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Would It Be Safer With A Three Man Crew?  
User currently offlinericknroll From Afghanistan, joined Jan 2012, 841 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 5519 times:

Another instance of pilots getting overloaded, and making a serious mistake.

http://www.theage.com.au/travel/trav...r-inquiry-told-20120808-23u4o.html

I wonder if large jets really need a third brain working in the cockpit during times of high activity, when there can be unexpected demands on the pilot's attention. There was a similar situation where a DC-9 crashed because of a late runway change distracting the pilots during the pre-flight check list.

The third person would be bored most of the time, and cost a bit of money, but such incidents as this don't seem isolated. I can also think of others.

22 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineflyingturtle From Switzerland, joined Oct 2011, 2436 posts, RR: 14
Reply 1, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 5508 times:

Quoting ricknroll (Thread starter):
The third person would be bored most of the time, and cost a bit of money, but such incidents as this don't seem isolated. I can also think of others.

The biggest advantage would be if the third man wouldn't be a pilot, but a FE like in the old days. The FE didn't have the same career path, the FE didn't feel indebted to the CPT as the FO did, and so the FE was more likely in the position to question decisions. The Tenerife disaster comes to mind.


David



Keeping calm is terrorism against those who want to live in fear.
User currently onlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17055 posts, RR: 67
Reply 2, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 5501 times:

Quoting ricknroll (Thread starter):
Would It Be Safer With A Three Man Crew?  

Well, yes, but that's a very simplistic answer. Modern airliner systems can give their two crewmembers way more information than ye olde steam gauges could give the three member crews of their day.

With modern cockpits a third crew member on duty (not just as relief) does not improve safety anywhere near enough to justify the cost.


While one instrument gave them their instantaneous rolling speed, the pilots had to read from handwritten notes to recall the lift-off target speeds they had to reach, investigators said.
That pilots had handwritten notes as a back-up was "fortuitous", Fairfax Media has been told.


It's called "good airmanship". Having a backup in case the computers fall over or you have made an error in programming is a good idea in any case.

Note also that with this kind of thing, a third crewmember would not have made any difference.


The first officer twice dismissed computer alerts about the plane's take-off data.
The first time he believed the take-off data would be checked, and the second time believed it had been checked.
"There were no other warnings in place to alert the crew that they were commencing the take-off without the take-off speeds in the aircraft's navigation systems," investigators said.


So he dismissed the alerts TWICE?!? Gee, I wonder why things went wrong.

"The captain reported that there were a number of distractions and interruptions from the time they were pushed back from the gate, until the take-off commenced," investigators said.



Ok, but this can happen with any airliner, during any departure. The Iberia MD-80 crash is a case in point.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlinericknroll From Afghanistan, joined Jan 2012, 841 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 5462 times:

Note also that with this kind of thing, a third crewmember would not have made any difference.

I think he would have. Someone to 'own' the checklist without the distractions of the rest of the complex of job of getting the plane up.

Ok, but this can happen with any airliner, during any departure. The Iberia MD-80 crash is a case in point.

I guess that's what I'm thinking of. The captain should be able to concentrate on the overall view. The checklist should be something owned by the 'third' crew member, with the co-pilot helping. There are just many examples that come to mind of preflight not working, and causing subsequent problems, because they can be so overloaded at that time.

I'm not saying it's going to happen, but I can recall several cases of preflight going wrong due to the demands placed on the pilots.


User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2255 posts, RR: 15
Reply 4, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 5417 times:

According to the article Qantas has changed some procedures and/or checklist which seems to be a smart decision. In lieu of a 3rd pilot it looks like this incident could have been avoided by changing only 2 things. One of our last chklist items as we approach the runway of intended t/o is "V speeds" to which the capt replies "checked" after verifying BOTH the PFD speeds and the HUD speeds. This saved me once when, after about 3 power interruptions on the GPU, we taxied to the runway, configured and as we were given "line up and wait" this chklist item revealed that the V speeds were missing. We taxied off and sorted it out. The other thing to consider is when a distraction interrupts your normal flow, the door arming problem and a runway change, it's prudent to forget the schedule, sit back and say "ok, where were we on this checklist." Maybe even start over. I give credit to one of our pilots who told a similar story about an f/o who was behind and getting frustrated. My friend said he set the parking break, said relax, take a deep breath and let's start over, we have plenty of time. I've found that to be a very useful tool over the years and it's caught a number of errors.

User currently onlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17055 posts, RR: 67
Reply 5, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 5386 times:

Quoting ricknroll (Reply 3):
I guess that's what I'm thinking of. The captain should be able to concentrate on the overall view. The checklist should be something owned by the 'third' crew member, with the co-pilot helping. There are just many examples that come to mind of preflight not working, and causing subsequent problems, because they can be so overloaded at that time.

I'm not saying it's going to happen, but I can recall several cases of preflight going wrong due to the demands placed on the pilots.

Checklists were missed with terrible consequences in the three-man crew days as well. Two notable examples are the BOAC 707 crash at LHR and the Northwest 727 crash in New York state.

Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 4):
I give credit to one of our pilots who told a similar story about an f/o who was behind and getting frustrated. My friend said he set the parking break, said relax, take a deep breath and let's start over, we have plenty of time. I've found that to be a very useful tool over the years and it's caught a number of errors.

Quite. "Don't rush" is easy in theory, but crews are rushed all the time. Two or three crew doesn't make a difference if you are in a hurry and rush through important items.

[Edited 2012-08-08 06:11:22]

[Edited 2012-08-08 06:11:40]


"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 6, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 5372 times:

Quoting ricknroll (Thread starter):
I wonder if large jets really need a third brain working in the cockpit during times of high activity, when there can be unexpected demands on the pilot's attention.

They don't *need* it. The safety rate is very good without the third person. A third person absolutely would make it safer, but not enough to justify the cost.

Quoting ricknroll (Thread starter):
The third person would be bored most of the time, and cost a bit of money, but such incidents as this don't seem isolated

It would cost a lot of money. You're talking about increasing flight crew cost by almost 50% (I'm assuming the third person wouldn't have to be as highly paid as the other two) for a safety increase of something like 0.001%.

Quoting ricknroll (Reply 3):

Note also that with this kind of thing, a third crewmember would not have made any difference.

I think he would have. Someone to 'own' the checklist without the distractions of the rest of the complex of job of getting the plane up.

There is someone to own the checklist...that's what the PNF is for. This is very clear in all the flight crew training I'm aware of.

Quoting ricknroll (Reply 3):
There are just many examples that come to mind of preflight not working, and causing subsequent problems, because they can be so overloaded at that time.

That's a discipline problem with following procedure; having another person doesn't help with that. Checklists work; the body of evidence is overwhelming. Humans, being humans, can and do constantly rationalize why *this time* it's OK to not use the checklist. And then accidents happy. It would be far more productive to militantly train, monitor, and enforce checklist discipline than add a third crew member.

Tom.


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14030 posts, RR: 62
Reply 7, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 5369 times:

Quoting flyingturtle (Reply 1):

The biggest advantage would be if the third man wouldn't be a pilot, but a FE like in the old days. The FE didn't have the same career path, the FE didn't feel indebted to the CPT as the FO did, and so the FE was more likely in the position to question decisions. The Tenerife disaster comes to mind.

Two things: The F/E often came from a hands on, spanner turning maintenance background. We often have a completely different mindset than pilots. One thing that comes with our training is attention to detail and constantly questioning and double checking your own work. Pilots on the other hand want to get into the air and go flying. In the aviation museum club, where I restore historic aircraft, I´ve often been told by the pilots that I was too anal about small items, which for me were safety relevant. On the other hand I e.g. tend to ignore oil leaks on a radial engine, as long as the oil consumption and the leakage rate is still within limits, while the pilots complain about having to clean the aircraft (ok, I come from the commercial, cargo airline side of aviation, where you´ll have problems explaining to the boss why you delayed a flight for purely cosmetic reasons).
When we do a walkaround, we tend to look deeper than the pilots.
Another thing about the flight engineer of old is that he usually had periods of little workload while the pilots were busy, while they had a lower workload when he was busy. This way there was always somebody available to keep an eye on what was going on without being distracted by work.

Jan


User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2255 posts, RR: 15
Reply 8, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 5354 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):
"Don't rush" is easy in theory, but crews are rushed all the time.

first my apology for lack of proof reading BRAKE not break!!

I think sometimes we rush ourselves just to get going and sometimes ATC can rush you, "if you're ready I can clear you now" but the bottom line is you can not allow this to pressure you into mistakes. We've all been there. I have seen many times the confusion that results from me trying to talk to the F/O about waypoints, SIDs, whatever, only have the fueler walk in to ask to see the fuel synoptic followed by maint. wanting to discuss the MEL that just came up or just got cleared. When it's all over you ask yourself "where the hell was I?" I go back to a place that I knew I had been and start over delay or no delay. Any flight mgt that would question your decision is just asking for disaster.


User currently offlinetb727 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 1609 posts, RR: 9
Reply 9, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 5347 times:

The other big advantage, which I think helps out with safety of course, is having the 3rd guy to run through abnormal and emergency checklists and work directly with the PNF(usually the Captain in the 727's case). That way a guy is flying and two are working on it. When it comes to shutting an engine down or disconnecting a CSD, there is one set of eyes dedicated to backing up the throwing of the right switch. And also if for whatever reason someone has to leave the cockpit to check on something or whatever, you still have 2 guys up front flying the plane and at least another set of ears listening to the radio.


Too lazy to work, too scared to steal!
User currently onlinelonghauler From Canada, joined Mar 2004, 5003 posts, RR: 43
Reply 10, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 5261 times:

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 6):
They don't *need* it. The safety rate is very good without the third person. A third person absolutely would make it safer, but not enough to justify the cost.


That's it exactly. The cost of extra safety is dismissed, as too expensive.

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 6):
It would cost a lot of money. You're talking about increasing flight crew cost by almost 50% (I'm assuming the third person wouldn't have to be as highly paid as the other two) for a safety increase of something like 0.001%.


At Air Canada, the Cruise Relief pilot usually makes less than most of the Flight Attendants, baggage handlers and gate agents! .... Starting salary around CAD 37,000. Max salary is about CAD 100,000 for a 12+ year person on the B777. (There are none, but that pay band does exist. About 50% less than the FO)

Fatigue is a hot issue right now, as with cost constraints, crews find themselves pushed far further than ever occurred in the past. Unfortunately, the best way to reduce fatigue is to increase crew numbers, and that has an associated cost.



Never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down .... Barefoot Blue Jean Night
User currently offlinecanoecarrier From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 2839 posts, RR: 12
Reply 11, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 5233 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 2):
Well, yes, but that's a very simplistic answer. Modern airliner systems can give their two crewmembers way more information than ye olde steam gauges could give the three member crews of their day.
Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 6):

They don't *need* it. The safety rate is very good without the third person. A third person absolutely would make it safer, but not enough to justify the cost.

Was aviation any safer with 4 crew? Didn't early airliners have a navigator as well? Planes still ran into well mapped mountains or got lost at sea.

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 7):
Two things: The F/E often came from a hands on, spanner turning maintenance background. We often have a completely different mindset than pilots.

That's where I've always thought F/E's were a plus to a 3 person cockpit. Almost every pilot I've ever worked with either came from the military, gained hours as a flight instructor, or bought hours at a university. Most pilots I know have a basic understanding of how gears turn, but the added knowledge of a mechanic on board in an emergency is a plus. But, really how many times over the past 20 or 30 years would it have changed the outcome?

Someone brought up Tenerife. A F/E would probably be the last person to question that decision to take off given the state of CRM at the time.

[Edited 2012-08-08 10:30:10]


The beatings will continue until morale improves
User currently onlineStitch From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 31062 posts, RR: 87
Reply 12, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 5185 times:
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Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 4):
The other thing to consider is when a distraction interrupts your normal flow, the door arming problem and a runway change, it's prudent to forget the schedule, sit back and say "ok, where were we on this checklist." Maybe even start over.

I don't know if this is already being done, but with iPads and other EFBs on the flight deck now, perhaps having the primary checklist on an iPad would help with this? After dealing with the distracting element, you can easily check the last item you checked (forgive the pun) and continue on.


User currently offlineCM From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 5156 times:

Quoting ricknroll (Reply 3):
Someone to 'own' the checklist

Checklists are already "owned", even in a two-person crew.

Quoting ricknroll (Reply 3):
without the distractions of the rest of the complex of job of getting the plane up.

Crew workload is a highly refined science. It is not just refined for normal operations, but for non-normal and emergency events as well. Two-person flight decks are designed to work just fine with only two crew members, including managing the "complex job of getting the plane up", even when other things are going wrong.

Quoting ricknroll (Thread starter):
I wonder if large jets really need a third brain working in the cockpit during times of high activity, when there can be unexpected demands on the pilot's attention.

The answer to further reducing pilot workload is not to add more people in the flight deck, but to further simplify the tasks they must carry out. This is something each new generation of aircraft improves on through advances in technology and refinements in the procedures themselves (i.e. the cockpit workload in the 787 is far, FAR lower than the cockpit workload in a 737-200). A great example of this is newer airplanes which address checklist neglect by using ECLs which automatically force the crew through the proper non-normal or emergency procedures one step at a time.

Guaranteed, the next change this industry sees in crew size will be a new commercial jet with a one-person flight crew. That's the push in the industry, not the other direction. No OEM is going to build an aircraft which requires a three-person crew unless there are airlines asking for it. No airline is going to be interested in such an airplane unless their regulator is forcing it. Since there's no compelling case to be made which would cause the regulators to push for the three-person crew, there is absolutely zero chance it will happen.

Quoting Stitch (Reply 12):
After dealing with the distracting element, you can easily check the last item you checked (forgive the pun) and continue on.

EFB checklists (iPad or otherwise) is a great retrofit solution for aircraft which do not have ECLs integrated into their systems. Not quite as effective at forcing the crew through a procedure, but likely more effective than the paper QRH.

[Edited 2012-08-08 13:01:50]

User currently offlinevc10 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1411 posts, RR: 16
Reply 14, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 5146 times:

Quoting canoecarrier (Reply 11):
Was aviation any safer with 4 crew? Didn't early airliners have a navigator as well? Planes still ran into well mapped mountains or got lost at sea.

The navigator was not actually part of the Flight crew, but rather an add on crew member when the sector was classified as a nav sector . I have operated on a couple of 4 man crew aircraft without the Navigator

Quoting canoecarrier (Reply 11):
That's where I've always thought F/E's were a plus to a 3 person cockpit. Almost every pilot I've ever worked with either came from the military, gained hours as a flight instructor, or bought hours at a university. Most pilots I know have a basic understanding of how gears turn, but the added knowledge of a mechanic on board in an emergency is a plus. But, really how many times over the past 20 or 30 years would it have changed the outcome?

That is the problem no one will ever know if it mattered because when it did the crew just said well done and got on with the job as it should be. However when it did not work the reults were usually published in some report or other

Quoting canoecarrier (Reply 11):
Someone brought up Tenerife. A F/E would probably be the last person to question that decision to take off given the state of CRM at the time.

I never understand this idea that CRM did not exist prior to some year in the 1980s. I started as a F/E with BOAC in 1968 and it was instilled in us from the very start that you had to speak up and give your opinion and being a junior lad then compared to some of the very senior Captains I flew with it took some getting used to but I never found one Captain who ignored me.

As to the extra cost of a 3rd crew member , I am always a bit baffled, as so I understand it, in some countries in the world when there was a F/E the crew could operate for up to 12.5 hours, but even now on the long haul aircraft designed for 2 pilot operation if the flight is longer than 8 hours then it becomes a 3 crew aircraft. I am sure there is some crew cost savings but I do believe it has been exagerated

Do not get me wrong I am not advocating the return of the F/E as I think I would get bored on a modern flight deck


User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 15, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 5145 times:

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 7):
One thing that comes with our training is attention to detail and constantly questioning and double checking your own work. Pilots on the other hand want to get into the air and go flying.

Those are bad pilots.

Quoting canoecarrier (Reply 11):
Was aviation any safer with 4 crew? Didn't early airliners have a navigator as well? Planes still ran into well mapped mountains or got lost at sea.

You're conflating two issues there...aircraft age and number of crew. You need to split them apart. A current generation aircraft with three people in the flight deck is, all other things being equal, safer than with two. But it's already so safe with two that it makes almost no difference so you can't justify the cost of the third guy.

This is, for example, why flight test aircraft always stuff the flight deck as full as they can (they have an artificially high workload because they're layering the test stuff on top of all the existing duties of simply flying the airplane).

Quoting Stitch (Reply 12):
I don't know if this is already being done, but with iPads and other EFBs on the flight deck now, perhaps having the primary checklist on an iPad would help with this? After dealing with the distracting element, you can easily check the last item you checked (forgive the pun) and continue on.

That's what ECL's are for. The most recent ones will even throw an EICAS warning if you proceed to the next phase without actually completing the checklist for the prior phase. You have to be really determined to not follow the checklist in the current generation of jets.

Tom.


User currently offlinetdscanuck From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 12709 posts, RR: 80
Reply 16, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 5016 times:

Quoting vc10 (Reply 14):
I never understand this idea that CRM did not exist prior to some year in the 1980s.

I don't think the claim is that it didn't exist, just that it wasn't as prevalent and the importance of it wasn't as recognized. Tenerife was such a spectacular CRM failure that it thrust it into prominence.

Tom.


User currently offlineRoseflyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 9661 posts, RR: 52
Reply 17, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 4924 times:

That flight was a QF a380 flying LAX-Australia. They would have had four crew in the flight deck.


If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31684 posts, RR: 56
Reply 18, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 4856 times:

An added support is always welcome,but too many complications at one time can be serious too......If the Type Aircraft does not require the extra man why complicate things.


Think of the brighter side!
User currently onlinelonghauler From Canada, joined Mar 2004, 5003 posts, RR: 43
Reply 19, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 4681 times:

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 18):
An added support is always welcome,but too many complications at one time can be serious too......If the Type Aircraft does not require the extra man why complicate things.

Normally the added safety is not a result of the added opinion, or extra set of hands. But, usually as a result of less fatigue as more numerous and longer crew rests are available.

When there are more than 2 in the cockpit, (usually just at take-off and landing) then there are strict SOPs with regard to who says what and why. It's not just everyone talking at once. I often do recurrent simulator with 3 in the simulator as it is a requirement for Cruise Relief pilots as well. There is usually enough time, and enough silent gaps to turn around and ask, "Are you happy with everything here? I want your opinion too!"



Never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down .... Barefoot Blue Jean Night
User currently offlinePolot From United States of America, joined Jul 2011, 2217 posts, RR: 1
Reply 20, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 4656 times:

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Eastern 401 yet. Yes, there may be some situations that a three man crew will be helpful in, but three people can get just as distracted and mess things up as easily as two people can. In the end, it is not worth the extra costs, the safety of most major carriers demonstrates that enough.

User currently onlinelonghauler From Canada, joined Mar 2004, 5003 posts, RR: 43
Reply 21, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 4637 times:

Quoting Polot (Reply 20):
I'm surprised no one has mentioned Eastern 401 yet. Yes, there may be some situations that a three man crew will be helpful in, but three people can get just as distracted and mess things up as easily as two people can. In the end, it is not worth the extra costs, the safety of most major carriers demonstrates that enough.

There is a very subtle difference between a three-man crew in a three-man cockpit, and a three-man crew in a two-man cockpit. The third pilot, F/E or S/O in a three-man cockpit has a specific function and tasks to perform, and can easily be distracted while doing those functions. While a third pilot in a two-man cockpit is basically just "watching".

But, to use a better more current example, is the recent "upset" of an Air Canada B767 flying from YYZ-ZRH. It was a two man crew, with the third dead-heading in the back to work the ZRH-YYZ flight the next day. That "upset" was directly attributed to fatigue.

So ... the accountants have to decide. Would the $550 that it would have cost to have that RP up front providing crew relief have been worth it to counteract the purported millions in lawsuits and bad press? Given how rarely it happens, its a tough call!

However, in spite of my critique of Air Canada management, they ARE hugely interested in advancing safety. That YYZ-ZRH flight was under watch as "onerous" and has been since supplemented with an additional crew-member. Granted we have different goals. I like to see safer flights, they like to see cheaper flights ... but have acknowledged that in some cases safer is cheaper in the long run, even if that safety comes at a cost.



Never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down .... Barefoot Blue Jean Night
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31684 posts, RR: 56
Reply 22, posted (2 years 1 month 3 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 4483 times:

Quoting longhauler (Reply 19):
There is usually enough time, and enough silent gaps to turn around and ask, "Are you happy with everything here? I want your opinion too!"

Exactly.....each crew member acts in their capacity in the position they are assuming on that flight which has been SOP'd in advance.



Think of the brighter side!
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