I have been given cause recently to review the roles of Pilot Flying (PF) vs Pilot Monitoring (PM) during Normal (NM) and Non Normal (NNM) operations. This has come about from simulator observations of both relatively senior as well as relatively junior crew.


While most aircraft have a Captain and a First Officer with all the hierarchical rank structure that implies, once the aircraft starts under it’s own power there’s a Pilot Flying who is responsible for the aircraft’s flight path and all that entails; and a Pilot Monitoring who assists PF in achieving the desired flight path through mostly being directed by the PF; as well as handling Checklists, Radio and other less essential activities. PF/PM inherits a clear structure when it’s the Captan flying – it’s less clear when the First Officer is PF, particularly during circumstances that require command decision thinking (non normals, diversions, etc) — but that’s another topic altogether …

Traditionally the roles of the PF and PM have been divided up in the following way. There’s an element of order of importance in the following list of duties, but as you get further down the list it does become situational and subjective … This is by no means an exhaustive list as I’m only focussed on a small area of PF/PM Multi Crew flight operations.

PF : Flying The Aircraft (Flightpath, Speed, Attitude/Power/Thrust); Navigation; Configuration; NNM Oversight

PM : Monitoring (Flightpath, Speed, Attitude/Power/Thrust); Navigation & Configuration at the direction of the PF; Flight Management Computer (FMC) changes; Radios; Checklists; etc.

PF/PM is a Boeing nomenclature. Airbus (being different … very different … use “PNF” for Pilot Not Flying. I’m sure there’s a reason, perhaps even a good one … but I digress.

Note that while is the PM who actions configuration (Landing Gear, Flaps, etc) – the responsibility of configuration belongs to the PF – the PM actions them at the direction of the PF.

In addition, while changes to the FMC can come from the PF or ATC – they are actioned by the PM and if an execute light shows (which is the FMC’s way of requesting confirmation of the modification) – the PF is included in the confirmation process (PM : “Confirm?” … PF : “Execute”). Once again – the Responsibility belongs to the PF.

The primary role of the PF must always be Flying The Aircraft – nothing should be allowed to distract from this. This ranges from high workload periods such as manual flight on approach as well as the periods of lower cognitive load such as when the aircraft is under the control of the autopilot (which itself is under the control of the PF). It’s for this reason that less immediate items such as Configuration, FMC changes, Checklists, Communications etc are under the auspices of the PM.

PF vs PM : Who Flies; Who Talks; Who Configures; Who Briefs?

The issue at hand starts with the following assertions, and how these assertions stand up to the stress of a less than normal operation. While you would assume these roles are clearly defined – sometimes the devil is in the details, so to speak.

1. The PF should relinquish control of the aircraft prior to activities that will be a distraction from Flying The Aircraft. This includes setting up for the Descent/Approach and conducting an Arrival Briefing.

2. A task that detracts from the PF’s focus on flying the aircraft should be cause to hand over control. In some cases this may mean the PF having the radio as well. This would include items such as making a Passenger Address; Communication via Interphone with Cabin Crew; External Communications (Company, ATC, Weather, etc) on a second radio or Satphone; etc. These periods where the PF is solely responsible for aircraft operation should be kept to a minimum and most particularly minimised at high workload / high risk times such as low altitudes, near terrain, etc.

3. Anytime significant, multiple changes are made to an FMC – most particularly the setup of an FMC for an arrival/approach/landing – are made by a pilot – the other pilot is to cross check those settings, prior to the arrival briefing.

4. When control is handed over / taken over, the articulation of this is to be clear and all PF/PM responsibilities should be transferred – including Radio Communications … except … see #2

For the sake of clarity – in the rest of this article, assume that the Captain (CA) will be the pilot who flies the approach and landing; therefore it will be the First Officer (FO) who monitors the Captain during this approach and landing – along with actioning configuration, radio, checklists, etc.

Based on the above – when nearing destination, the Captain should setup for the approach. This includes selections in the FMC; review of arrival/approach charts and other documentation; Since this task can be expected to distract from flying the aircraft – the Captain should do so after handing control across to the FO. Once complete, the next task is for the FO to review the setup and self brief in preparation for the approach. This too will be a distracting task, and so control should be first handed back to the Captain. With both pilots in the loop, all that remains now is for a Arrival Briefing to be conducted by the Captain. Once again this could reasonably be seen as a distracting task, and so control is first handed back to the First Officer. With the briefing complete, the Captain takes back control and calls for the Descent Checklist.

16. Descent Preparation PF (pilot who will fly the approach) will normally hand control over to the PM (who will be the monitoring pilot during the approach) to prepare for the Descent and Approach. As a guide, preparation consists of some or all of the following actions/considerations, in any order determined to be suitable.

? Recall EICAS and Operational Notes. ? Obtain ATIS and if appropriate, updated TAF for Destination and Alternate. ? Review weather and NOTAMS for arrival and diversion. ? Select most likely FMC Runway/Approach, STAR and Transition. ? Review C1 Route and Airport Guide for specific station notes. ? Estimate Landing Weight and enter Flap Setting and VREF Speed. Consider likely groundspeed and Descent Rate on final. ? Set Approach Minima (Barometric and/or Radio Altimeter) ? Review and compare LIDO with FMC, cross-check LEGS page Tracks, Distances, Altitude and Speed Restrictions. ? Verify Approach, Missed Approach and Holding. For NPAs, validate FMC approach for LNAV and VNAV use. ? Verify Missed Approach Path against Chart. Consider the impact of auto-LNAV engagement if differences exist. ? Consider settings in NAV RAD, FIX, VNAV DES, DES FORECAST, OFFPATH DES, Approach RNP required, ALTN list. ? Assess likely arrival fuel and compare with Minimum Diversion Fuel required. ? Review Landing Distance Required and compare against Landing Distance Available. ? Consider likely taxiway exit and select an appropriate Autobrake setting. ? Review Taxi Route after landing in view of NOTAMS and likely parking stand.

Once complete, PF (pilot who will fly the approach) will take control back and PM (who will be the monitoring pilot during the approach) will prepare Charts and EFIS, and validate FMC settings for the Arrival Briefing.

It can be seen that this scenario involves four distinct control handover events where the CA and FO exchange PF/PM roles along with all the exchange of responsibilities this entails. In truth this is not the impediment it may seem to be with the mental mindset necessary to safely complete this changeover all but second nature to pilots. And while this clear protection of the primary task of the PF is crucial during periods of high workload and/or high risk (risk usually but not always meaning close to the ground) – there are times when all this is somewhat less than necessary.

Primarily this is not how we do things. In cruise, well before top of descent, typically the Captain (or whoever is flying the aircraft) will retain control while setting up for the approach. The First Officer will then complete a crosscheck and setup for the approach. The Captain will then conduct the Arrival Briefing. All of this is done without a change of control, with minimal increase in risk.

However once descent has commenced – and most particularly below 10,000 ft when the “Sterile Flight Deck” policy comes into play – we revert to the strict interpretation of PF/PM. For a standard Descent, Arrival, Approach and Landing – it’s very clearly understood who is flying the plane; who is doing the radio; who is calling for configuration changes; who is extending gear and flap; who is making changes in the FMC; who is confirming those changes; and who is in command of the aircraft (the Captain!).

It’s when the Descent, Arrival, Approach and Landing include “non-standard” items is when the debate comes it. In this I include:

– Change of Approach/Runway on Descent
– Missed Approach to a return same approach to the same runway
– Missed Approach to a return different approach/runway
– Missed Approach to a diversion to a nearby airport/approach/runway

All of these require the same basic three step process of (a) significant FMC changes (and some associated flight deck changes

I would like to raise this as an issue for further discussion (as necessary) to then widen/finalise (into a simpler set of guidelines that I have below) at the Standards Meeting. Please note the following is in part on the back of a review of the FTCM/FCOM; but also a large part on the way I