The F/O's dilemma...

skydiverdriver

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I have some ideas on this subject, but would also like some ideas from other pilots who fly multi-crew aircraft. As a captain, you are always responsible for the flight, and in command, no question. However, every FO has had to deal with strange captains, perhaps even dangerous ones, and perhaps has thought of a situation when he might need to take over command. I'm sure the guy on Egypt Air's flight that went into the ocean might have thought about this. I've not been in the military, so some who have can probably help, but doesn't the military have rules for a lower officer taking command of a ship? I saw the movie "Crimson Tide," and even though it's fiction, I'm sure it's based on a possible situation. I have also heard of soldier disobeying a superior officer's commands because they were illegal, just as the Nazi's should have. They tried at Nuremburg to say that they had to do what they were told, and that arguement didn't keep them out of prison. I'm sure it wouldn't keep me from being violated just the same.

Anyway, if anyone has any insight on this, and also for handling captains who try to get you to fly differently than your flight standards manual states, or perhaps are just difficult to work with, this would be appreciated. It's especially difficult for pilots on probation, so when I get a difficult captain, I tend to stay with him because if I called in sick, some poor guy on probation will have to deal with him. I just don't see this as fair. So, what do you guys think?
 

AWACoff

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Plane and simple. If you have the FOM and FSM to back you up (company policy...not sure what your airline calls your manuals), you are right.
The only time I've considered taking the controls away scared me quite badly. I was flying with a known problem captain. Just less than a year before we had a near fatal incident due to a full stall in moderate icing on a coupled ILS. The FO took control from the captain. Long story short, they tried to hide it and the story came out. Fast forward 1 year later. Flying into ORD...I'm a low time FO <1000TT with an extremely senior captain with 10k+ hours. Very degrading person which caused me to be quite unsure of myself. The ice protection on that aircraft was operated exclusively by the NFP. I was looking outside at the boot cycle upon level off. We had a full boat and the autopilot was on. The captain never advanced the power levers upon level off and the airspeed was bleeding off very rapidly. When I looked back inside, we were passing through Vref for our weight (we were still at 4000 being vectored for 22R) when I announced our predicament. The FP only slightly advanced the power levers which resulted in us stabilizing 10kts below Vref. I then stated we needed more power. I placed my hands behind the power levers and verbalized the captain's name while stating our problem (lack of speed for the flight conditions). Full power was applied and a standard approach ensued.
Since that incident I have come up with my 3 strike plan. Many others use a similar method.
Strike 1- Announce the problem
Strike 2- Announce the problem with the solution
Strike 3- State their name...if no response, consider them unresponsive and take control.

I got to strike 3 and a response finally came from the FP.

That's my experience. I'm not totally happy with the way I handled it but I did learn a lot about myself.
 

402driver

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skydiverdriver said:
Anyway, if anyone has any insight on this, and also for handling captains who try to get you to fly differently than your flight standards manual states, or perhaps are just difficult to work with, this would be appreciated.
Ahh....Conflict Resolution. What to do? Consider the below:

Techniques on how to solve a conflict in the cockpit:
-Define the issue(s)
-Focus on "What" is wrong, not "Who"
-State the problem
-Express concern
-Propose a solution
-Achieve Agreement

Here's a good one.

I used to fly with a captain who was a real pain in the A$$! Even if he was the Pilot Not Flying (PNF), he would constantly ramble on about every little thing. One day I was flying into Kahului and I was on final. He goes "it's really gusty, I want you to fly your approach faster than normal". So, I added some power and flew my approach 5 knots faster than normal. When I was about 150 feet off the ground he shoved the throttles up and shouted "pick the speed up!" I asked him if he wanted to take the plane, and he said no. Then I told him sternly "O.K., if I'm flying the aircraft, please DO NOT touch the controls!". I was really pissed off, and I didn't want to argue with him 100 feet above the ground. So, I removed the excess power and proceeded to land the plane.

After we landed and the passengers got off the plane, I told him that I wanted to talk to him about what happened. I told him that according to our Ops Manual, the PNF must get a positive exchange of control prior to manipulating the controls. I told him that I offered to give up the plane, but he didn't want to take control. I then told him that not only was it very dangerous for the PNF to be changing power settings 150 feet off the ground, but it was clearly against out procedures. "I'm the captain of this ship, I can do whatever I want to do!" he yelled. I responded by agreeing with the fact that he was the ultimate authority, but that he also had a responsiblility to adhere to the company's procedures. I then suggested that the next time he felt uncomfortable with a situation, ask for control of the plane. I apologized about raising my voice at him, and explained that I was just very concerned about the safety of the flight. He forgave me, and agreed not to do that sort of thing again. After that we never had a problem flying with each other. However, we didn't fly together too many times before he was fired (they guy was really dangerous, and the chief pilot had enough).

Well, hope this helps.

Aloha!:cool:
 

avbug

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In a safety of flight situation where time is critical, announce the problem. If no corrective action is taken, announce it again. If no correction is taken or no response is received, assume incapacitation, and take control. Announce taking control, and take the corrective action. The times when this will occur are rare, but almost every advanced training worldwide teaches this practice; it's SOP for many training systems.

There are many levels of interaction; the above is the final level when nothing else has happened. If you see a critical situation developing and no action is being taken, then it's time to do something about it. Short of that time, it's best to strike a happy medium by working with the other pilot in an effort to resolve the situation. Most of the time, verbal notification will take care of it, sometimes a physical action such as pointing to a control or lever, or even physically blocking movement of a control.

As an example, I was acting as PNF during a takeoff in a large four engine airplane. Shortly after we came off the ground, we had a problem on the #3 engine which required a shutdown. The PF attepted to shut down the #2 engine. I blocked him. He became agitated, and tried harder. I pointed to the gage showing the problem, and then the appropriate power lever. The PF nodded his agreement, and we proceeded with verification and a shutdown. Not a big deal; simply a mistake in selecting the approriate engine. Easily solved; and that's about the level of most interaction in such a case. On the ground he said thanks for catching it, and the matter was forgotten.

For problem captains of PF's, remember that a little sugar goes a long way. Don't bruise ego, and if you can preserve dignity while supporting the PF, then you're a lot closer to nirvana in the cockpit. Good luck!!
 

ifly4food

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In my opinion, AWACoff's plan is among the best. It is also the method taught at CRM at my company; taught by FlightSafety. I have used it and it works (I too flew with the captain he mentions in a previous life).
 

skyboat

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The Captain is the Captain. Period. He has the ultimate aithority, backed by law for the safety of the flight. This is the same on an aircraft as it is on a ship. However, this does not give the Captain the right to act illegally or irresponsibly. And this is where the dilemma starts for an FO on an aircraft, an XO on a naval vessel or the Chief Mate on a merchant ship. If a Captain wants to fly approaches at Vref +30, then I suppose it is his perogitive. Is it against a company FSM? Probably. Is it illegal? Debatable. Now that same Captain wants to go below minimums on an approach. Is it against comapny policy? Yes. Is it illegal? Absolutely. Does the FO have a duty to take the flight controls and have a complete breakdown of the flight deck command structure and potentially create a more dangorous sitiuation? That FO had better be right. If he isn't, he will probably find himself fired faster than the individual who acted illegally. Are there recourses to take after the flight. Absolutely, positively and it must be done. Now for the more marginal cases, ie technigues or style against the FSM. ALPA represented carriers have something called "professional standards" that is there to deal with these situations. In fact my company supports it 100%. Even if you are not sure you are in the right, they are there for your own guidance. If you are correct, they have a system set up for counseling. This is a non- disciplinary function and gives the offending individual the oppurtunity to correct the error of their ways. It may still end up in the Chief Pilots office, especially if the offending action is blatently illegal. The prostans people deal with these situatuions and have guidance on how to resolve conflicts as they arise and are there to take an unobjective view. I have personnaly never used them but FO's and Captain's who I've spoken to that have used them say nothing but good things about the system.
 

jsoceanlord

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I just read a book called 'MUTINY; a history of naval mutiny's'

it basically says there are "gnawing questions' about what constitutes a mutiny and what doesn't. There was a good example of a navy captain in vietnam who was pretty out of line.

everybody screws up, even capt's.
 

skydiverdriver

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Okay, thanks for the posts. I think this is pretty much what I planned to do, using the two challenge rule as stated. However, I guess I was really more interested in dealing with problem captains in general, and not just one incident where you may have to take control.

What if you have a guy that just does things that drive you crazy? We all have flown with people like that. I guess they get their jollies by berating other people. They are upset that they are stuck at a regional, or perhaps they have no control at home. They have the need to harass people they work with, and people keep refusing to fly with them. I hate to call in sick, because, again, they will have to call some poor slob on reserve that's probably still on probation. In the past, I have harassed captains back, or even just told them not to talk to me unless it's related to the flight. I've had captains tell me when to report, or tell me not to stay up late on an overnight. When I'm in the hotel, I might as well be at home, and the captain has no control over me. Our ops manual states that he is in command in flight only, and I can walk away on the ground as well.

Any thoughts on this?
 

TurboS7

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A captain is a captain, big deal. Usually a captain has his mind on a lot of other stuff. Could be his retirement fund, the last spat with number 6 wife, or all the money he just lost at the craps table the night before. It could also be on the big picture of things and he is using you yes you to keep him out of trouble with the little things. Usually when it is the FO's leg I just let him go, as long as he is not going to cause discomfort to the passengers I give him/her a lot of latitude. As the person comes closer and closer to the safety boundry I get more and more aggressive in getting back to the margin that I feel comfortable with. If I have an FO that is safe but is busting the FOM standards I take him out for a beer or coffie and explain to him that he is only hurting his upgrade as that is what company really looks for FOM Compliance-they assume you are safe. I expect the same reciprocity on the line from the FO. We NEVER take anything to the Chief Pilot we solve everything on the road. If it is a real issue them we take it too the union committee. FO's and FE's are sharp and I have been called on stuff that throught all my training I had missed or overlooked, in the end it made me a better captain. I want guys to speak up because I am depending on them to keep me/us out of trouble. If you don't understand why a captain did something, talk to him in a 'safe haven' after the flight and usually he will give you good reason. If safety is not being compromised NEVER argue on the flight deck. As for taking over the controls I have only had to ever do that once and that was due to a major error by the first officer and I was preventing a literal crash. If the captain is any captain at all simply a verbal call is all that is need and it should be followed by a thankyou by the captain. As a FO always let the captain fly the first leg, then just fly like him, you'll learn a lot more and the captain's will always approve of your flying. Enjoy being in the right seat as once you move to the left things change. :)
 

T-handle

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That's why the FO, arguably, has the toughest job in the airline business. He/she is a constant chameleon(sp?), always having to adapt to every captain they fly with. After a while, you fly with the same ppl and you've "figured" out the captain. So as everyone else, says just follow the POM and standard calls if there's any doubt.

I have never had any extreme situations where I've had to take control of aircraft away from the captain, but when my life and and the rest of souls onboard are at stake, then rank and egos are out the window. I'll grab the controls and take over. It's all instinct.

In my 2+ years at Mesaba, I've flown with maybe 2 or 3 captains that have that "I'm Mr. Big time" attitude. Or the captains that let you know he/she IS the captain. I just laugh quietly when I run across captains like that. When they get like that, I just throw a nice "You're an idiot"-grin(perhaps shaking my head) in their face and just downplay their attitude. I can't stand captains, or pilots for the most part, that are controlling and have egos that don't even fit in the largest of flightdecks.
 

TurboS7

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I just tell my FO's to do whatever they want. It is a lot easier for me to adapt to them than for them to adapt to me. I really don't care where they put their charts, if I need some info. I will ask for it. Just don't take the taxi chart and put it in your flight case when I am trying to taxi, your job may be over but mine has just begun.
:mad:
 

Draginass

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Excellent posts. If you are in doubt about another pilot's attitude, adherence to procedure, or serious questions about their judgement, and you don't get any satisfaction after a one-on-one detailed flight debrief, it may be time to contact your union's Professional Standards Committee. Think how badly you'd feel if a month after you flew with a dangerous idiot, he killed everyone on board in an accident . . . . and you did nothing about it.
 

Tref

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I guess we've all been in similar situations at some time. One thing that is important to distinguish is the difference between assuming control and assuming command. If you need to assume control it might be the old below DH debate or jumping on the brakes so you don't hit a tug. Assuming command means that the PIC is no longer the PIC.

One such example was on a long haul flight with an augmented crew. The Captain felt sick, but even though his relief commander replaced him in the left seat and he was now in the jump seat, he still wanted to call the shots. The relief commander told him not to worry and to take a passenger seat in the back. In effect he was assuming command of the flight.

One thing that can come in handy with difficult Captains is the "assertiveness statement." It has 5 parts:

-State the person's first name
-Say, "I'm concerned."
-State your concern
-Offer a solution
-Ask for a response

It would sound something like this. "Dave, I'm concerned. We're at our minimum diversion fuel and the last two aircraft have gone missed on the approach. I really think we should divert to our alternate. Wouldn't you agree?"

If you keep it simple and not challenging then even the most difficult Captain should respond. This can help in a bind. As far as getting along when the flight is going well, I can't offer too much assistance. I've flown with some guys that were just horrible. And they weren't just Captains.

When I was an FO I thought I'd flown with every A-hole in the company, but after I upgraded, I realized I'd only flown with half of them. The good news is that as I've moved up through the ranks, to better airlines, there are fewer of them.
 

skydiverdriver

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Again, all good posts, but nobody is helping me with the jerk captains. I have to admit that the jerks I flew with in cargo were far worse than the pax guys, but they still exist. I still don't feel comfortable calling in sick, as it leaves some other poor reserve guy to fly with him. I also don't see how I can contact pro-standards about a guy who is terribly anal, or just a jerk to work with. Any suggestions?
 

Draginass

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Sky - Do you have a "do not pair" advisory in your bids? Personally, I think someone who is severly "personality challenged" is unqualified to lead an aircrew. Talk to your professional standards people and get their advice. Keep in mind that your probably not the only one that has a problem with that person.
 

avbug

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The first few captains I flew with were career "bad guys." One had knocked three copilots unconscious in the cockpit when he didn't like their actions. Another senior individual, with company ownership and a management title to boot, pulled me aside and told me if he didn't see me do exactly what he wanted, he'd put a shotgun in my mouth and pull the trigger. Another was an extreme egoist.

I quickly learned what I did and didn't want to become, and used every individual and opportunity as a learning experience. I determined exactly how I wanted others to see me, and how to deal (and not deal with others) in the air, in the industry, and on the ground.

The only advice I can give for dealing with tough characters in the cockpit is to deal with it, unless it represents a safety of flight issue. In such a case, only deal with it on the ground, as you can always find employment, but it's hard to do when dead, or when without a certificate because of enforcement action. Use it as a learning experience, but for the F/O trying to make good with a rough senior, do everything in your power to make your captain look good, and to keep him or her happy...and don't compromise yourself in the process. If you can do that, count on the opportunity to move on to a better flying mate, and you'll do well.

This too, shall pass.
 

Freight Dog

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What do you do when the guy in question doesn't give a hoot about the professional standards or what they say, and is a check airman?
 

bobbysamd

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Problem captains

Sounds like the classic interview question to me. Great discussion and great comments. Make sure you have documentation that supports your position. Don't forget the Professional Standards option at your union and sending in NASA reports. I read once that most NASA reports come from members of airline crews.

What I've always found hard to believe is these jerks you're mentioning got past the hiring gatekeepers. Absent connections from above, I always understood that personality plays a major role in airline hiring, that you're supposed to approach everyone at the interview with your hat in your hand and if you don't you can just walk out and go home. Oh, well, so much for that myth . . . . . :(
 
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skydiverdriver

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All good information. Hey, wasn't there a crash where an American Eagle captain who was known to hit his FO's, did something really stupid and killed some people? I think that was when Clinton signed the act that lets them share training records. I was told that this particular captain was previously fired from Comair. Keep those suggestions coming.

Draginass, no, we don't have a don't pair option, but I wish we did. Again, I could call in sick, but I dont' think that's fair to the poor reserve guy who may not be able to stick up for himself as well as I can. I have been dealing with captains for years, mostly as a dispacher. I would rather deal with them, than later find out that they killed some passengers when he was with a less attentive or assertive FO. Thanks guys.
 

FL000

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Yep, here is a synopsis...(not sure when it was written)

from http://www.najaco.com/books/indestructible_pilot/book/law/law_3.htm

When a pilot is hired by a company, his former company must disclose any unfavorable qualities about the pilot.

(a) True

(b) False

This is not true yet, but it might soon be. This yet to be enforced rule was brought about by the following accident: A Jetstream was descending, aiming to join the localizer at the final approach fix for the ILS approach at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in North Carolina. The flight had been cleared to land, several miles behind a Boeing 727, when the captain called for an increase in prop speed. A moment later he said to the first officer, "Why’s that ignition light on? We just had a flameout?"
The following transcript, taken from Cockpit Area Microphone tapes, covers the final 51 seconds of the flight.

[CAP = Captain. FO = First officer. Times are Eastern Standard Time. Background sounds are in italics.]

TIME 1833:38

FO—I’m not sure what’s goin’ on with it.

CAP—We had a flameout.

Low-frequency beat of out-of-sync props begins and continues for eight seconds.

FO—’K you got it?

CAP—Yeah.

FO—We lose an engine?

CAP—OK yeah . . . OK, uh . . .

FO—I’m gonna turn that . . .

CAP—See if that, turn on the auto . . .

FO—I’m goin’ to turn on, both uh. . . ignitions, OK?

CAP—OK

FO—We lost that en . . . left one?

CAP—Yeah.

FO—Whatta you want me to do, you gonna continue?

CAP—OK, yeah, I’m gonna continue, just back me up.

FO—All right, I’m gonna . . .

TIME 1834:03

Sound of low-frequency beat begins and continues for three seconds.

CAP—Let’s go missed approach.

FO—All right.

Sound of stall warning horn for .7 second.

CAP—Set max power.

Sound of stall warning horn for .3 second.

FO—Lower the nose, lower the nose, lower the nose.

Sound of single stall warning horn starts, immediately followed by sound of dual stall warning horns.

FO—You got it?

CAP—Yeah.

FO—Lower the nose.

Unidentified rattling sound.

FO—It’s the wrong, wrong foot, wrong engine.

The stall warnings stop; the prop beat begins and continues for four seconds; the stall warnings resume; there is a sound of heavy breathing.

FO—Here.

The stall warnings stop, then resume, followed by the sound of impact.

The pilot stepped on the wrong rudder pedal, without having had an engine failure in the first place. Both crewmen and 13 passengers died in the crash; five passengers survived with serious injuries. When the first officer warned, "Lower the nose, lower the nose" and "wrong foot, wrong engine," the Jetstream’s indicated airspeed was dropping toward 100 knots and its heading had drifted 60 degrees to the left of the localizer course. In the final eight seconds, it lost 1,200 feet of altitude, its airspeed rose from 100 to 200 knots, and it experienced increasing G excursions, reaching almost three Gs just before impact. It had turned 140 degrees from the ILS course.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that "the probable causes of this accident were: 1) the captain’s improper assumption that an engine had failed, and 2) the captain’s subsequent failure to follow approved procedures for engine failure, single-engine approach and go-around, and stall recovery."
In fact, the left engine had not failed at all; the brief illumination of an ignition light was the engine’s programmed response to a momentary negative torque condition that occurred when the first officer brought the prop speed control levers up to 100 percent while the power levers were at flight idle. The basic test would have been simply to advance the power lever and check for a response. This was not done. The next step was to feather the propeller, but this was not done either, nor was it even considered by the crew.
The captain’s decision to go-around, even though the plane was properly positioned and configured to land, suggests that the captain might have felt unable to immediately cope with the situation. This demonstrated a lack of judgment and training.
The NTSB found that when the captain had worked for Comair flying a SAAB 340, he failed his first second-in-command check in eight different areas, including judgment. One captain who flew with him found him "moody and unpredictable," and recommended that he be dismissed from the company. After the accident this captain stated to the NTSB, "[he had] below-average flying skills...was frequently ‘behind the airplane’ and often lost situational awareness...I was somewhat concerned that [he] may freeze up or get tunnel vision in an emergency situation."
The accident captain resigned from Comair on January 3, 1991, and went to work for American Eagle four days later. Because of a company policy, Comair did not provide to American Eagle any of its unfavorable assessments of the pilot.
The captain flew with American Eagle for almost four years, first in the Shorts SD3 60 and subsequently in the Jetstream 31. He received unsatisfactory marks for performance in initial training and during subsequent retraining for the Jetstream, and a failure on his first type rating check for the Jetstream. Rumors among first officers about the captain’s "flying deficiencies" started circulating. The Base Manager indirectly communicated to first officers that if they had concerns about the captain’s performance, they should inform him; but none came forward.
The night before the accident, the captain told his roommate that he was considering resigning from the airline, and that "the next day’s trip might be his last." They then prayed together.
The NTSB made several recommendations to the FAA as a result of this accident. The most significant of them was that an information storage and retrieval system be created that would allow airlines to obtain information about "skills, abilities, knowledge and judgment" of prospective hires from their previous employers.
 
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