The aircrew of a Jetstar Airways Boeing 787
Aircrew, also called flight crew, are personnel who operate an aircraft while in flight. The composition of a flight's crew depends on the type of aircraft, plus the duration and purpose of the flight.
Flight deck positions
- Captain, the pilot designated as the Pilot-In-Command (PIC)
- First Officer (FO, also called a co-pilot), another pilot who is not the pilot-in-command, and is normally seated to the right of the Captain. (On helicopters, a FO is normally seated to the left of the Captain, who occupies the right hand seat).
- Second Officer (SO), typically performs selected duties and also acts as a relief pilot. Largely redundant in the present day.
- Third Officer (TO), typically performs selected duties and also acts as a relief pilot. Largely redundant in the present day.
- 'Relief Crew' members in the present day are fully licensed and trained Captains and First Officers who accompany long-haul airline flights, and who spell (relieve) the primary pilots during designated portions of the flight to provide them with rest or sleep breaks (some large wide-body airliners are equipped with special pilot sleeper berths). The number of relief crew members assigned to a flight depends in part on the length of the flight and the air regulations the airline operates under.
- Flight Engineer (FE), originally called an 'Air Mechanic', on older aircraft, typically between the late-1920s and the 1970s, the Flight Engineer was the crew member responsible for engines, systems and fuel management. As aircraft became increasingly sophisticated and automated, this function was taken over by the primary pilots (Captain and FO), resulting in a continued downsizing in the number of aircrew positions on commercial flights. Flight engineers can still be found in the present day (in greatly diminished numbers), used on airline or air freight operations still flying such older aircraft. The position is typically crewed by a dual-licensed Pilot-Flight Engineer in the present day.
- Navigator (archaic), also called 'Air Navigators' or 'Flight Navigators', on older aircraft, typically between the late-1910s and the 1970s, separate crew members (sometimes two navigation crew members) were often responsible for the flight navigation, including its dead reckoning and celestial navigation, especially when flown over oceans or other large bodies of water where radio navigation aids were not originally available. As sophisticated electronic and space-based GPS air navigation systems came online, the Navigator's position was discontinued and its function was assumed by a dual-licensed Pilot-Navigator, and still later by the flight's primary pilots (Captain and FO), resulting in a continued downsizing in the number of aircrew positions on commercial flights. As the installation of electronic navigation systems into the Captain's and FO's instrument panels was relatively straight forward, the Navigator's position in commercial aviation (but not necessarily military aviation) became redundant. (Some countries task their air forces to fly without navigation aids during wartime, thus still requiring a navigator's position). Most civilian flight navigators were retired or made redundant by the early 1980s.
- Radio Operator (archaic), on much older aircraft, typically between the late-1910s and the 1940s, a separate crew member was often responsible for handling telegraphic or voice radio communications between the flight and ground stations. As radio sets became increasingly sophisticated and easier to operate, the function was taken over directly by a FO or TO, and still later by the Captain and FO, making the Radio Operator's position redundant.
Aircraft cabin crew members can consist of:
- Loadmaster, crew member on cargo aircraft responsible for loading freight and personnel and the weight and balance of the aircraft.
- Purser or In-flight Service Manager is responsible for the cabin crew as a team leader.
- Flight attendant or Cabin Crew, crew member responsible for the safety of passengers.
From the start of military aviation, additional crew members have flown on military aircraft, over time these duties have expanded and become more specialised:
- Air gunner, crew member responsible for the operation of defensive weapons, for example gun turrets.
- Bombardier or Bomb Aimer is a crew member for the release of ordnance particularly bombs.
- Boom operator, crew member on tanker aircraft responsible for operating the flying boom and the transfer of fuel.
- Combat systems officer
- Crew chief, an enlisted aircraft mechanic responsible for the maintenance and preparation of the aircraft.
- Flight engineer, a crew member responsible for engines, systems and fuel management.
- Flight officer
- Flight surgeon, not involved in the operation of the aircraft but is considered by some militaries to be aircrew.
- Loadmaster, crew member responsible for loading freight and personnel and the weight and balance of the aircraft.
- Navigator, a crew member responsible for air navigation. Still actively trained and licensed in some present day militaries, as electronic navigation aids can not be assumed to be operational during warfare.
- Rescue swimmer
- Signaller or radio operator, crew member responsible for the operation of the aircraft communications systems.
- Tactical coordinator
- Weapon Systems Operator
- UK Civil Aviation Authority CAP804
- Stringman, D.C. (Flt. Lt.). The History of the Air Engineer: Training in the Royal Air Force, U.K.: RAF Finningley, 1984, pp. 39–43.
- Cox, John. Ask the Captain: What does the flight engineer do?, USA Today, March 23, 2014. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Eldridge, Andrea. Confessions of a Flight Engineer: Flashlights, timers, and breath mints required, Air & Space Smithsonian magazine, November 2011.
- Grierson, Mike. Aviation History—Demise of the Flight Navigator, FrancoFlyers.org website, October 14, 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
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