According to this article on afspc.af.mil, the first officer of the 737 the pilot in the story was flying with had never taxied a 737. Is this normal?

The exact quote in the article:

After landing, the first officer turned to Gongol and asked if he knew where to taxi, she had never been to the Omaha airport before. Taken aback by how cool, calm and collected the first officer had acted without knowing the airport, Gongol remembered landing at the airport before pilot training.

"Surprisingly, taxiing was the most stressful part of the day for the first officer," said Gongol. "She had never taxied a 737 before and the ATC had no idea that the pilot was the reason for the emergency. We had to make a quick decision that her switching to the pilot's seat and taxiing the aircraft without the training was necessary to save the captain's life."

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    $\begingroup$ "never taxied" != "doesn't know how to taxi" $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2014 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ According to the story the FO had never taxied a 737, never been at that airport before and was "taxiing the aircraft without training". I suspect this means the FO had taxied other aircraft types at other airports and did "know how to taxi" in general, just not this aircraft type at an unfamiliar location. $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2014 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ In some airplanes, there is no tiller on the first officer side, so they are unable to taxi. Even on those that do have a tiller on both sides, it often a captain-only duty per the CFM. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Jun 7, 2014 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @casey: this answer might be relevant, especially the point about captain overriding the company policy of not allowing F/O to do this or that. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jun 9, 2014 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ @casey Here is a picture showing a tiller only on the left. $\endgroup$
    – Farhan
    Jun 12, 2014 at 20:25

1 Answer 1


After reading that article carefully, here's what appeared to have happened:

  • Pilot collapses

  • Passenger-with-pilots-license comes to flight deck (with both elitist and sexist chip on his shoulder)

  • First officer moves to left seat, PwPL takes right seat, runs the radios and checklists, maybe drops the gear.

First Officer is a right-seat qualification, on 737s (and many others) the steering handle is on the left side.

So it's quite possible that the FO has never steered a 737 on the ground. It's quite IMpossible that the FO has never taxied an aircraft of any kind before. And there's a huge difference between driving a Gulfstream around and driving a 130-passenger jet around.

If you don't take a corner just right, the main gear ends up in the ditch, the wing hits the ground, the engine inhales grass, gravel and maybe the taxiway sign and a couple of gophers. Trashing a Ferrari is cheaper.

The FO moving to the left seat and flying the plane was the correct action - the B-1 pilot was no more qualified to fly a 737 than I am. But radios are radios, and even the greenest flight attendant can read a checklist.

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    $\begingroup$ Chip-on-shoulder-wise, I particularly like "we made the decisions". That is to say, the FO made the decisions how to get the plane down, and the USAF pilot made the decision not to hijack it. Also, "ATC had no idea the pilot was the reason for the emergency". Whose fault is that, Capt. operating-the-radio? ;-) Not to say he didn't do the right things, but I wonder if the journalist has got a bit carried away with the military here. $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2014 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ @SteveJessop, the author of the article is a member of the Air Force, so I suspect that sort of spin is normal.... for them. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Jun 9, 2014 at 22:07

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