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In the case of pilot error does the Captain always carry the can?

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In the case of pilot error does the Captain always carry the can?

Old 2nd Jul 2014, 05:48
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In the case of pilot error does the Captain always carry the can?

There is an old thread (165071) dating back to 2005 about Kipper Fleet ‘Captains’ where this question is skirted around. Who got carpeted if the P1 went off the runway and the Captain was an AEO down the back?

We had an incident where a Captain was just finishing his LHS conversion. There was a copilot in the right hand seat but the aircraft commander was the Training Captain in the jump seat. Taxying in there was a set of steps port side with a ground crew chappie standing on top indicating that there was enough wing tip clearance. A millisecond after he jumped clear the wing clipped the steps. The Training Captain got ‘the’ interview.

What would happen if the CAS (not qualified on type) wanted a spin in a C130. He would have a training Captain in the RHS. The CAS screws up the approach (I know you wouldn’t sir, thank you for my monthly pension) the ‘Captain’ says, ‘I have control’ but the CAS flatly refuses to hand over and they prang. Does the CAS carpet the Captain?

Please can we not open another discussion on the famous Royal prang it has been hammered to death.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 06:22
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Who signed the Auth sheet and 700?
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 07:05
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I hope that wouldn't be allowed to happen any more than if the tea lady (not qualified on type)" fancied a spin". To answer your question, allowing an unqualified person to attempt an approach demonstrates poor captaincy so yes he gets carpeted!
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 08:00
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Is this not what happened with HRH Charles in Shetlands? Was he the Capt on this occasion I seem to remember that the 'real' Captain caught a bit of ac old for the incident.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 08:13
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Close to a record. Three post to get the the one thing the OP wasn't asking about!
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 08:13
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You're going down exactly the line the OP wanted to avoid. It was Islay anyway.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 08:20
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The Captain is ultimately responsible however, if a member of crew does not "perform to a reasonable expected standard", this can mitigate the level of the Captains culpability. Captain of HMS Nottingham was on board as she ran aground but the XO caught the incoming.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 08:30
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Exascot, Hmmm... your question genuinely surprises me as your profile seems to indicate a considerable flying (any Captaincy?) background?

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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 09:35
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What about with the RN FAA? Don't they run the policy that the captain is the most senior crew member (rank/time wise, regardless of seat position) or has that all changed under JFH/JHC etc?
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 10:02
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I hope that wouldn't be allowed to happen any more than if the tea lady (not qualified on type)" fancied a spin". To answer your question, allowing an unqualified person to attempt an approach demonstrates poor captaincy so yes he gets carpeted!
But the tea lady probably isn´t CAS. Is it written in bold somewhere that the designated Captain can deny a VSO´s "request for a spin"?

I would hope so, if not then CAS should accept responsability.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 10:15
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With the caveat that it was a while ago....

.....the RAF deemed "captaincy" indivisible. As an ex-kipper fleet back-end captain I always accepted that if P1 ran off the concrete that I would be there facing the music beside him.

The USN in their MPA fleet DID divide the responsibility so the LHS pilot was responsible for the safety of the a/c,crew, and the "Mission Commander" was usually the tactical coordinator (TACCO) and was responsible for the proper execution of the briefed mission.

The USAF as far as I found it was always the P1 who was the captain.
As an illustration I remember being briefed very sternly by a major on an NAEW that HE was the captain and that what HE said WENT. I went up to the flight deck at one point and asked him what exactly HIS crew was doing, Holding over Aalborg in a race track was the reply. But what are THE CREW doing after all YOU'RE in charge.
"Aft of the flight deck door is mission crew shit let them get on with it." Didn't know and didn't care

"aye that'll be right" as they say in Glasgow.

I was fortunate with my P1 who never ever put me in an invidious position but after I left and he became captain he put himself in a VERY invidious position.

As in all things communication is the key to making things like this work. It isn't always easy. Later it became CRM, but the essentials are the same.

The Ancient Mariner
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 10:53
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People outside the Kipper fleet were always confused over the responsibilities of a non-pilot Captain.
The captain was appointed on the basis of being the best able to conduct the overall operation of the aircraft, and was in full overall command.
A first pilot to a Nav. Captain was responsible TO THE CAPTAIN for the safe flying of the aircraft. No different to a first Nav being responsible to a pilot Captain for the safe navigation - the pilot Captain still had overall responsibility.
Early 70s I was flying (Nimrods) as First Pilot to a Nav. Captain who told me he had once been in exactly this situation quoted in the OP while a Captain on Shackletons.
His aircraft had ended up off the side of the runway following a crosswind landing. The inquiry asked him
(a) Had he checked that the crosswind was within limits.
(b) Was he satisfied that his P1 was up to date on all his recurrent training.
(c) Was he satisfied that his P1 was not fatigued or suffering from anything that would have affected his abilities.
Since he could answer yes to all the above, he was off the hook.

I quite agree that the key to it all was teamwork, but that applied whoever was Captain.

My recollection of the USN system is a little different to Rossian's. No doubt someone will put us straight. Certainly they normally divided the command, which we found very strange. As I recall,
A Patrol Plane Commander was responsible for the flying but not the tattics
A Tacco was responsible for tattics but not the flying.
A pilot who was responsible for both was a Mission Commander.

To add to the confusion, in the USN the Plane Captain was what we would call the Crew Chief
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 10:58
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No, the RN don't make the most senior person the captain. I have flown as captain sitting next to or in front of captains and commodores.

It tends to be a reasonable mix of most senior/suitable/qualified/current/capable in the current role is stitched to be captain. i.e. On a pinging trip the observer is slightly more likely to be the captain, but on a gh trip it is more likely to be a pilot.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 12:42
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Captain briefing Co-pilot

"In case of an accident, I, as Captain, will be the last to leave the Aircraft. If I pass you, you are to assume the rank of Captain........."

With apologies to David Gunson.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 12:45
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Onceapilot:
Exascot, Hmmm... your question genuinely surprises me as your profile seems to indicate a considerable flying (any Captaincy?) background?
Considerable command time including Royal and Ministerial but I think you can see by some of the replies it is worth discussion. Thank you Kipper Fleet guys for making that situation clearer.

Thanks also for the PMs where you are not prepared to go public.

Edited to add: Just discussing this with Mrs Exascot (ret'd ATCO) her point: I know this was mainly a military issue but what is the situation if on a multi crew civilian flight when the captain is shacked up with a toastie in his bunk and the senior first officer in his seat busts a level and has an air miss? The AF accident was slightly different because the captain was in the jump seat at impact.

Last edited by Exascot; 2nd Jul 2014 at 12:59.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 14:02
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ISTR many years ago when a sortie in the FAA went t-u, the senior guy airborne was the observer in the second aircraft, so he took the hit
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 14:51
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No stick = no vote. End of!
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 15:01
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Well Exascot, can I presume you were never an instructor or an examiner where you performed as Captain while not in a seat at the flying controls? That might have sharpened your perception. At the same time, that is only an extension of a Captains overarching responsibility for all aspects of the operation of his or her aircraft, subject to the responsibility of other individuals to perform within their qualifications and assigned crew task. Also, you might find it worth contemplating the concept of a Crew Commander, assigned in addition to the aircraft Captain. Cheers


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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 15:25
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In the civilian world, exascot they would (in theory at least) take an overall view of the facts and dish the dirt accordingly. In practice, in most instances, if the F/O screws up, so does the Capt. unless he's clearly done something that wasn't preventable. If an F/O, say put a wheel off during a crosswind landing the Captains decision to allow him the landing in those conditions would come under close scrutiny.

In your opening example of the CAS joyride the civil criminal justice system would probably take precedence in the likely event that someone was hurt or, worse, killed. A court might well regard the decision to allow an unqualified pilot to attempt to land an aircraft as grossly negligent and unless there was an exceptionally strong operational reason, they'd both be facing jail time.
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Old 2nd Jul 2014, 15:39
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The basis of this discussion depends on how ‘error’ is defined; and thence problems of definition which include limiting thoughts and situations, and considering circumstantial factors.
Some areas of aviation safety have attempted to break out of these constraints – ‘Error is a meaningless concept’ - an introduction to a NATO conference on error (looking for link).
Similar issues are identified in:-
‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’
‘The Reinvention of Human Error’.
‘Perspectives on Human Error: Hindsight Biases and Local Rationality’


A more valuable approach for safety is to consider how circumstantial factors and the environment affected the individuals – variable human (crew) performance. This could be used to generate a better understanding of the overall situation (from which to learn) than that achieved achieved by ‘carpeting’ an individual; unfortunately the military is more biased to blame – structural hierarchy, and that 'blame' is for more satisfying both for individuals and those ranking above.

Responsibility lies with those who could act but do not, it lies with those who could learn but do not and for those who evaluate it can add to their capacity to make interventions which might make all our lives the safer”. P. Capper, Cave Creek Commissions of Inquiry.
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