C172 Crew Procedures
Crew flight over southeastern Georgia, shortly after sunrise,
More than half of my logged time has been as part of a crew, so it should come as no surprise that I think flying in an effective crew environment is the safest way to operate any airplane. In the interest of passing on the procedures that have made our operations so safe, I figured I'd write them up. If you take nothing else away from this article, I hope you'll realize what I did some time ago -- in almost all circumstances, two heads are better than one.
Note that the procedures outlined here are specific to our aircraft. You are, however, welcome to adapt the principles set forth here to enhance the safety of your own operations.
Benefits of Crew Ops
If you fly by yourself most of the time (as most recreational pilots do), you're probably wondering how being part of a crew can apply to the flying you do. One of the things I noticed after I started flying in a crew environment is that I had a lot more time to focus on the details of flight that often escaped me as I struggled to manage the many aspects of flying an airplane in single-pilot IFR. Over the course of several hundred hours I honed my preflight and enroute planning skills, weather judgement, communications, IFR procedures knowledge, and a ton of other subjects.
In other words, flying in a crew environment made me a better pilot -- arguably faster than flying an equivalent number of hours single-pilot. Some pilots believe that they need to be "hands on throttle and stick" to advance as a pilot. This is simply not true, because there's a lot more to being a pilot today than stick and rudder skills. Interestingly, giving up some control will allow you a look more closely at how other people fly, and how other pilots may perceive your skills. Ultimately it's all about learning how to fly professionally, whether or not you collect a salary for your efforts.
Well, let's get started. First, I'll address the roles we assume in the crew environment, describe the proper use of checklists, and then walk through each phase of flight, from startup to shutdown, detailing the roles of each crewmember.
Pilot Flying, Pilot Monitoring, and PIC
You will note the use of these abbreviations throughout this document.
They are defined as follows:
- PF (Pilot Flying): This is the pilot with his hands on the controls.
- PM (Pilot Monitoring): This pilot does everything OTHER than that the PF does, meaning anything but physically fly the airplane. The PM typically handles the paperwork, communications, navigation, sets the heading bug for the PF and generally tells the PF where to go (as well as what route to follow) :-)
- PIC: This is the pilot who has the final legal authority for the flight in the eyes of the FAA. If a flight plan has been filed, the pilot whose name is on the flight plan is the PIC. If no flight plan is filed, the pilots must determine who is qualified to be PIC for the flight and mutually agree who is PIC. Since it's the PIC's name on the line the PIC can ultimately override any decision in the cockpit, no matter what role the PIC is currently assuming.
Note that being classified as the PM or PF has nothing to do with the seat the the crewmember occupies. For example, as a CFI, I'm trained to fly from the right seat, and I occasionally assume the role of PF from that seat.
Note also that either crewmember can be the official PIC.
What's a Flow?
What the heck is a flow? It's a memorized do-list that consists of a pattern for doing specific cockpit tasks. Each pattern begins and ends at a specific physical panel location and works through every switch and indicator between those two points to confirm settings for each phase of flight. Flows are the primary means by which the aircraft is configured to meet the needs of the current phase of flight.
Checklists are called Checklists for a reason. They're designed to CHECK an existing configuration (like that established by the prior execution of an associated flow). In other words, they're a backup to make sure all elements have been addressed. Put another way, you should indeed be surprised if a control setting does not match that specified in the checklist by the time you get around to reading it.
Each checklist element consists of a challenge and response. The PM will recite each challenge and the PF will respond with the current condition of the element or with the generic "check" or "set".
In the event that the PF wishes to acknowledge a discrepancy between the current state of the aircraft and a checklist challenge, he may respond to the challenge with "To Go". This response is commonly used when, for example, the PF elects to delay moving the mixture to the full rich position to reduce plug fouling or moving the propeller control to the high-rpm position to reduce the aircraft's noise signature while entering the airport traffic pattern. The PM should return to those checklist items declared "To Go" at a more appropriate time.
At the conclusion of every checklist, the PM will announce "<type> Checklist Complete" where <type> is the name of the checklist, e.g. "After Takeoff Checklist Complete".
The first order of business during the preflight process is to declare who will serve the PF and PM roles, and who is PIC for the flight.
In the airline world, the PM or First Officer almost always performs the walkaround. Because the PIC is ultimately responsible for the flight, our operations dictate that the PIC perform the walkaround. While that's happening, the other pilot readies aircraft paperwork, flight planning, performance calculations, etc.
When both pilots have completed their duties, they will brief each other on their results. This briefing should account for any squawks on the airplane and a discussion on how these squawks could affect the flight given the prevailing conditions.
The PIC will then ultimately decide whether the aircraft is airworthy and will be accepted for the flight.
Once both crewmembers are ready at their stations, each should indicate that they are ready for flight. The PF will then complete the Before Starting flow before calling for the Before Starting checklist.
There is only one type of starting procedure for this aircraft. That procedure is outlined in the Starting checklist and should be memorized and executed by PF after both crewmembers determine the area is clear for starting.
After start, the PM will acquire the latest weather observation / ATIS, receive the IFR route clearance, program the avionics to the extent possible, and brief the PF on the results. At a minimum, the briefing should include
- the prevailing weather conditions
- an overview of the clearance
If the PF has no questions or issues with the data, he will call for the "Before Taxi" checklist.
If a long taxi is expected, the PM may elect to program the route into the GPS during the taxi. Most of the items normally addressed on the Taxi checklist have been moved to the Before Taxi checklist to keep the Taxi checklist very simple so pilots spend their time looking outside while the aircraft is moving.
The PF will perform the Ground Check flow from memory and the PM will silently review the Ground Check checklist as the PF verifies each item is executed properly. When all items have been addressed, the PM will call out "Ground check complete".
The PF will perform the Before Takeoff flow and then call for "Before Takeoff" checklist.
The PM will then recite the initial heading and altitude, and selected V-speeds for the takeoff and initial climb.
The PF will then brief the takeoff procedure, emergency procedures, and expected actions of each pilot in the event of an emergency.
When cleared for takeoff, the PF will execute the In Position flow and then call for the In Position checklist.
Before the aircraft is taxied onto the runway, both pilots will verify short final and the runway are clear of traffic and call "final and runway clear".
The PF will taxi into position and bring power to 1800 RPM, which should roughly correspond to a MP reading of 18" at sea level.
The PM will then call out the actual RPM and Manifold Pressure rounded to the nearest whole number ("18 and 18") and then verify that all engine gauges are within expected parameters before calling out "Gauges Green".
Upon hearing "Gauges Green", the PF will apply takeoff power (full throttle, 2700RPM) and accelerate the aircraft.
Once the airspeed indicator begins to respond, the PM will call "Airspeed Alive".
If any instrument or engine problems dictate an aborted takeoff, either pilot can call "Abort, Abort, Abort", to which the PF will respond by reducing throttle to idle, closely tracking the runway centerline until at taxi speed, and then exit the runway (if possible).
At rotation speed of 52KIAS, the PM will call "Rotate" and the PF will then smartly rotate the aircraft to a pitch attitude that will produce the initial climb speed of 75KIAS.
Throughout the initial climb, the PM may, upon seeing higher-than-anticipated engine temperatures, call for a new climb speed, usually Vcc or the initial climb speed + 5K (80KIAS). If cooling issues persist, the PM will call out a climb speed increase in 5K increments until the problem abates. This is typically only necessary in very warm weather (95 degrees F surface OAT or higher).
By 1000ft AGL, the PF will have configured the aircraft for climb and completed After Takeoff flow.
At 1000 ft AGL, the PF will call "1000 feet", and the PF will call for the After Takeoff checklist.
During Climb or Descent
1000 feet before target altitude the PM will call "1000 to go" .
200 feet before target altitude the PM will call "200 to go" and an appropriate power percentage and power setting to achieve that percentage, e.g. "Power 2000 feet, 75%, 22 point 9, 24". 75% power is assumed unless otherwise declared during the preflight / route briefing.
At target altitude and after reaching cruise airspeed, the PF will perform the Cruise flow and then call for the Cruise checklist.
30NM from destination or prior to TOD
The PM will:
- acquire ATIS/Weather for the destination
- recalculate the landing data for the recommended runway and alternatives if necessary if the winds vary by more than 40 degrees or 10 knots from the data used for initial planning.
- populate the PF's yoke clip with the appropriate approach chart and his own clip with the airport diagram
- brief the airport environment, notams, the anticipated runway, landing performance, and the expected taxi route.
The PF will then call for the In Range checklist.
20 NM from destination
The PM will configure the avionics and other systems for the approach and missed approach procedures, including a timer for a non-precision approach other than an approach that does not require timing.
When done, the PM will call out "Approach configuration complete", to which the PF will respond by briefing the approach and then calling for the Approach checklist.
Several important callouts are made by the PM depending on the type of approach:
- If flying an ILS or localizer approach and the localizer begins to center, the PM will call "Localizer Alive".
- If flying a GPS or VOR approach, the call will be "Nav Alive".
- When flying a GPS approach and the green Approach lock indication illuminates, the PM will call "Approach Lock".
- If flying an ILS approach and the glideslope begins to center, the PM will call "Glideslope Alive".
A minimum of 1.0 mile before the final approach fix on a non-precision approach, or immediately following the "Glideslope Alive" callout, the FP will complete the landing flow and call for the Landing checklist.
At the FAF on an approach that requires missed approach timing, the PM will start the timer.
The PM also makes several important calls in the last 1000 feet of the approach:
- At 1000 feet above minimums, the PM will call "1000 to minimums"
- At 500 feet above minimums, the PM will call "500 to minimums". If weather is lower than 500 feet above minimums and the approach speed is higher than 90 KIAS, the PF may elect to slow the aircraft to maximize the time spent looking for the airport environment prior to reaching the missed approach point. This can be destabilizing, however, so it is optional.
- When reaching minimums, the PM will call "minimums"
During the approach the PM will look for the runway environment and the PF will remain focused on the instrumentation. When the runway environment is in sight the PM will call "Runway in sight", at which point the PF may transition to visual conditions and make the decision to land the airplane or go around.
When leaving minimums with the intention of landing, the PF will call out "Leaving Minimums".
If the runway environment is not in sight at the missed approach point, the PM will call "Missed Approach" and the PF will fly the aircraft on the missed approach course while the PM reports the missed approach to ATC.
At 1000 feet AGL on the climbout for the missed approach, the PM will call "1000 feet", to which the PF should respond by calling for the After Takeoff checklist.
After Landing / Taxi
After clearing the runway, the PF will complete the After Landing flow and call for the After Landing checklist.
Before taxi, the PM will obtain a taxi clearance (if necessary) and, using an airport diagram, brief the PF on the cleared taxi route. Additionally, the PM will guide the PF on the route during the taxi.
Shutdown and Postflight Procedures
Upon reaching the shutdown point, the PF will execute the shutdown flow while the PM follows the PF's actions and announces "Shutdown Complete" at the conclusion of the procedure.
Contrary to the current checklist in use (V3.0) the beacon switch is to remain ON under normal circumstances. It can be disabled at the discretion of the PIC during night ground operations if it is determined that the strobe may cause interference to aircraft or personnel.