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A flight is made in severe weather conditions with the following flight crew composition:

The newly upgraded captain has a total flight time of 5 200 hours, most of which is on the type currently flown. His copilot, who has just recently joined the company, has a total flight time of 15 000 hours. Previously, he has been flying similar aircraft types. The copilot is currently pilot flying (PF), the captain is pilot monitoring (PM). On final approach, the DH is passed and sufficient visual contact cannot be made. The copilot continues the approach with the words “I will make it”; the captain does not react.

Which statement is correct according to composition?

  • A
    The crew basically displayed good CRM, but miscommunication occurred.
  • B
    A mismatch of role and status occurred.
  • C
    The roles have been correctly assigned and discussed during the preflight briefing, but the captain should have acknowledged.
  • D
    The captain should not question his more experienced colleague during final approach, but should have been more helpful providing data.

Responsibilities in the cockpit are defined by the role that is assigned by the airline; however, people tend to build a hierarchy based on status instead. This poses a threat to safe operations in aviation and the resulting uncertainty about decision-making power creates tension.

This being said, the copilot as the pilot with more experience in terms of flying hours, may have a higher status. Some high-status individuals find it difficult or are uncomfortable to move to a perceived “lower” role. This may generate a mismatch between status and role. However, hours should not determine role on the flight deck. It is important to keep in mind that the final decision always lies with the captain. In this case, due to the perceived inversion of the authority gradient, the captain has not made the safety-relevant decision that was required.

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