View Full Version : Two sets of hands on the throttles...why?

15th Feb 2011, 16:35
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.

15th Feb 2011, 16:44
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.

15th Feb 2011, 19:33
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....

15th Feb 2011, 19:46
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. :ok:

15th Feb 2011, 19:54
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.

15th Feb 2011, 21:12
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....

15th Feb 2011, 21:15
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.

15th Feb 2011, 21:17
Ah, simultaneous post.

15th Feb 2011, 21:24
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?

15th Feb 2011, 22:21
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)

15th Feb 2011, 22:24

great pilots think alike!

15th Feb 2011, 22:34
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.

Brian Abraham
16th Feb 2011, 00:19
A tale by John Deakin who is reputed to have more 747 hours than anyone.

Pelican's Perch #76: Those Dreadful POHs (Part 2) (http://www.avweb.com/news/pelican/186216-1.html)

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.

16th Feb 2011, 02:54
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.

galaxy flyer
16th Feb 2011, 03:00
Could be in the mighty C-5, a set of throttles for each pilot. Interconnected, of course.


16th Feb 2011, 06:35
:ok: 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.

D O Guerrero
16th Feb 2011, 08:03
How very dare people use CRM or SOPs....? Next thing you know, people will be making you read checklists!

Old Fella
16th Feb 2011, 11:13
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.

Tee Emm
16th Feb 2011, 11:18
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. http://images.ibsrv.net/ibsrv/res/src:www.pprune.org/get/images/smilies/thumbs.gif

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.

16th Feb 2011, 11:29
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":ok:

16th Feb 2011, 11:38
How very dare people use CRM or SOPs....? Next thing you know, people will be making you read checklists!

How "very dare" they use it as an excuse to take over command of an aircraft. CRM started out as increasing crew cohesion, it has turned into something of a joke, in my eyes, which is utilized to attempt to control the person above you in the chain of command. SOPs will never account for every possible scenario you run into in the real world at that's where the CAs experience and discretion come in, some companies (and many pilots for that matter) don't enjoy the idea of crews having to use their knowledge, experience and ability to resolve unconventional situation, others encourage it, ultimatley you can get violated for not following a reg, you can get yourself and your crew killed for not following common sense, but following or not following SOPs (guidelines) will do neither, my 2 concerns are keeping my license and living. The rest you ask... I don't give a :mad:.

D O Guerrero
16th Feb 2011, 12:24
Probably time to retire then...

16th Feb 2011, 12:56
If you wanna make it personal, I'll say this much, probably best you and me don't work at the same companies as you remind me of the sort of person who does try to usurp PIC authority. I still have a few decades left in me yet anyway.

16th Feb 2011, 13:46
Old Fella you are making a bunch of incorrect assumptions. I'm not interesting in arguing so I'll leave it at that.

17th Feb 2011, 00:21
Funny story and your F/E sounds like he had a problem but rapid advancement of throttles will reveal early an engine that wants to stall. I have allways been a firm believer when testing an engine to advance quickly up to where you think 80%n1 might be the set power from there. Better an engine stall before 80kts than when you need the motor and firewall it st save your arse.

A note on the topic, I have come across several classic a/c throttle's with an extension lever to make it easier on the F/E to set thrust. So each throttle had 2 levers so to speak.

17th Feb 2011, 01:37
I've found the opposite. A slow hand on the throttles is the way to go.

Old Fella
17th Feb 2011, 01:52
No assumptions 18 Wheeler. Just responding to your post and offering an opinion based on what you wrote and your public profile.

17th Feb 2011, 02:01

That's the way we did it. copilot actually flew the plane on the autopilot, manipulating the throttles...the captain on the throttles in a position to lift the copilot's hand away from the throttles when he took over for landing or manual go around.

It was well staged, well thought out and demanding. After you did one for real, you felt you had earned your money. But we never had a CAT II accident or incident. Just like landing at KDCA, you were UP FOR IT.

17th Feb 2011, 02:40
Ah, then you're just plain wrong then, Old Fella.

17th Feb 2011, 02:59
Interesting comments Fantom, you haven't been away from the ol' 727 for that long...

Cheers to you... :)

17th Feb 2011, 05:02
the captain on the throttles in a position to lift the copilot's hand away from the throttles

Some pilots do not appreciate the feeling of someone's sweaty hand on top of theirs. Simply ask the other pilot to remove his/her hand from the throttles when you wish to take over.

17th Feb 2011, 05:56

you see, that is the protocol...the captain moves his hand from the base of the throttles to the top, displacing the copilots...then the captain lands the plane.

gee a little sweat in the cockpit...wow, what a concept!

17th Feb 2011, 06:13
F/O on descent and landing pilot, after G/S CAP. F/O "guards" the throttles, captain starts bitching him out. A few hundred feet AGL and F/O picks his hand back up, Captain slaps his freaking hand! Don't know (actually I do) if this captain was just a jerk (he was one) or if he had some legitimate reason to reserve a clear path to the throttles for himself! None the less completely unprofessional.

Old Fella
17th Feb 2011, 06:15
18 Wheeler Please enlighten me on just which parts of my post were "just plain wrong" or "huge assumptions". Your quote, in part, "since I was only letting him (F/E) push them up slowly and I'm literally twice the size of him he pushed so hard his seat started to rapidly slide to the very back of the cockpit". "I didn't think it rated an abort so I set the power myself and kept going - quietly giggling away". I think, if this really happened, having the F/E attempting to set and trim the thrust whilst you were opposing forward movement of the thrust levers was unsafe. Also since you would have been well below 80Kts when the F/E moved aft you should have aborted. If you were already at 80 Kts and had not yet set Takeoff thrust you should have aborted, as to not do so invalidates your performance calculations. Continuing with your F/E at the rear of the cockpit was neither safe nor funny. So please tell me what you find to be a "huge assumption" and/or "just plain wrong". You are, or so your profile tells us, a retired B747 Captain so no assumption there either.

17th Feb 2011, 06:22
I can embarrass you here in public OF, or in private via PM.
Your choice.
I'd prefer via PM.

Old Fella
17th Feb 2011, 07:57
You are the Captain, your decision. Either way I will not be embarrassed but I may learn something.

17th Feb 2011, 13:03
18-Wheeler, lighten-up dear chap; this is a discussion... not a "slagging forum".

The perceptions of right or wrong are variable... especially within PPrune!

The playing of mind-games with other members of the crew doesn't promote good CRM. If you had a continuing problem with your F/E and that a chat over a beer couldn't resolve your percieved issue then go and see your Flight Manager to resolve it.

I'm with Old Fella on this one... it was wrong of you to attempt to "bully" your F/E into submission; besides which... given that he was now at the rear of the flight deck he was now totally out of the loop with respect to any take-off emergency (would you still be "grinning" if you'd encountered a problem?).

Having "stood-up" the thrust levers (throttles or whatever you wish to call them) you've theoretically proved that one (or more) of the engines aren't going to significantly lag. Therefore, after the call of "stable"... any lack of engine response to thrust lever advancement should then be cause for a "Stop".

Happy landings


17th Feb 2011, 13:29
Therefore, after the call of "stable"... any lack of engine response to thrust lever advancement should then be cause for a "Stop

Why call "stable"? The pilots should see the power is stable by merely looking.
Reminds me of one experience where the airline 737 SOP was for the PNF to call "stable" when the captain had opened up to 40 percent N1 before pressing TOGA. The simulator instructor slipped a note to the PNF which said "do not call stable".

The captain opened up to 40 percent N1 with brakes released and the 737 started to roll. The F/O said nothing. Passing the 1000 ft touch down zone marker, the ground speed was 50 knots as the aircraft slowly accelerated down the runway under 40 percent N1. Still with hand on the throttles at 40 percent N1 and well into the roll the captain looked across to the F/O and said accusingly "you forgot to say "stable".

Of course by now the V1 speed was quite invalid.

Have observed same problem with the calls of V1 and VR. On countless occasions in the sim, if the PNF fails to call "rotate" the PF will not rotate even though his own ASI shows the aircraft passing through VR. Relying on a "support" call to commence an action such as described above, is asking for trouble

17th Feb 2011, 14:13

I have allways been a firm believer when testing an engine to advance quickly up to where you think 80%n1 might be the set power from there. Better an engine stall before 80kts than when you need the motor and firewall it st save your arse.

Not a good idea to test out the stall margin of an engine with passengers aboard. Best to let the engineers do that against a company approved program. Engines have a tendancy to wear out quicker (lose stall margin) with rough handling

17th Feb 2011, 17:10
A37575... you have to understand that I'm one of the "old school" of B747 operators where we carried a F/E; besides which, it was a "standard procedure".

So, your argument is that we shouldn't say anything at all? If the skipper hadn't responded to my call of "stable" I'd repeat it... but LOUDER!

Indirectly, your sim instructor telling you not to make what is a "standard call" resulted in an incident! Proving what?

17th Feb 2011, 18:03
A few years ago, we had a Flight Engineer who incessently pushed up the throttles very rapidly, and one of our Captains nearly ended up in the weeds....twice.
When this turkey flew with me, I reminded him quite distinctly just who the engines (and their handling) belonged to, and he left the company shortly thereafter.
To everyones complete satisfaction.;)

Now, I personally prefer to set (approximately) the correct takeoff thrust, then ask the Flight Engineer to...trim throttles.
Everyone seems satisfied, and...it is the company standard procedure.
Imagine that.:}

17th Feb 2011, 21:20
Interesting comments Fantom

G'day mate,

see PM

17th Feb 2011, 21:40
411A... good to hear (read) some sensibility!

I don't doubt that there have been some very enthusiastic F/Es who have been over-cautious in the setting of Take-Off Thrust; however, there is a "time and place" to argue about how its all done... the time and place isn't during the Take-Off Roll!

SOPs are all important; including the method in which we achieve them. The fact that a sim instructor pre-briefed a co-pilot to "not respond" to a standard call-out was irresponsible. It might well "prove a point" that we, as humans, are "pre-conditioned" and that the omission (of a standard call-out) could lead-us up the garden path. OK, I accept that there are foibles that could lead us (as flight crew) into making mistakes. The fact remains that if "standard procedures" are adhered-to then we are expectant upon how the remainder of the crew will react to any given situation.

The "methodology" of how Take-Off Thrust is SET i.e. the "rate" at which the thrust is set, should have been demonstrated as part of the "line training" of that particular crewmember. In this particular case it wasn't adequately demonstrated... which has resulted in quite a few "nasty" incidents.

If the previous poster had "handled" his own particular "incident" with a little more "tact" it might well have provided some valuable "instruction" to someone who otherwise might not have known better. However, if that particular individual found some difficulty in understanding what was "wrong" with his particular "technique"... an interview with his Flight Manager might well have gone a long way into "realigning" his thought-process!

To have gone down the route of "bullying tactics" (especially during the Take-Off roll); wasn't the "time or the place" to plan a "bun-fight" with his F/E... the statement that the skipper had a "smile on his face" whilst doing battle with the strength of a lesser individual was tantamount to being wholly irresponsible... especially when the F/Es seat vanished to the rear of the flight deck!

I'd like to provide my own "crass" statement about how well that particular captain "handled" that particular situation... I won't be so rude!

Old Fella... well said!


17th Feb 2011, 22:46
PM sent to OF.

17th Feb 2011, 23:20
A lot of what I'm reading about "instruction", "aderence", "why [or why not, depending on point of view] call stable" "method in which we achieve [SOPs]" etc. etc. Sound like we're talking about a perfect world with perfect people who perfectly execute every perfectly preconstructed task.

Last I checked, the world ain't perfect. People will be people, and while you can create a procedure which completley eliminated all the problems you may have at hand, you will still need people to execute that procedure, and people will make msitakes, that is certain. The situation in the sim where a CA (of all people simply) looked at the FO and said "you forgot..." speaks volumes.

For one, there's nothing wrong with the sim instructor having the PNF go along with a scenario like that, if the training is supposed to be reflective of the real world, then what happens if the PNF in the real world doesn't in fact say it (for whatever reason, maybe he's having a stroke for all you know, the infamous "incapacitated crewmember" scenario), instead of blazing down the runway at 50 knots and 1.4 EPR maybe the CA should've looked over at the FO, see what's going on, if he's foaming at the mouth and has an otherwise confused look on his face (well, sometimes that's normal :p) maybe it's time to close the throttles and take care of this new issue you have. The fact that the CA simply sat there, expecting nothing to go wrong, and not having the ability to move the throttles forward or backward without the guy next to him saying "stable" says to me that he might not be ready to be a CA.

Old Fella
18th Feb 2011, 00:38
I have responded to the PM sent to me by 18 Wheeler and, I trust, that is where the matter will lie. Thanks for the encouragement CTF. One good thing about this forum is that we can all learn from it provided it is not vindictive. Some of us, me included, probably need to moderate our tone at times. Happy flying all. :)