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Relief Crews On Long Haul Flights  
User currently offlineMacmac76 From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 234 posts, RR: 0
Posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 8046 times:

How many flight deck crews are required on long haul flights? Some has 4, some has 3. When I picked up my dad from SFO one time, the Japan Airlines cockpit crew emerged at the arrival hall, and I only saw a captain and a FO! However, taking my friend to SFO for a flight to MNL...I saw the Philippine Airlines cockpit crew...one captain, one FO, and 2 Second officers (2 stripes). Then, the SQ plane that crashed in Taipei had only 3 flight deck crews...1 capt. and 2 FOs (which was supposedly a TPE-LAX flight) from the passenger manifest on the newspaper. so does this depend on the airline? and how do they break down flying duties?

6 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineRick767 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2000, 2662 posts, RR: 50
Reply 1, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 8015 times:

Depends on the airline and the route flown (time-wise). For example, LHR to SFO will normally be 3 crew members (typically a Captain and two FOs).

One of the FOs must be APIC qualified (Acting Pilot In Command) which involves training so that he is able to fully operate the controls from the left seat, and is familiar with the differences in flying from the left seat. The APIC qualified FO will occupy the Captain's position whilst the Captain is on his rest. All three crewmembers have a rest period at some point on such a flight.

On longer flights, like LHR to Hong Kong, two entire crews are carried (2 Captains and 2 First Officers). One is designated as the "operating" crew who are actually responsible for takeoff and landing, the other is the "relief" crew who take over during the middle of the cruise. So for a 12 hour flight the operating crew might do the first 3 and last 3 hours, whilst the relief crew does 6 hours in the cruise.

On the return trip, the duties are normally reversed and the guys who flew out as "operating" crew return to London as "relief" crew and vice-versa.

This is how it works in the UK anyway. Hope it was of interest. I believe a similar system works with longhaul US flights, although every country has its own reglations on flight crew duty times.

I used to love the smell of Jet-A in the morning...
User currently offlineMacmac76 From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 234 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 7989 times:

Thank you so much for the reply!!! I now have a pretty good idea of how it works. =)

User currently offlineMikeymike From United States of America, joined May 2000, 406 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 4 days ago) and read 7955 times:

Pretty much along the lines of what Rick said, the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations) require 1 relief pilot for flight between 8 and 12 hours in length. Flights over 12 hours require 2 relief pilots. The crews will divide up the time between top of climb and top of descent and take breaks accordingly. Typically the pilot who has to make the landing has his choice of rest periods. Normally he/she would select the last rest period.

Hope that helps...


User currently offlineRick767 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2000, 2662 posts, RR: 50
Reply 4, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 7945 times:

Worth noting that in the UK we have slightly less strict regulations with regard to crew duty times. I don't have the actual figures to hand but we certainly don't take relief crews on our transatlantic flights (longest is probably Cancun at 10 hours en-route). There's just the two of us for that.

I think the legal limitation is 13 hours duty time, the only time my airline uses a third pilot is to allow an extension of the maximum duty time for longer flights (e.g. Manchester - Gatwick - Mombasa). I'm pretty sure this allows extension of the crew duty time from 13 to 16 hours.

I would have to take a look at the regs though... I know BA take 2 relief crewmembers on the Hong Kong / Tokyo flights and only 1 relief crewmember on the San Francisco / LAX runs. But east coast US, even Denver and so on, are just 2 crew I'm sure.

Also duty time bears no relation to flight time in the UK, you must be off duty no more than 13 hours after you reported for duty, whether you've flown a plane for 2 hours or 12 hours, or not at all.

I used to love the smell of Jet-A in the morning...
User currently offlineHawkeye2 From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 234 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 7874 times:

I flew SQ 30 (the flight formerly known as SQ 6) on Janurary 1st, and there were four cockpit crewmembers. I'm not sure if SQ changed their policy since the SQ 6 crash, or if it just varies between flights.

Flying time for this flight was only 10:00 though.

User currently offlineModesto2 From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 2849 posts, RR: 5
Reply 6, posted (13 years 1 month 1 week 2 days ago) and read 7849 times:

I flew UA954/961, SFO-LHR/CDG-SFO and both flights (744, 772) had three pilots.

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