Posts: 1952
Joined: Sat Mar 18, 2000 10:09 pm

Why Are We Really Losing The FE

Sat Mar 18, 2000 10:13 pm

why are the airlines really getting rid of the flight engineer. is it a cost savings measure? what about safety to the crew and passengers does that really matter
anymore. isnt it safer, even in a new airplane to have a third person dedicated
to systems understanding and help during inflight and ground emergencies.
"damn, I didnt know prince could Ball like that" - Charlie Murphy

RE: Why Are We Really Losing The FE

Sun Mar 19, 2000 2:24 am

Posts: 129
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2015 3:26 pm

RE: Why Are We Really Losing The FE

Sun Mar 19, 2000 3:10 am

Technology has allowed the FE's tasks to be "monitored" by computers not available in the past. Might be better to have a software engineer than a flight engineer.
You ask "isn't it safer...?" well, using that logic (and I'm not disagreeing with you, simply playing the devil's advocate) then if three is better than two, how about four? If four is better than three, what about five? and if...You get the point.
I once attended a safety seminar in Mountain View with Captain Al Haynes (or is it Hayes) where he said he would never fly an AC with fewer than three engines, or three crew members (more or less the quote). Now, in ALL DUE RESPECT to Captain Haynes, if that AC had only had three crew members, they very likely would not have been able to survive as the training crew member flying in the back came up front to handle the throttles (while the others were busy attending to other functions). Again, I ask...If three is better than two, then why not load the aircraft full of crew members, and tack a few more engines to the fuselage?
Seems a bit flippant, but at what point do you say the chance that the additional crew member (or engine) will help is so negligable, it becomes an economics issue. Hence HEAVYJET is correct, it's all about the $$$$$.

I Think Woxof Is Missing The Point...

Sun Mar 19, 2000 9:00 am

It's not just the # of crew members on the's assigned duties. In the case of a flight engineer, you have a non-pilot there to handle the aircraft systems in an emergency. In addition, their responsibility to the aircraft is that of a systems expert.!.and only a systems expert (in theory). If you're flying a 2 person cockpit aircraft with 3 pilots on board for FAR purposes, it's not as ideal of a situation (in my opinion) since the third pilot doesn't really have an assigned station or responsibilities short of being "relief crew". The engineer has his/her own panel, duties, checklists, etc. and is not trying to fly the plane. In most historic cases where a flight engineer equipped aircraft crashed, you'll find that nobody was flying the aircraft and everyo e was trying to do the flight engineer's duties (case in point: UAL Salt Lake City). I really likd the idea of having someone on my crew who's sole responsibility is to the aircraft systems. It makes life much easier for me during an emergency while I'm coordinating with ATC, flying the aircraft, talking to company/pax/flight attendant, etc.
Posts: 477
Joined: Sun Feb 27, 2000 4:49 am

RE: Why Are We Really Losing The FE

Sun Mar 19, 2000 9:16 am

There have been some accidents where having an FE on board may have been a contributory factor ie. he was not performing the duty he should have been carrying out. An example is the UAL DC-8 at Portland, Oregon which ran out of fuel. The engineer was in the passenger cabin helping out the flight attendants instead of monitoring the fuel levels.
Posts: 1961
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 8:32 am

Musical Chairs

Sun Mar 19, 2000 10:13 am

All the points so far have been well made. The only thing I can add to this discussion is that the pilots in today's jets are really flight engineers in themselves. Computers have played musical chairs in the cockpit. The pilot flies, the co-pilot monitors, and the FE gets the pink slip. The last time the music stopped, it was the navigator that got left without a seat.

In today's fourth generation jets, the pilots spend almost all of their time monitoring the aircraft, not flying per se. So there is no reason really to have a FE when you already have another flight engineer in the cockpit already. On autopilot, you have two FEs in the cockpit. Generally, one pilot is a FE that flies, while the other pilot is a FE that monitors and communicates.

Which brings up the issue of the navigator. Long before most of you guys were born, there were four bodies in the cockpit, two pilots to fly,.one engineer to handle the engines, and one guy to read navigation charts and talk on the radio. Well, we got rid of that last guy about 40 years ago and nobody misses him today. Flight engineers have gone the same route.

We could eliminate pilots, too, from the loop, and since most accidents are caused by pilot error, we would save a lot of lives and be better off for it. The only reason for not evolving to that stage is that the flying public would be hesitant to board a plane without pilots. If Airline A flew aircraft without pilots, while Airline B flew aircraft with pilots, I don't have to tell you which plane would fill up first.

So, getting rid of the navigator, and getting rid of the flight engineer, was all about saving money. But keeping the pilots in the cockpit is all about saving face.

An optimist robs himself of the joy of being pleasantly surprised
Posts: 3546
Joined: Tue Oct 26, 1999 11:34 am

RE: Why Are We Really Losing The FE

Sun Mar 19, 2000 10:21 am

These days the Systems experts are on the ground in the airlines Maintenance Control. If the crew have a problem they can:-

1) Satcom Maintrol.

2) ACARS Maintrol

3) HF call Maintrol

4) VHF call Maintrol (If in range)

In addition to this, the a/c will be able to download a current Flt fault report that the sytems experts can use to analyse any faults and suggest to the crew what action to take.

RE: Why Are We Really Losing The FE

Sun Mar 19, 2000 10:58 am

Hmmmm says: >>We could eliminate pilots, too, from the loop, and since most accidents are caused by pilot error, we would save a lot of lives and be better off for it<<

While you make valid points, lets not forget that many accidents have also been prevented by the pilots when the "automation" hiccups. Your right about the public not wanting to get on an airplane without a human pilot up front...I know I wouldn't.

RE: Why Are We Really Losing The FE

Mon Mar 20, 2000 5:51 am

As a simulator instructor I spend about four hours a day watching pilots and flight engineers deal with abnormal and emergency situations.

Anyone that thinks a 2 person cockpit is as safe as a 3 probably doesn't fly big jets.

Example: Engine fire after V1- Pilot flying maintains aircraft control, pilot not flying assist with aircraft clean up ie gear,flap,slat, advises ATC, and assists in climbout procedures. This frees the FE to deal with the emergency checklists which can be several. And if a emergency return is planned all the normal checklist must be accomplished as well.

Even with 3 people in the cockpit task saturation still happens often. The glass cockpit does not make the work load less but adds more heads down time.

This all started about 20 years ago by ALPA with the idea that pilots can get in the cockpit by making the flight engineer seat a second officer seat.

I am with Al Haynes on this one. My $0.02 worth

Popular Searches On

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos