Sharing the joy of flying with another in the cockpit makes flying infinitely more rewarding. And it should be a lot safer too, right? Well, that depends. Most of us who learned to fly in general aviation have no training in sharing the cockpit, and sometimes the interaction is contrary to safety.
Martha and I have been flying together for over 43 years now, and I have to admit we haven’t always gotten along all that well together in an airplane. Getting along in an airplane requires mutual respect and a strong desire to share flying, but we’ve come to understand that these alone are not enough. We have discovered some tools that make it easier for flying partners to work well together in an airplane.
Now when Martha and I are flying together, the person monitoring uses the word ‘Captain’ when addressing the flying pilot. When our passengers hear this, they think we’re joking. But we find that the pilot flying accepts input far better when addressed as ‘Captain’. Plus the person not flying frames their comments more thoughtfully and respectfully.
Also important is agreeing in advance on what help each pilot should expect from the other. Once Martha, as the non-flying pilot, switched the frequencies on the navigation radio I was using to shoot an ILS. I didn’t notice the flags and thought the centered needles meant I was doing a fantastic job.
Whether you are flying an aircraft for which two pilots are required, or sharing your flying with a passenger, the second person in the cockpit can relieve the workload, improve situational awareness, trap errors and make flying more fun.
But if you don’t know the principles of crew resource management, you can work at cross purposes with each other. If you fly with someone in the cockpit frequently, look for the upcoming release of our new course on Crew Resource Management. It is designed for pilots in a two-pilot crew, but I think you will find that it will make sharing the cockpit with any frequent companion at lot safer, and a lot more fun—trust me, we know.