presenting ourselves to the public. This guy has defeated its sole object, therefore needn't bother wearing one at all.

Also, the only reason why aeroplanes are built with two seats in them is for...(well you get my drift!) The visit to the toilet should be as quick as possible, because, sods laws, that's when the s**t will hit the fan.

We all know the thoughts of those nervous passengers. "Who's flying the aeroplane?(!)" This is only prolonging their anxiety, but playing devil's advocate, they may see that the flight crew are relaxed and therefore it may put them at ease. When I first started flying commercially some years ago, I remember a training captain saying to me, 'Don't forget that the majority of passengers will have some nervousness about flying.'

31st May 2001, 14:47
It's really very simple,

A captain fully dressed up and groomed

1.In the cabin......looks smart to the pax if he takes of his cap.

2.In the airport building....looks smart to the pax if he does wear his cap.

3.Looks ridiculous if fully dressed up behind the controls.

4.Looks very vain if he quickly pops in the local grocery shop fully dressed up to get a pack of cigarettes.

5.Can have a lot of fun at a carnival party, fully dressed up pretending he is a pilot

All the same man, and flying skills in a different context. It does say nothing about his skills, it might give an indication about his situation awareness as far as dress code is concerned as related to the context he finds himself in.

I am not sure however that good actors also make good pilots.

Alain Delon in his role as a Concord Captain really looked ridiculous to me...

Smooth Trimmer

31st May 2001, 14:59
Excuse my ignorance, but what does SLF stand for. Single Lonely Female? Self Loading Freight? Please enlighten me.

31st May 2001, 16:01
May I take this opportunity to indulge in my campaign to get ties banned as an acceptable item of business dress which says nothing about the competence and integrity of the wearer. A tie is useless except when they are traditionally used by con men to give false impressions of reliability. An open neck, white shirt with a single button undone looks much smarter than a hastily donned tie with a questionable knot and coffee stains (well that’s what my ties look like). I would also suggest that, in the cockpit, a tie is an unnecessary safety hazard.

As a company director I travel extensively and am always more comfortable in parts of the world where a person is not judged by ties and conventional dress sense. On these trips I get a jump seat ride whenever I can so I see pilots in and out of the cockpit. As far as I am concerned, as long as they look clean, smart and readily identifiable as the captain or FO, I could not care less what they wear.

With reference to pilots leaving the cockpit, with my PPL and a couple of successful landings on a BA 777 simulator, I am always available to stand in. I would even wear a tie to do that! :)

"If you keep doing what you've always done, you will keep getting what you've always got"

31st May 2001, 22:54
pulse1 - I like your style!

1st Jun 2001, 15:01
3 Buttons undone is getting into 'Medallion Man' territory. My own personal limit is 2 buttons and a gravy check.

1st Jun 2001, 16:35
OK Zones - 'greying chest hair'? Now we're starting to narrow it down! Out with the Grecian 2000, methinks! (Not advertising, Danny, honest!)

1st Jun 2001, 17:11
An excellent posting by Lazlo!