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Flight Engineers  
User currently offlineThai744 From Australia, joined Jun 2004, 301 posts, RR: 0
Posted (5 years 10 months 1 week 7 hours ago) and read 3908 times:
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I can (just) remember when a lot of aircraft I flew on as a kid had flight engineers sitting side-ways in the flight deck: 727-200, 747-200, 747-300 etc.

I have always wondered, did flight engineers have to qualified as actual commercial pilots? Or was their role so different it didn't matter if they weren't actually a pilot per se?

If they DIDN'T have to be an actual "pilot", what % of them would have actually had a commercial license?

And then F/E's were actually phased-out, did a large % of them actually re-train or change their careers to become second and then first officers, and then captains?

Finally, what was the acutal role of a Flight Engineer and why aren't they needed today?

Thanks for any replies!

26 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineAndz From South Africa, joined Feb 2004, 8455 posts, RR: 10
Reply 1, posted (5 years 10 months 1 week 3 hours ago) and read 3854 times:
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As a layman, my input (which the pros will probably refute Smile)

A flight engineer, or FEO (flight engineering officer) was not a pilot. His role was to monitor the aircraft's systems such as engine information, fuel, hydraulics etc. At SAA most of them came through the ranks of the technical department as an intimate knowledge of the aircraft's systems was vital.

Many have been retrained as pilots where that knowledge remains invaluable as all the information previously on the FEO panel is now presented to the pilots on their electronic displays. Boeing's system is called EICAS (Engine Information and Crew Alert System) and that name puts it in a nutshell.

This condensing of information coupled with improved alerting mechanisms (and presumably improved reliability) as well as economic pressure mean that the FEO is resigned to the history books.



After Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says WTF...
User currently offline113312 From United States of America, joined Apr 2005, 572 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (5 years 10 months 1 week ago) and read 3821 times:

Many airlines hired non-pilot flight engineers when they first became required on the complex 4 engined transports of the 1950's. This practice continued during the early days of the first generation of jet airliners in the late '50s and '60s. Many of these systems engineers were qualified mechanics/technical engineers with many former crew chiefs from the military.

Their responsibility was strictly limited to operation of the engines and various aircraft systems such as fuel, electrical, hydraulic, etc.

By the mid 1960's, most pilot unions felt that it would be safer to have "second officers" who not only could manage the systems and powerplants, but also were qualified in all other areas of flight operations including navigation, regulations, meteorology, and flying the aircraft. Thus, the second officer position became the common entry level position in the cockpit prior to advancing to first officer and Captain.

Most of the "flight engineers" who were employed already were grandfathered into their existing positions. Some airlines required them to obtain pilot training and certification to retain their jobs and others did not. Many of those who did qualify as pilots, went on to full careers advancing in aircraft types and seats.

Very few airlines, today, operate aircraft that have a flight engineer panel. The various aircraft systems incorporate more automatic features and backups which can be monitored and managed by a two pilot crew. All of the current production airliners are designed this way. Thus, it is becoming rare for an aspiring airline pilot to train for and receive a "Flight Engineer" certificate.


User currently offlineAcNDTTech From United States of America, joined Jul 2008, 338 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 3749 times:

According to the FAR's in the US, an FE must have at least a current second-class medical, and meet the aeronautical experience requirements of FAR 63.37. One of the ways to meet this is to be a commercial pilot, BUT, it is NOT the only way to meet the requirement.

However, for quite a few of the airlines here, the SO was a pilot qualified on that type of a/c as well.

Personally, I like the idea of professional FE's. Yes, pilots have to know the systems of the a/c they fly, but with a pro FE, you would actually have an "expert" in control of those systems - someone that all they had to worry about was that a/c's systems......every little detail.


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25459 posts, RR: 22
Reply 4, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 3736 times:

If not mistaken, flight engineers also aren't subject to the age 60 retirement age limit for airline pilots (at least in the US). In the days when flight engineers were more common, didn't pilots sometimes move to the flight engineer seat when they reached age 60 so they could continue working?

As a sidenote, until the mid-60s or so when inertial navigation systems were introduced, there was also a navigator in the cockpit on longhaul international flights. Not sure how many of them were also pilots.


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14030 posts, RR: 62
Reply 5, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 3725 times:



Quoting 113312 (Reply 2):
By the mid 1960's, most pilot unions felt that it would be safer to have "second officers" who not only could manage the systems and powerplants, but also were qualified in all other areas of flight operations including navigation, regulations, meteorology, and flying the aircraft. Thus, the second officer position became the common entry level position in the cockpit prior to advancing to first officer and Captain.

I've met those "Second officers" (mostly young pilots fresh from school waiting for a slot to the right seat). These guys were nothing but button pushers and system operators, with very little knowledge about what happens behind the panel when they press a button.

Quoting AcNDTTech (Reply 3):
Personally, I like the idea of professional FE's. Yes, pilots have to know the systems of the a/c they fly, but with a pro FE, you would actually have an "expert" in control of those systems - someone that all they had to worry about was that a/c's systems......every little detail.

Exactly. A PFE is a very great help in troubleshooting problems, especially those of intermittent nature, which cannot be reproduced on ground and appear only in flight. Since he has a technical background, he can start troubleshooting in flight and can collect information required by the ground maintenance staff to fix the problem.
Also, some charter airlines (e.g. Condor, when they still flew the DC-10) had the FE certified for simple maintenance task. Since they often went charter toplaces without company MX, they would carry a fly-away kit of spares and tools in the bulk cargo hold. The FE could e.g., with the help of a pilot or a loader, change a wheel and sign off the repair.

Jan


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25459 posts, RR: 22
Reply 6, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 3707 times:



Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 5):
Also, some charter airlines (e.g. Condor, when they still flew the DC-10) had the FE certified for simple maintenance task. Since they often went charter to places without company MX, they would carry a fly-away kit of spares and tools in the bulk cargo hold. The FE could e.g., with the help of a pilot or a loader, change a wheel and sign off the repair.

It used to be common (may still be done today) for 2-pilot aircraft like 737-200C combis that served remote points in northern Canada to carry a mechanic plus the fly-away kit to handle the same types of repairs at places where there were no other maintenance facilities.


User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31684 posts, RR: 56
Reply 7, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 3606 times:



Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 6):
It used to be common (may still be done today) for 2-pilot aircraft like 737-200C combis that served remote points in northern Canada to carry a mechanic plus the fly-away kit to handle the same types of repairs at places where there were no other maintenance facilities.

Wouldn't an Engineer on board,be different from a Flight engineer.The former works on the Ground only.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineDogBreath From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2008, 263 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 3600 times:

I was a Flight Engineer for 21 years. I was originally a ground engineer (Engine and Airframes) for 6 years before moving to the flight deck. In my organisation this was the minimum required to become a Flight Engineer.

In my career, there were no requirements for an FE to be a pilot or pilot trained. My FE ground school consisted of approximately 6 weeks aircrew training on subjects specific to aviation (ie. navigation, weather, ATC, etc), then 9 months on the technical and operational side of the aircraft. This training qualified you to a Flight Engineers Licence issued by the relevant aviation authority.

In my case I did get my Comercial Pilots Licence, as my goal was to move over to the First Officer's seat. This was not the norm, however I would say that % wise as you've asked in your question, I knew only about 5% (not an official figure - just my opinion) of FE's that had CPL's or frozen ATPL's.

Unfortunately the role of Flight Engineer is sadly almost gone. Some Airlines offered retraining to FE's for upgrade to FO, and this has happened in BA, QF and Cathay (that I know of). Most of the FE's that I know either left aviation all together and took up management roles in other fields, some got jobs as safety consultants for airlines, or publications/project managers with Airlines.
In my case I was extremely lucky to get a First Officers position with a European Airline, but had to do it the hard way (by paying for it myself). If all goes well I should make Captain shortly.

The Flight Engineers role was (I believe and correct me if I'm wrong) borne during the Second World War, when the 4 engined bombers were built. As the aircraft became more technical and more 'work' was required to operate the aircraft systems, the FE was introduced to unload the Pilot/s so that they could concentrate on flying and surviving.
As aircraft became commercial after the war, they also became more technical in nature (especially the 3 and 4 engined jets of the 50's and 60's) and the Flight Engineers became a necessity.
However the advent of computer technology in the mid 80's marked the end for the FE, and now no aircraft are designed/built with a Flight Engineer.



Truth, Honour, Loyalty
User currently offline474218 From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 6340 posts, RR: 9
Reply 9, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 3536 times:



Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 7):
Wouldn't an Engineer on board,be different from a Flight engineer.The former works on the Ground only.

Years ago "flight engineers" or "flying mechanics" actually worked during flights. Aircraft like the Martin Mars actually had ways of adding oil to the engines in flight. That was just one of the "flying mechanics" duties.

A "flight engineer" is like a "train engineer". A "train engineer" doesn't steer the train, he just sits there and monitors the instruments and signs.

Where I live the majority of the "engineers" work in offices and design things.

It seems to me the term "engineer" was adopted in the UK to make the job of being a "mechanic" appear more important. Its like "avionics mechanics" like to be called "avionic technicians".


User currently offlineVC10 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1411 posts, RR: 16
Reply 10, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 3525 times:

Well, a subject close to my heart as I was a F/E for some 33 years, and then they let me retire for good behavour.

The history of the F/E goes back to the late 1930s when the Boeing 307 was produced and had a F/E. along with some of the 4 engined flying boats. For these long haul 4 engined aircraft to get the performance and range required of them meant that the engines had to be constantly monitored and adjusted, and it was thought that a person who knew these beast intamately was best suited to do this job and so the F/E was recruited from the hanger or workshop. Just so he did not get bored with this he was given the responsibilty to control what ever other systems the aircraft had, aswell

Remember that until the introduction of satalite phone networks comunications around the world were quite primative, and especially on long haul, once the crew left their base they were very much on their own, and so the capability of the F/E to use his knowledge to recitfy faults was an added bonus to the crew. In fact the 4 engine bombers of WW2 only had F/Es because they could be trained quicker than pilots, and in fact near the end of WW2, when the RAF was going to send the Lancasters to the Pacific they were to be crewed by 2 pilots and no F/E , and of coarse the Lancastrian did fly with 2 pilots and no F/E

With the demise of the piston engined airliners then there was less work to do with the engines during flight, however the number and complexity of the aircrafts systems increased and so this occupied the F/E time during flight more so than the engines. With that said though, there was no cruise auto throttle on early jets and so the F/E, well in BOAC anyway, was constantly adjusting the throttles to try and maintain the cruise Mach No. Well it stopped you going to sleep. With the demise of the Navigator in the early 1970s when INS was introduced , the F/E probably took on hios most important job and that was pouring the TEA.

In the early 1960s with the advent of jet airliners, because of the increased speed and reduced maintenace on jets, the airlines would need a lot less hulls to do the same job, which meant far less pilots would be required. To protect their members jobs the American Pilots Union persuaded the FAA to allow pilots to qualify as F/E and then they forced their various Airlines To insist that F/Es in the future would have to have Pilot qualification. It was about job protection rather than any safety consideration.

In the UK [ and I believe most of Europe ] the airlines kept their F/E, because of the benifits he brought to the job and because he was often cheaper, but in the name of safety expanded his responsibilties to include such things as radio communications, pilot monitoring, checklist reading etc etc . To achieve this the F/Es were sent back to school to learn these new subjects, and I remember to this day getting up early and reading as many newspapers headlines{ in the news paper shop] because we had a daily morse code test where the instructor transmited some head line or other in morse, and we had to translate it . I found it was easier if I had some idea to start with. When all F/Es had recieved this instruction, then the whole operation was changed to a 3 man crew , with the F/E when below 10,000 ft turning his seat forward and concentrating on the operation of the aircraft more so than the systems.

When I once queried the logic of this, an instructor explained it as follows :-

" when those two {pilots] make a mistake and fly you into a mountain , because you are sitting behind them you will will be able to say

"" FO--"" but you are not far enough back to say ""--ol "" so monitor their operation and stay safe, and I have to say it was the best bit of advice I have had

[ps He used another 4 letter gynalogical word rather than -- fool-- but I thought for the sake of decenty I would use fool instead ]

Another reson for keeping F/Es in BOAC was that we tended to use Britsh aircraft or at least British engined american aircraft and so local knowledgable help was not always available, so a F/E who knew his aircraft and engine was areal asset.

Anyway now I am retired and have got real important jobs like taking the dog for walks and as he is pleading with me I must close

littlevc10

oopps did not relize it was so long.  Yeah sure


User currently offlineThai744 From Australia, joined Jun 2004, 301 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 3490 times:
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Fantastic replies, guys!

Thanks for taking the time to enlighten me!


User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31684 posts, RR: 56
Reply 12, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3455 times:



Quoting DogBreath (Reply 8):
Unfortunately the role of Flight Engineer is sadly almost gone.

What would you do thereafter?

Quoting 474218 (Reply 9):
Years ago "flight engineers" or "flying mechanics" actually worked during flights. Aircraft like the Martin Mars actually had ways of adding oil to the engines in flight. That was just one of the "flying mechanics" duties.



Quoting VC10 (Reply 10):

Thats Educational.why so frequent replenishment of oil though.

Well, a subject close to my heart as I was a F/E for some 33 years, and then they let me retire for good behavour.

Congrats....You seem a person with years of experience.Its great to hear your views.

regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14030 posts, RR: 62
Reply 13, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 3445 times:

Quoting 474218 (Reply 9):
It seems to me the term "engineer" was adopted in the UK to make the job of being a "mechanic" appear more important. Its like "avionics mechanics" like to be called "avionic technicians".

In British aviation terminology, a mechanic or fitter is an unlicenced bloke who only works under supervision and acts on orders. He will be told e.g. to install a certain part and will do it in accordance with the manual. He doesn't make decisions concerning airworthiness.
This is done by the LICENCED engineer, though of a vocational background, he has passed a strict governmental exam, and through his training and experience is able to make maintenance decisions concerning the airworthiness and is legally fully responsible for these decisions. This includes evaluation of damage and inspections.

Then there exists the CHARTERED engineer, who usually has an academic degree in engineering and sits in an office and designs stuff. He will also be consulted if the training of the licenced engineer reaches it's limits.

The licenced engineer works on the floor and is the connection between the unlicenced fitter and the chartered engineer, who will e.g. be working in tech services.

BTW, the cover of my licence (issued by the Irish Aviation Authority) says "Aircraft Maintenance Engineer's Licence".


Jan

BTW, having worked for both European and American airlines (I also have a FAA A&P mechanic licence), I noticed that the European system puts more responsibility into the hands of the licenced engineer. E.g. with the American airline I had to call MOC every time I needed to open a deferral in accordance with the MEL. The MOC guy would doublecheck all my reasoning and reference suggestions and had to give me the permission to defer something.
With the European airlines I'm free to make the decisions myself (but might have to answer to quality or the aviation authority if I f*ck up).

[Edited 2008-11-30 13:25:37]

User currently offline474218 From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 6340 posts, RR: 9
Reply 14, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 3381 times:

Jan,

I was just joking, having lived and worked in the UK I know all about how they twist the English language. I also know how important "titles" are too them.

Carl


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14030 posts, RR: 62
Reply 15, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 3325 times:



Quoting 474218 (Reply 14):
Jan,

I was just joking, having lived and worked in the UK I know all about how they twist the English language. I also know how important "titles" are too them.

Carl

Just for info: The American department of labor considers FAA A&P mechanics to be unskilled or semiskilled only.

Jan


User currently offlineStratosphere From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 1653 posts, RR: 5
Reply 16, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 3319 times:



Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 13):
BTW, having worked for both European and American airlines (I also have a FAA A&P mechanic licence), I noticed that the European system puts more responsibility into the hands of the licenced engineer. E.g. with the American airline I had to call MOC every time I needed to open a deferral in accordance with the MEL. The MOC guy would doublecheck all my reasoning and reference suggestions and had to give me the permission to defer something.
With the European airlines I'm free to make the decisions myself (but might have to answer to quality or the aviation authority if I f*ck up).

Not so much more responsibility into the hands of the licenced engineer vs the A@P but more authority it sounds like. My question is since the licenced engineer has more authority how is your salary in comparison to your american A@P counterpart? I know it is more expensive to live in europe in general so maybe a better comparison is what is the difference in pay between pilots and engineers vs pilots and A@P's at our US airlines.



NWA THE TRUE EVIL EMPIRE
User currently offlineVC10 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1411 posts, RR: 16
Reply 17, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days ago) and read 3276 times:



Quoting 474218 (Reply 14):

I was just joking, having lived and worked in the UK I know all about how they twist the English language. I also know how important "titles" are too them.

Not just the British who twist the language you Americans are not too bad either just for an instance look at the word Gay.

I would not agree that us Brits are title mad well that is unless you work in a government dept where every body has titles which half the time not even they understand what the title means.

In BOAC /BA F/E was not their title but rather Engineer Officer, This came about so I was told when just after WW2 BOAC crews, especially in the MIddle East, used to stay in RAF camps rather than hotels and every body had to have a rank so as to know which mess to stay in, thus all Flight deck crew were given a title with the word Officer in it, so as to get entry to the Office's mess. Mind you we were often referred to by the cabin crew as the plumber, which used to get up my nose as so it seems a plumber got paid more than a F/E

It is wonderfull how the rules of the English langage are flexible unlike some other languages and perhaps one of our German friends could tell us what the official title of a F/E is in German as I understand it is quite long but there I could be wrong.

Just one last thing if you look at words describing jobs, if it has an --- er on the end it usually means that person is the user of the noun which proceeds it such as

Foootball[er] Auction[er] Puppet[er] can any one think of any more. This then makes

Engine[er] one who uses engines

Could however be wrong again  Big grin

littlevc10  stirthepot 


User currently offlineJetlagged From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 2556 posts, RR: 24
Reply 18, posted (5 years 10 months 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 3214 times:



Quoting VC10 (Reply 17):
Foootball[er] Auction[er] Puppet[er] can any one think of any more.

Plumb[er] doesn't quite work, but Driv[er] does.  duck 

Quoting VC10 (Reply 17):
Engine[er] one who uses engines

Could however be wrong again

Engineer is derived from a word meaning to design.

[/quote]1350–1400; engine + -eer; r. ME engin(e)our < AF engineor OF engigneor < ML ingeniātor, equiv. to ingeniā(re) to design, devise (v. deriv. of ingenium; see engine ) + L -tor -tor [/quote]

Same root as ingenious, ingenuity, etc. Hence the rather jealous protection of the title engineer to mean something a little bit more than someone who fixes things pilots have broken.  Wink



The glass isn't half empty, or half full, it's twice as big as it needs to be.
User currently offlineBellerophon From United Kingdom, joined May 2002, 583 posts, RR: 59
Reply 19, posted (5 years 10 months 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 3190 times:



Quoting VC10 (Reply 10):
Well...I was a F/E for some 33 years, and then they let me retire for good behavour.

Good Behaviour??  rotfl 

I was....so....sure that I knew who you were....but obviously I was mistaken!  Big grin  bigthumbsup 

Best Regards

Bellerophon  duck 


User currently offlineVC10 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1411 posts, RR: 16
Reply 20, posted (5 years 10 months 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 3178 times:



Quoting Bellerophon (Reply 19):
I was....so....sure that I knew who you were....but obviously I was mistaken!

No no you must be thinking of some one else, I was always the good boy and I know because my mum always told me so, but nobody else though when I come to think of  confused 

Cheers littlevc10


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14030 posts, RR: 62
Reply 21, posted (5 years 10 months 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 3054 times:

Quoting VC10 (Reply 17):
It is wonderfull how the rules of the English langage are flexible unlike some other languages and perhaps one of our German friends could tell us what the official title of a F/E is in German as I understand it is quite long but there I could be wrong.

Flugingenieur

Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 18):
Quoting VC10 (Reply 17):
Foootball[er] Auction[er] Puppet[er] can any one think of any more.

Plumb[er] doesn't quite work, but Driv[er] does. duck

Sure it works. It means somebody who workswith lead (latin: plumbum), since in the olden days water pipes etc. were made out of lead.

Jan

[Edited 2008-12-02 12:22:11]

User currently offlineJetlagged From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 2556 posts, RR: 24
Reply 22, posted (5 years 10 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 2980 times:



Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 21):
Sure it works. It means somebody who workswith lead (latin: plumbum), since in the olden days water pipes etc. were made out of lead.

Yes I know, I did Latin at school. It was just a lame joke about plumbers and drivers which I thought littleVC10 would get.

*gets coat*



The glass isn't half empty, or half full, it's twice as big as it needs to be.
User currently offlineVc10 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1411 posts, RR: 16
Reply 23, posted (5 years 10 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 2974 times:



Quoting Jetlagged (Reply 22):
Yes I know, I did Latin at school. It was just a lame joke about plumbers and drivers which I thought littleVC10 would get.

Yes I understood the undertone of the comment, are you sure you are not really a pilot  box 



littlevc10


User currently offlineJetlagged From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 2556 posts, RR: 24
Reply 24, posted (5 years 10 months 3 days ago) and read 2967 times:



Quoting Vc10 (Reply 23):
Yes I understood the undertone of the comment, are you sure you are not really a pilot

Perish the thought! However I've met enough British Aeroflot flight crew to appreciate the "rivalry" between trades. As an engineer my sympathies tend to be with the F/E fraternity, but the joke didn't work that way.  Smile



The glass isn't half empty, or half full, it's twice as big as it needs to be.
25 VC10 : Never mind , it's the thought that counts Be Happy littlevc10
26 MD11Engineer : Same root as ingenious, ingenuity, etc. Hence the rather jealous protection of the title engineer to mean something a little bit more than someone wh
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