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Who determines whether someone is flying as pilot or Co Pilot?

LaFway

New Member
This is a question I have been wondering for quite some time now. I haven't been able to find any answers on this topic. In a 2 person helicopter who determines whether someone is going to be a Co Pilot or Commanding Pilot? Is it determined by rank? Will the Co Pilot one day be able to become the Commanding Pilot?
Thanks in advance for the responses.
 

Slingblade

Huge Member
pilot
I look at it more as pilot at controls (PAC) or pilot not at controls (PNAC). What you are referring to mostly I believe is who is the aircraft commander. Typically that is the more experienced of the crew members but not always. Aircraft commander is a qualification you earn after a certain amount of experience is gained. It's called different things in different communities. Attack Helicopter Commander or AHC in the Cobra world or Utility Helicopter Commander UHC in the Huey world. Most communities just refer to it as Helicopter aircraft commander or HAC. It's basically the one who signs for the aircraft and takes responsibility for the flight. That's simply put without going into all the OPNAV definitions. You will start out as a Helicopter 2nd pilot after initial training and work your way up to being an aircraft commander. Who flies and who works the aircraft systems depends on the mission and how the aircraft commander wants to run it to get the mission accomplished. For my community after aircraft commander you work your way up to Section Lead where you are responsible for leading two aircraft. Then from there you work towards instructor ratings and division lead where you're leading a flight of 3 or more aircraft. The bigger the flight and more responsibilities I would have the more I'd typically have the other guy fly and I would manage the systems and the conduct of the flight. With that said often the PAC and PNAC could change throughout the flight based on what needs to be done and who is in the best position to get it done either due to experience proficiency or who has higher situational awareness at the time. There is a big long answer that may clear it up for you.
 

LaFway

New Member
I look at it more as pilot at controls (PAC) or pilot not at controls (PNAC). What you are referring to mostly I believe is who is the aircraft commander. Typically that is the more experienced of the crew members but not always. Aircraft commander is a qualification you earn after a certain amount of experience is gained. It's called different things in different communities. Attack Helicopter Commander or AHC in the Cobra world or Utility Helicopter Commander UHC in the Huey world. Most communities just refer to it as Helicopter aircraft commander or HAC. It's basically the one who signs for the aircraft and takes responsibility for the flight. That's simply put without going into all the OPNAV definitions. You will start out as a Helicopter 2nd pilot after initial training and work your way up to being an aircraft commander. Who flies and who works the aircraft systems depends on the mission and how the aircraft commander wants to run it to get the mission accomplished. For my community after aircraft commander you work your way up to Section Lead where you are responsible for leading two aircraft. Then from there you work towards instructor ratings and division lead where you're leading a flight of 3 or more aircraft. The bigger the flight and more responsibilities I would have the more I'd typically have the other guy fly and I would manage the systems and the conduct of the flight. With that said often the PAC and PNAC could change throughout the flight based on what needs to be done and who is in the best position to get it done either due to experience proficiency or who has higher situational awareness at the time. There is a big long answer that may clear it up for you.
Awesome. That was a great response, thanks so much for the information.
 

Slingblade

Huge Member
pilot
Awesome. That was a great response, thanks so much for the information.
Yep. I guess who ultimately decides who the aircraft commander is, is the Commanding Officer when he signs the flight schedule. That's based on the qualifications of the particular aircrew for a given mission. Those crew pairings are looked at by his staff before it goes to him. But ultimately who signs for the COs aircraft is the COs decision.
 

rotorhead1871

UH-1N.....NAS Agana, Guam....circa 1975
pilot
This is a question I have been wondering for quite some time now. I haven't been able to find any answers on this topic. In a 2 person helicopter who determines whether someone is going to be a Co Pilot or Commanding Pilot? Is it determined by rank? Will the Co Pilot one day be able to become the Commanding Pilot?
Thanks in advance for the responses.
its on the flight schedule....who signs for the aircraft. unless you have a code on board, as they can take command of the flight. but the PIC is the AC and signs for the aircraft.
 

sickboy

Well-Known Member
pilot
For sake of argument, would a Flag rank medical corps officer be considered a code but also incapable of taking command of the aircraft?

3710 says "eligible for command at sea or shore". I think the RL/staff corp flags can command ashore. Not something I ever thought about.
 

Uncle Fester

Robot Pimp
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
For sake of argument, would a Flag rank medical corps officer be considered a code but also incapable of taking command of the aircraft?
Yes. I know what 3710 says, but codes are for rendering honors, letting a base CO know a flag-or-higher is arriving aboard, etc. Nothing really to do with authority in the aircraft. If you had a flag URL aboard and he ordered you to, say, change destination - well, presumably he's aboard because you're taking him somewhere, so okay. But otherwise, I can't imagine any flag attempting to 'take command' of a flight in any plausible scenario.

Pops had a 1LT General (as in, surname "General") in his squadron. Got yelled at by a base air ops guy who'd heard he had a LTG on board but no code on the flight plan.

@LaFway It's not uncommon at all in my experience for a more junior guy to be AC/MC even when flying with the Skipper or XO. The AC/MC is responsible for flight/mission planning, which can take a while, and the senior guys have senior guy stuff to do. Plus it's good for more junior guys to get that experience.
 

mad dog

is friends with the world famous poopy eared owl
pilot
Contributor
...It's not uncommon at all in my experience for a more junior guy to be AC/MC even when flying with the Skipper or XO. The AC/MC is responsible for flight/mission planning, which can take a while, and the senior guys have senior guy stuff to do. Plus it's good for more junior guys to get that experience.
Very true. I had a few flights in the SH-60B with the Skipper/XO where I was the HAC...felt sort of weird since I was a LTjg or LT...good experience none the less.
 

rotorhead1871

UH-1N.....NAS Agana, Guam....circa 1975
pilot
For sake of argument, would a Flag rank medical corps officer be considered a code but also incapable of taking command of the aircraft?
I never had it happen, but heard about it. probably needs to be an unrestricted line admiral. staff guys are just support characters.
 

DanMa1156

Land of the Milk and Honey.
pilot
Contributor
The question would occasionally come up in our HAC boards. Our squadron always interpreted it as URL officers.
 

HAL Pilot

Well-Known Member
None
Contributor
Back in the day, it had to be a flag "eligible for command at sea" which was interpreted as URL.
 

Gatordev

Well-Known Member
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
Pops had a 1LT General (as in, surname "General") in his squadron. Got yelled at by a base air ops guy who'd heard he had a LTG on board but no code on the flight plan.
I'd milk that for all it's worth. "Yeah, General is going to need a GOV waiting for us when we land."

While not quite the same thing, another similar and very routine scenario is flying with the Wing CDRE. He may not have signed for the bird that particular day, but obviously there's some potential for "perceived pressure."
 
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