Wednesday, June 3, 2009

about "pilots" and "co-pilots"

"oh... as a pilot you have a copilot who helps you finding the way, right?" this is what I often hear. Let me explain what the actual difference between the so-called "co-pilot" and "pilot" is.
First, there is no term like "co-pilot". In cockpit most of the time we have a Captain and a First Officer. Both of them are pilots. Means both of them are fully able to fly and operate the aircraft safely. In fact the Captain is the "boss" on board. He is the one who is responsible. So he is the final-decision maker. But the so-often as "co-pilot" wrong called First Officer is not only there to help the boss finding the way. He is steering and operating the aircraft as well... So on a normal day with domestic and short-haul sectors both pilots will decide who is going to fly (in sense of steering) which leg.
Example: KL-Penang-KL-Kuantan-KL
They decide that the Captain will fly all flights out of KL (KL-Penang and KL-Kuantan) and the First Officer will fly all flights to KL (so. Penang-KL and Kuantan-KL)...
So what the heck is the second pilot on board doing... ???
let's take the flight Penang-KL as our example. We just decided that the First-Officer will FLY the airplane. So from now on we call him PILOT-FLYING (PF, sometimes PIC=PilotInCommand). Then the captain is the PILOT-NON-FLYING (PNF). But now it's not that the Captain will just relax the whole flight. Being in the specific role (PF or PNF) they have special tasks. Now as the Captain being the PNF he will assist the First Officer. Yes, right, the Boss (the captain) will assist the junior First-Officer. So how is he assisting him. It's not just "finding the way". But his tasks actually consists of doing the communication with the AirTrafficControl, doing Calculations, crosscheck whatever the PF is doing, simply assisting him flying the metal-tube and provide him with all the necessary information he needs...
Interesting eh? Now all of you who thought that a "co-pilot" will never steer the aircraft until he gets promoted to be a "pilot" know that this is simply wrong... Both of them are flying. The captain is just the more experienced one. The one who has the final word. But also the one who is fully responsible for all the souls on board.