Aviation Law 101

semperfido

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Part 91-This is a hypothetical question regarding legal resposibility. A Gulfstream biz jet has three assigned pilots on board due to length of the leg and all are Captains. There are two pilots are in the cockpit during landing and the Company assigned Captain who is the FP assigned PIC, is in the Crew Rest. The aircraft slides off the runway. Who is legally responsible?
 
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avbug

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That depends on what you mean by "legally responsible." The company, having operational control is legally responsible. The pilot flying, having direct operational control, is legally responsible. The pilot in command for that leg, is legally responsible.

That the company designates one pilot as the "captain" has no bearing on the issue, except on a subjective basis in civil court. But in civil court, anything can happen.

From a FAA regulatory point of view the Pilot in Command is responsible for the safe outcome of the flight. If one pilot is in crew rest, a different pilot should be acting as PIC for that leg. If the captain elects to remain PIC but sleeps, he shoulders the full repsonsibility for the actions of the crew. Additionally, the crewmembers are culpable for their own actions, along with the PIC who accepts their actions as his own.

That the three are "captains" means nothing.
 

semperfido

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avbug said:
That the three are "captains" means nothing.
it means that any one of the three could act as PIC.
 
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AA717driver

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Why do you ask... ;) TC
 

FlyFlyFly

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How could a pilot in "rest" function as PIC? That totally defies common sense, though I am sure that would not constrain a regulatory ruling. I would tend to think the pilot functioning as PIC would be most culpable with the other "on duty" pilot coming in second, and the guy sleeping would come in 3rd, unless of course the crew on duty was drinking and being reckless before the pilot in rest fell asleep.
 

Spooky 1

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If the PIC is dumb enough to be sleeping while the other two PIC qualified pilots are landing then he deserves what ever comes his way. A well thought out company manual would require all pilots to be at their stations during T.O., climb and descent and landing. Now having said that I believe their is adequate case law that will hold the designated PIC responsible for the conduct and performance of the crew, even though the PIC may not be in the control seat. Some 121 carriers use two Capt.'s just to make sure this base is covered and two F/O's on trips over 12+ just to make sure this issue is covered.
 

GravityHater

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FlyFlyFly said:
How could a pilot in "rest" function as PIC?
better yet, why would such a pilot actively choose to accept that responsibility if he did not have to??
 

semperfido

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FlyFlyFly said:
How could a pilot in "rest" function as PIC? .
he can't. there can only be one pic at any given time- the individual in the left seat is so designated. when the crew rotates seats enroute the pic designation shifts. so we would have three different pics on the same leg. :)
 
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501261

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3rd Pilot?

On the same lines, regarding the 3 man crew, what would be the legal status of the 3rd Pilot? Assuming the same 14 hour scenario, where the airplane slides off the runway at the end of the trip, would the 3rd pilot have any "legal" responsibility? Remember for Pt91 operations that 3rd pilot is not required to be there.

Now for a practical question to those of you that use 3 man crews for long days, does your Ops manual actually state what the 3rd crewmember is supposed to do? IOW do you actively involve him in the procedures (i.e., reading checklists, talking on the radio), or is he simply supposed to be an extra set of eyes and ears?
 

ackattacker

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semperfido said:
he can't. there can only be one pic at any given time- the individual in the left seat is so designated. when the crew rotates seats enroute the pic designation shifts. so we would have three different pics on the same leg. :)
I'm sorry, but this is incorrect. Maybe for your operations this is true, but it's not universal. There is nothing inherently sacrosanct about the left seat. The PIC can sit in the right seat, or get up and take a wiz, leaving two SIC's in the seats. Depends what your GOM says. It doesn't matter who sits where. But who's PIC does need to be clear, by company policy or mutual agreement.

For my company, if two captain qualified pilots are flying the PIC is designated on the flight release but they can sit wherever they want.
 

some_dude

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If the crew in the original question was 135, then clearly the PIC was responsible no matter where in the aircraft he was.

If they were 91, it's murkier, since there is no legal requirement for more than two pilots. Generically, I'd say the PIC was still responsible.

dispatcher121 said:
How does your Ops Specs define the heavy crew and their duties and responsibilities?
Under 135, with a 3-man crew, each pilot can spend only 8 hours "on the flight deck." So the pilot who is off duty must be somewhere else, presumably in the crew rest area.

Also, IIRC, under 135 the crew must consist of 2 PICs and an SIC or 3 PICs. This stuff is all in the regulations, not in ops specs.

dispatcher121 said:
Since there are three captain qualified pilots, the pilot flying the left seat would be the person the FAA would assume to be responsible unless your operations manual specifies otherwise.JMHO
Not likely.
 

avbug

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it means that any one of the three could act as PIC.

Again, not relevant, as only one may be acting as PIC. The qualification or potential to fill that position isn't relevant to the discussion.

he can't. there can only be one pic at any given time- the individual in the left seat is so designated. when the crew rotates seats enroute the pic designation shifts. so we would have three different pics on the same leg.
Again, not enough information is given. Is the flight being conducted under Part 91 privately as a corporate flight, Part 91K, or 135?

Unless it's conducted under 91K or 135, then what the company has to say about who is pilot in command doesn't make much difference. Who is acting as PIC? The mere act of sitting in the left seat does not make someone a pilot in command. If the three pilots agree among themselves to take on that responsibility and are qualified to do so, then so be it, but merely sitting in that seat doesn't make the person PIC, nor does holding a "captain" authorization do so either.

Again, if you're talking civil duty or liability, with respect to "legality," then all common sense goes out the window as just about anything is possible.
 

semperfido

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ackattacker said:
I'm sorry, but this is incorrect. Maybe for your operations this is true, but it's not universal.
i stand corrected. i meant for our ops. not universal.


avbug said:
Again, not enough information is given. Is the flight being conducted under Part 91 privately as a corporate flight, Part 91K, or 135?
Part 91. Let's narrow the discussion to from just a Regulatory point of view.

To summarize it depends on what it says in the individual operators Operations Manual. Is this correct?
 
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fokkerjet

Whoevers name is listed on the flight plan as PIC will be the PIC in an incident / accident; just because you have a type rated pilot in the left seat doesn't make that person PIC, just the PF. In our ops manual, its stated that the "Captain" may be seated in the right seat but is still PIC even though not acting as the PF.
 

semperfido

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fokkerjet said:
Whoevers name is listed on the flight plan as PIC will be the PIC in an incident / accident;
......and if that pilot is in crew rest or not in the cockpit at the time?:)
 

Spooky 1

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Simply put, duties remain with the seat. Command authority cannot be transfered to another pilot without a very structured procedure. I believe that NWA does this, or did it in the past. It would take a phone patch and another 10 minute process to complete the transfere.
 
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fokkerjet

semperfido said:
......and if that pilot is in crew rest or not in the cockpit at the time?:)
The Captain gets up to "take a leak", and while away from his station, the F/O is issued a descent clearance. For some reason the new altitude is "busted", is the Captain responsible?

I'm not sure of the answer to this, but American Airlines used to fly with an International F/O on legs requiring a 3rd pilot. When the Captain was in "crew rest", who's PIC now? One of the F/O's, or the Captain sitting in the cabin? I'd venture to guess the Captain in the cabin is still PIC.
 
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G4G5

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fokkerjet said:
Whoevers name is listed on the flight plan as PIC will be the PIC in an incident / accident; just because you have a type rated pilot in the left seat doesn't make that person PIC, just the PF. In our ops manual, its stated that the "Captain" may be seated in the right seat but is still PIC even though not acting as the PF.
This is the way I understand the law to be.

In your hypothetical case, it would be up the the PIC to prove to the FAA (if you are lucky enough to have this happen in the US) that he was not in control of the aircraft. At AA we had two relief pilots (both FO's) get lost on a crossing. By the time the captain came back from his rest break the FO's had discovered their errors and corrected the situtation. They never told the CA about the GNE. The next thing the CA gets is a letter asking to explain what happened. No one cared that two FO's were flying the aircraft.

Bottom line the union was able to get him off the hook but they were only able to do so because he was not in the cockpit at the time of the GNE.

In your case the "Captain" in on the jump seat. So, he is in the cockpit, he is responsible. Getting back to what Foker said, if your name is on the flight plan your name will be on the letter from the feds. Either that or sit in the rest/bunk room for landing.
 
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fokkerjet

G4G5 said:
Bottom line the union was able to get him off the hook but they were only able to do so because he was not in the cockpit at the time of the GNE.
Could it have been because the Captain was "off duty" at the time and not just out of the cockpit? Required crew rest by regulations?
 

Spooky 1

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I can assure from some first hand experience and knowledge that if the PIC sat in the back, or was in the crew rest for landing he/she would probably be terminated, much less violated at a US carrier. In addition, up until just recently on the B777 OHCR, these areas are not approved for T.O., and landing occupancy.

I would agree completely that if the PIC/Capt. was in the crew rest/head/pax seat and the operating crew members did something to cause an incident, there would obviously be mitigating circumsatnces surounding the PIC/Capt. responsibilities as associated with that event. His name would still be on the letter from the FAA though. As for being "off duty". I don't think so. You are on duty, but resting so word smithing your excuse probably will not work.
 
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