14 CFR 1.1 includes the following definitions related to crewmembers:

Crewmember means a person assigned to perform duty in an aircraft during flight time.

Flightcrew member means a pilot, flight engineer, or flight navigator assigned to duty in an aircraft during flight time.

Some of the regulations (although not all instances) also refer to a required crewmember.

Anecdotaly I have heard of people being assigned as a crewmember on the spot so that they could fly in an aircraft that is limited to "crewmembers only" (i.e. some world war two era aircraft, etc.) by saying something like:

"If the normal gear extension fails during this flight, then you will be responsible to pull this emergency handle over here. Okay, got it?"

I'm not sure whether or not that would technically qualify someone as a crewmember, so are there any legal interpretations from the FAA or any guidance on what actually does qualify someone as a crewmember?

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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't be surprised if the emergency gear guy is considered a crewmember. Jumpseaters are considered additional crewmembers and they are basically just another set of eyes and ears. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Mar 18, 2014 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @casey Yeah, I've heard of a few different operators doing similar things. I'm just trying to track down what is technically required by the FAA in order to be considered a crewmember. :) $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Mar 18, 2014 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ Your example is probably a military thing rather than a flight regulation thing: i.e. the military forbids passengers on some flight, so an arbitrary duty is found for a person who wants to fly. The real crew would probably be in trouble if it came to light. $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2014 at 13:05

2 Answers 2


I'll take a stab at this one, though I can't guarantee the correctness of my interpretation (the regs don't seem exactly clear on the subject - at least not to me, so there's a lot more "inference" here than I'd normally be comfortable with).

In most cases under Part 91 the only requirement to be a "crewmember" is that the pilot in command says you're a crewmember -- i.e. the PIC determines that a person is qualified to perform a specific duty and designates them to perform it.
In the absence of anything more specific this is the only requirement I can turn up (and it's an inferred requirement - I didn't find anything specifically stating this, but 91.533 regarding flight attendants strongly implies that it's the correct interpretation. There's also a counsel opinion from 2008 - the Schehr letter which talks a little about who is a "crewmember" for purposes of riding in jumpseats that are placarded "For Crew Use Only". That interpretation is based on Part 135, but could be logically extended to Part 91 (and possibly some 121) operations too).

There are frequently more specific requirements though, particularly for positions that are important to flight operations. For example if you buy yourself a nice shiny Lockheed Electra to duplicate Amelia Earhart's trip under Part 91 rules you still cannot simply designate someone off the street to be the Flight Navigator: the FAA has specific requirements for Flight Navigator certification, and someone acting as the flight navigator would need to meet those requirements.

There are also more stringent requirements that are imposed for Part 121 and 135 operators. For example they can't simply designate a person as a flight attendant based on the PIC's determination that they are qualified: There are requirements for filling that crew position which must be met (FAR 121.421 & FAR 135.295 respectively, and possibly other regulations).

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I appreciate the research. However, my question is about a general crew member, and not the requirements for a flight attendant or flight navigator. 91.533 outlines what the PIC must confirm in order to determine that they are qualified as a flight attendant, but what about "other than flight attendants" and non-required crew members? $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Mar 21, 2014 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger by extension from 91.533 (at least under part 91, and on simple aircraft) the broad standard is "The PIC finds you qualified to perform <insert duty here>, and assigns you to perform that duty" unless a more specific regulation applies (so the "gear guy" in your example is, as best I can tell, a legitimate crewmember - though the restriction's spirit is probably required crewmembers). "More specific regulations" seem to apply in most practical cases though (e.g. even part 91 Fractional Ownership ops have to deal with 91.1083 for anyone they want to designate as a "crewmember"). $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Mar 21, 2014 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, I read that as "The PIC find you qualified to perform flight attendant duties, and assigns you to perform that duty." I don't see anything that would allow it to be extended to some other duty.... $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Mar 21, 2014 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger Digging back from the counsel interpretation I just added to the answer someone be found qualified & assigned to perform "server" duties (feeding people, but not any of the flight attendant safety stuff), a mechanic can be a crewmember (presumably if diagnosing engine faults), etc. - At least under Part 135 designating someone as a crewmember triggers other requirements though (like "[their] duties and responsibilities must be included in the air carrier's general operations manual." - presumably to preclude designating a random person off the street as "the gear guy") $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Mar 21, 2014 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I just finished reading the interpretation that you just added and it is pretty much exactly what I was looking for, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Mar 21, 2014 at 15:54

I'm not aware of a glossary anywhere that defines all the possible types of required crew, but I can name some.

The important thing is that the definition of "required crew" varies based on the requirements of the flight, not the certification of the aircraft. Required crew are also those crew required to safely operate the aircraft under the conditions of the flight. For instance, a photographer (who has no other duties) is not "required" crew even if the purpose of the flight is to conduct photography.

First you have the crew required by FAA regulations:

Obviously, the pilot, and co-pilot if required. Along the same lines, an instructor, safety pilot, or examiner would also be considered required crew if required by the flight (if the pilot is not rated in the aircraft, or is wearing a view limiter, etc.) Also, relief pilots, if the duration of the flight is long enough.

Navigators and flight engineers, although few aircraft still need engineers and navigators are basically obsolete now.

Flight attendants, if the aircraft carries more than nine passengers.

If the aircraft is carrying hazardous materials, then a cargo specialist might be required.

Where the definition of "required" and "crew" gets a little sloppy is when it comes to experimental aircraft. If the aircraft is something like a new airliner prototype, then the engineers will have produced a mountain of paperwork detailing exactly what the crewmembers are and what they need to do. But for amateur-built or ex-military aircraft, "required" is a bit more nebulous. One particular case is the Commemorative Air Force's B-29, which the CAF likes to fly with extra engineering crew that the USAF didn't use when they operated it: http://www.avweb.com/news/pelican/182150-1.html?redirected=1 The FAA isn't always thrilled about this, even where there's an engineering justification for it. An ad-hoc "emergency gear lever crewman" on what amounts to a pleasure ride would be one of those wink-and-nudge cases that, if the flight actually experienced a problem, would probably incur some ill will from the FAA or NTSB investigators.

Anecdotally, I've also heard of amateur-built aircraft taking up two crew on testing flights, one to fly the plane and another as, essentially, a flight engineer, especially if the engine being used is not an ordinary Lycoming/Continental.

In the US, regulations restrict the use of the jump seats only to approved persons, such as a relief pilot, company check pilot, or someone else who "belongs there."

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer, but my question is specifically about the term "crewmember" and not "required crewmember". For this particular term, I don't care if they are required or not. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Mar 19, 2014 at 3:39

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