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Who's In Charge?
2007-10-11

Who's In Charge?

Low time instructors have most of the 'Who's in Charge?' kind of difficulty. This is because they have not had the opportunity for making the decisions. There are several kinds of situations that require this kind of experience and knowledge. Any exchange of control should be predicated on the assumption that the exchange will improve and not exacerbate a situation.

Low time instructors tend to delay taking over the controls when dealing with an advanced student. No instructor should make assumptions about the capabilities of a student that will delay assumption of control when safety parameters are exceeded. These safety conditions are most likely to occur during the approach and landing phases. Every instructor should precede the flight with a comprehensive review of what will be covered specifically directed toward situations conducive toward distraction.

VERY specific control transfer is required when...

  1. A problem exists relative to safety.
    This can be so simple as not clearing, yoke position while taxiing, cross-control turns, procedure errors, airspeed, trim, etc.

  2. Related to a transfer of control.
    The CFI should make prior arrangement with anyone having access to the cockpit controls as to what he will say in taking over control of the aircraft. The exchange of control authority should be explicit and positive.

  3. Conflict of control exists
    Where prior arrangements of control authority have not been made and no positive exchange is made, both pilots may be working at cross-purposes. Control manipulations become exaggerated due to the mix of control forces. An accident usually results.

  4. Nobody is in control
    This occurs when the pilot in control 'gives up' and expects the other pilot (CFI) to take over and salvage a situation. The CFI may refuse or fail to recognize the control transfer. You will only get away with 'nobody' in control if the aircraft is trimmed for its flight situation.

  5. Failure to Communicate in the cockpit
    Confusion in the transfer of control any one of the above situations can arise if prior arrangements are not made. "I got it" is ambiguous. "I have the controls" is less ambiguous. This statement requires that the other pilot respond with, "You have the controls" Using the word airplane in these phrases is ambiguous in that the reference could be to traffic.

  6. The competent pilot does not need to prove anything.
    Being competitive and a winner are not traits that apply to the flying of light planes. Aerobatics and the military are reserved spaces for these traits. Soloing is not the goal or end-all of flying. Competence and safety are what we are after on every flight. Our life ambition is to become an old pilot. (What, again!) All you prove is stupidity if you fly in a manner or situation to prove something. Competence is shown most often by not flying, than by flying.

Written by Gene Whitt

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