As a First Officer, when you sit inside the cockpit to meet the crew but having a talk with the PIC, Do you have a talk explaining that if he makes a wrong decision, you as FO will take controls if it jeopardizes safety?

Reason I asked is because, we are all humans and we are subjected to life outside of flying, what if the captain isn't having a good day etc.. and his judgement is clouded, you offer solutions to the problem but he ignores them and pushes on.

Can you as FO take control?

I guess thats where PIC comes into action but if there be a reason where the PIC isn't making good decisions how can you as a FO handle that situation?


2 Answers 2


Do you have a talk explaining that if he makes a wrong decision, you as FO will take controls if it jeopardizes safety?

Sitting in both right and left seat for 20+ years of airline operations, I've never heard anybody say any such thing in a crew briefing, and if somebody did in roughly those terms, I'd have to evaluate whether this pilot has their own set of hazardous attitudes to such an extent that we may not go flying together today.

First, crew briefings are not meant to cover every SOP in the book... they'd be hours long, and even then you'd probably leave something out. It's important to give the other pilot that you're flying with some idea of where you're at -- new, experienced, by-the-book, hyper-by-the-book, relaxed, stressed, whatever. But beyond a fairly high level statement of "I'll try to do things with no surprises; if something looks wrong then I'm probably in left field, so laugh at me, ask the question, whatever you need to & I'll get back on track and we'll keep going," I'm not going to hammer the standards too hard. (It was always a little insulting when a Captain who'd never flown with me started off with "I fly by the book & expect you to do so as well" -- you assume, never having met me, that I wouldn't unless you introduce yourself like that? Really??)

A default set of assumptions is that when the FO knows what the Captain expects, he can adapt (i.e. is this a 3-day check ride, be on your best behavior, is this "do whatever (within unstated limits)", is this a relaxed but professional middle ground), and I don't need to tell him to "be professional." And at the same time, he can assume that I didn't wake up today planning to do anything stupid or unsafe.

Obviously, if one pilot slumps over incapacitated, of course the other pilot will take the controls & do whatever's necessary to get the airplane on the ground safely. Nobody briefs that.

If the FO has a question or a problem with a decision the Captain is making, it's expected that he'll voice his concerns, professionally, and the crew will find a satisfactory solution. Again, other than a general statement to put an FO at ease that I'm open to those sorts of inputs, that's not typically briefed in great detail by either pilot.

If the two pilots simply can't agree on a course of action, then the situation gets harder. Legally, the Captain is the Pilot In Command, and the final call is his. The FO isn't without options, but "I'll take the aircraft from you if I don't like what you're doing" is pretty drastic. As in, if the FO turns out to be wrong, their continued employment at that airline may soon be under discussion.

For an FO to include a statement like what's in the OP in his briefing would send a pretty strong signal that he's looking for an opportunity to do that, expects that it may be at least somewhat likely that he'll need to do that, or something similar. Given that he probably has less experience than the Captain, that's a pretty extreme attitude.

I've had trips as an FO that felt like a multi-day check ride, and they're no fun but sometimes that's just the nature of the Captain (typically, a wanna-be check pilot) you fly with. For an FO to suggest that the Captain is going to be getting a multi-day evaluation by someone junior and less experienced... well, that probably wouldn't go over very well.

There are plenty of ways for an FO to communicate that they are competent, professional, and by-the-book, without coming across as hostile or aggressive. A statement like what's in the OP wouldn't be in that category.

  • $\begingroup$ Probably not OP's intent, but I've definitely heard urgent transfer of control being briefed in a IOE/training situation. It's certainly important there to avoid dual control mishaps. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 1:00

With respect to your question: "Can you as FO take control?"

In my opinion, it would be only under the rarest of circumstances that this would be a reasonable or justifiable course of action. The scope of the "rarest of circumstances" is too broad and indeterminate to define precisely.

Crew Resource Management (CRM) programs/training (now mandatory in most parts of the aviation world - FAA, EASA, ICAO. etc.) was developed as a result of accident and incident analysis.

One of the key drivers of mandatory CRM training is aimed at the interaction between the Captain and First Officer. For example, the importance of the assertiveness of the First Officer, with respect to challenging the Captain's actions/decision-making, if the First Officer believes safety of flight is potentially being jeopardized.

CRM training programs (originally in the U.S. called "Cockpit Resource Management") have evolved and are vastly more inclusive now involving pilots, flight attendants, maintenance personnel, dispatchers, etc., and are generally mandatory.

In the U.S. the FAA has guidance on CRM programs - (AC120-51E).


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