Aviation History and Nostalgia Whether working in aviation, retired, wannabee or just plain fascinated this forum welcomes all with a love of flight.

UAL Thinking???

Old 6th Jul 2019, 23:34
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Chicago
Posts: 127
UAL Thinking???

Along about 1958, or before, if not later, United decided to eliminate Flight Engineers- well they all had to get a commercial pilots license. Do you think that United management thought, or knew, that two-man crews were coming in the future? Is that why they did that?
Bob Lenahan is offline  
Old 8th Jul 2019, 20:57
  #2 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: USofA
Posts: 1,023
I seriously doubt that UAL had any idea regarding the forth coming 737 or DC9 that appeared on the scene in the mid to late 60's. ALPA on the other hand was demanding 3 pilots on the flight deck of all jet transports and that is how the professional FE's job started it's downhill slide. UAL was probably one of the first operators to hire pilots first and train them for FE duties. There is a lot more to this story but needless to say it was not very pretty.
Spooky 2 is offline  
Old 8th Jul 2019, 22:37
  #3 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Dorset UK
Age: 65
Posts: 963
I believe at the time all commercial aircraft in the USA, over 80,000 lbs max weight, had to have a flight engineer.
This is why the BAC 1-11 series 400 that American Airlines bought was certified at 80,000 lbs MTOW, and thus two crew, rather than the Identical 300 series which was 87,000 lbs MTOW.
The rules must have changed when the Boeing 737 and DC9 came along
dixi188 is offline  
Old 9th Jul 2019, 15:00
  #4 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 2,130
Here's a bit of history:

Flying the Line II: Chapter 4

bafanguy is offline  
Old 12th Jul 2019, 10:05
  #5 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: London
Posts: 476
It varied by airline, but I believe that ALPA wanted all cockpit personnel to be qualified pilots but that F/E did not need to be qualified mechanics. I think that ALPA were happy for F/Es to retrain as pilots and to grandfather existing F/Es who couldn't but that all new entrants had to be pilots. The F/Es were not always happy with this and there were many inter-union disputes. Western airlines sacked all their F/Es sometime in the 60s during one. I believe that one airline (Eastern?) was proposing to employ jets with three pilots plus a F/E to try and keep everyone happy. In Skygods Robert Gandt suggested that all new Pan Am cockpit staff (in the 60s) were pilots but that the F/E contract was negotiated by the FEIA. If you joined as a pilot you could be assigned as a F/E and be paid much more than a navigator (S/O) which has always been pilots under Andre Preister as the F/E scale was much flatter and you were better off with low seniority. Someone may know much more than me. It was suggested that ALPA liked F/Es to be referred to as Second Officers to make it clear that they were certainly not equal to F/Os although another poster has said that qualified F/Es could still be referred to as such. Of course outside North America most airlines thought that having a qualified F/E on board made sense as they could sign an a/c as ready to fly in case of a diversion to a remote airport. It also meant quicker promotion for pilots to captain. Its interesting to look at what happened to F/Es outside N America when glass cockpits arrived and their role did disappear. Fortunately it was generally handled without too much rancour but posters might wish to say more. All of this is based on what I have read rather than actual experience so I'm very happy to be corrected.

I'm told that the reason that BEA did not employ F/Es was that they didn't want a second union involved - I can believe this looking at their industrial relations record.
Peter47 is offline  
Old 12th Jul 2019, 10:33
  #6 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: Ferrara
Posts: 553
Once jets arrived the reliability went up (well compared to the vast piston driven behemoths) and so the FE became excess

Leafing through some very old flying magazines you can read the weeping and gnashing of teeth page on page

Which will be repeated when they get rid of the guy in the RH seat in about 10 years................
Asturias56 is offline  
Old 12th Jul 2019, 18:32
  #7 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Everett, WA
Age: 64
Posts: 2,266
Back when Boeing was developing the 767 (~1978-82) the feds were doing a big study regarding the safety of two vs. three flight decks. Conventional wisdom was the three were better than two - if nothing else an extra set of eyes monitor gauges and look for other aircraft - so aircraft over a certain size needed three crew. As a result, the baseline 767 design was for three crew - with round dials/gauges and a proper flight engineer station - while the two crew EICAS equipped flight deck was pretty much on the back burner. But the results of the study surprised pretty much everyone - that the two crew was not only as safe as a three crew, it was actually somewhat safer. Basically that the third person tended to add distraction/confusion factors that outweighed the advantages of having another person (I suspect the relative lack of proper CRM at the time played a role in this finding). The airlines that had ordered the 767 took one look at the report, and asked Boeing 'how much to switch to the two crew EICAS flight deck?" (IIRC, it was ~$500,000, which the airlines figured they could save in less than two years by not having a flight engineer). At the time, the first few 767s were already being assembled with the 3 crew flight deck - the very first one to fly (VA001) was left in the 3 crew configuration for first flight, while all the others were converted to 2 crew with EICAS before rollout (VA001 was eventually retrofit to the EICAS configuration after the certification flight test program was finished). There was one or two operators who still wanted a flight engineer station (Ansett comes to mind but don't quote me) so Boeing ginned up a simple FE station, but the rest of the flight deck was still the 2 crew EICAS configuration - the three crew non-EICAS configuration was never delivered.
From the designer point of view, two crew meant we had to pay much more attention to crew workload. For example, throttle stagger - on the 747 classics, no one cared about throttle stagger - some engine intermix configurations could have well over a knob of stagger because you had a FE to constantly tweak the throttles to align EPR or N1. On the 767/757 we had strict limits on the amount of throttle stagger - less than a quarter knob (increased to 1/2 knob for certain fault conditions).
tdracer is offline  
Old 15th Jul 2019, 05:02
  #8 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 409
As a professional FE from 1971 to retirement,I worked L1049, B707 and B747 (all models to 300).
Prior to commencing my FE training on B707s, I was a licensed ground engineer on Boeing 707s.

In those days our patterns were up to 18 days away,often to places with no or very limited communications back to main base. I often was called on to make maintenance decisions or "guide" the local engineers to get the show on the road. Often there was a need to point the pilots in the right direction as far as in flight defects and suitable diversions to cover engineering problems. A lot of what we knew was never in writing and my company even ran informal monthly engineering meetings to discuss problems and examine what had happened over the last month. All was very definitely not for recording. And the system worked very well, only to come unstuck when pilot only B767 came into being.I have read all the US documents that lead to the demise of the PFEs in the US and the major flaw in them is that they purely look at what switches were operated by the FE. In my opinion the FE did far more than operate a panel

On one of my last B747 trips I advised a captain on an engineering problem that no one on the ground could give timely advice on. I was later told that acting on my advice saved $750,000 Australian due to the aircraft being very tightly scheduled for the next 2 days with no possible replacement aircraft and no suitable tooling for a repair being available on the station we were departing from.

Another advantage of a non pilot engineer was that we could to a degree give an opinion from a very different perspective. We had a different reporting/disciple structure which I think was mentioned by John Beatty in one of his early CRM texts. While on duty we worked for the captain but our long term discipline was via the Chief FE and that meant in an examination of events ,if we were 'right , there was someone backing us up which wasn't always for the case for pilots.

I find it interesting that in the current B737 Max situation ,that the Indonesian aircraft that subsequently crashed ,managed to survive the 1st day with the problem had a 3rd pilot in the cockpit. I had a stab runaway on a B707 very early in my career and picked it as the runaway started,just because I was sitting facing fwd at the time and saw it run well before the pilots saw it.

Overall in my opinion the US operators removed a huge amount of experience from the flight deck many years too soon. When I retired on the scrapping of a number of our B747s, our Deputy chief Pilot said that the FEs had on average made a major contribution to saving at least 3 hull losses/FE. I would agree with that but my score was about 5. In long haul at least I think that we well and truly earned our pay.
Wunwing is offline  
Old 15th Jul 2019, 11:21
  #9 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 71
Originally Posted by dixi188 View Post
I believe at the time all commercial aircraft in the USA, over 80,000 lbs max weight, had to have a flight engineer.
This is why the BAC 1-11 series 400 that American Airlines bought was certified at 80,000 lbs MTOW, and thus two crew, rather than the Identical 300 series which was 87,000 lbs MTOW.
The rules must have changed when the Boeing 737 and DC9 came along
The 737 was always above the FAA's 80,000lb limit so required three crew on the flight deck, which was one reason why it initially sold so poorly in the US with only United buying it. In the rest of the world it was always a two crew aircraft.
Alan Baker is offline  
Old 18th Jul 2019, 18:44
  #10 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: USofA
Posts: 1,023
Actually a number of airlines purchased the airplane in it earlier years and flew it with the 3 man crew. Western, Aloha, Wien, Frontier, Air Cal, Piedmont to name a few. Later it was flown by these same airlines with the 2 man crews. No question that the crew compliment issue suppressed sales during this time period.
Spooky 2 is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.