If you were going to acquire one federal aviation regulation tattooed on her wrist (not that we’re recommending it), it need to be far 91.3. Why? much 91.3 (a) and also (b) give the pilot in fee of any plane sweeping command authority, lot as the captains of ships enjoyed ago in the days of sailing.

You are watching: The final authority as to the operation of an aircraft is the


How sweeping? Well, it offers you permission, in advance, to rest the rules: In one in-flight emergency the requires instant action, you might deviate native the regulation to answer to the emergency. That course, through this heady authority comes a hefty load of responsibility. You’re likewise directly responsible for the procedure of the aircraft, and there’s no passing the buck if something walk wrong.

So that gets granted this distinct dispensation? The pilot in command, abbreviated as PIC.

Who is PIC? much 1.1 defines the pilot in command as the person who “has last authority and also responsibility for the operation and safety of the flight; has been designated as pilot in command prior to or throughout the flight; and holds the ideal category, class, and type rating—if appropriate—for the conduct of the flight.”

So the the human being in the left seat, right? no necessarily. Sometimes the pilot in command is favored by default. If you’re in ~ the controls that a single-seat Pitts S1, she the pilot in command. At various other times, regulations may dictate the relationship in between multiple pilots, as have the right to ratings, currency, clinical certificates, type certificates, and other details. So, too, have the right to assigned functions between the pilots. Finally, in some instances pilots are free to select who is in charge. It’s vital to note, however, that the highest-rated pilot go not automatically become the PIC.The pilot in command is the pilot in charge, no necessarily the pilot paris the airplane. In fact, it’s feasible to be pilot in command without poignant the controls because that the whole flight. In theory, the PIC might not even be in ~ the controls. The pilot in command is the responsible party, and that doesn’t need to be the very same as the sole manipulator the the controls.Of course, on most general aviation flights, the sole manipulator of the controls is the PIC; and in big air transport airplanes through multiple crew members, specifying who is in command is reasonably easy. However things can obtain muddled pretty conveniently when two general aviation pilots fly together in a tiny airplane.While the buck needs to stop with one pilot in the air, on document there room times as soon as two pilots deserve to log PIC time because that the very same flight. That’s due to the fact that in the muddled human being of aviation regulations, there are distinctions between serving together pilot in command and logging hrs as pilot in command. Much 61.51 has been construed as saying that logging PIC time might be “different and distinct” native acting together the pilot in command.The most common example is throughout instrument trip practice using a view-limiting device. The pilot under the hood is the sole manipulator the the controls and can log in his time as PIC, yet he’s no in charge. Instead, the safety and security pilot, v her eyes on the external world, is the actual pilot in command.How on earth does that work? The male under the hood is the sole manipulator the the controls under much 61.51, but under these situations a safety and security pilot becomes a compelled crewmember (even in an airplane that doesn’t generally have any kind of required crew past the pilot) under far 91.109. So throughout hood time, they deserve to both log. Again, this is a accountancy distinction. In actual trip there have the right to be only one pilot in command.Another example of twin logging would certainly be once a totally certificated and also current pilot flies with an instructor to complete some of the trip phases of his or her FAA wings program. The pilot manipulating the controls is the pilot in command, but the rules the govern part 91 trip instructors (FAR 61.51) allow them to log every instruction time together pilot-in-command time, also if they are not acting together PIC top top the flight.

Can a student pilot it is in a pilot in command? over there are just two circumstances in which college student pilots have the right to act as pilots in command and log PIC time. First, student pilots space pilots in command when they space the single occupant that the airplane—which is only logical, but wasn’t constantly the case. Prior to a 1997 preeminence overhaul of much 61.51 (d)(4), student pilots were thought about under the command of your instructors also when the instructor no in the airplane. However under current regs, any kind of student pilot paris solo v a current solo flight endorsement in his or her logbook is the pilot in command that the aircraft, and he or she can likewise log the moment as such.

There’s just one circumstances in which a college student pilot deserve to serve together PIC with one more person in the airplane. It’s not for instruction: any time one instructor accompanies a college student pilot, also if the student is the single manipulator the the controls, the instructor is the pilot in command. The on her checkride. Follow to far 61.47, a college student pilot is the pilot in command throughout a checkride because that the sport, recreational, or exclusive pilot certificates—not the examiner. This is because the regulation carve the end an exemption to the rules the student pilots cannot lug passengers by narrowly redefining a college student pilot taking a checkride as a “flight check applicant” who can serve together pilot in command, and can log the checkride as PIC—even if, God forbid, girlfriend flunk it.

Democracy in the cockpit? yes no democracy in the cockpit, however there is top top the ramp. If a flight has two (or more) pilots appropriately qualified to act together pilot in command, the FARs state the the PIC may be designated ~ above the ground before the flight, by the consent of the pilots. Yet once in the air, the last authority deserve to rest only with one pilot.

Can you switch pilots in command in flight? it’s rare, but legal. Mental the an interpretation of the PIC in the FARs? It states that the PIC “has been designated as pilot in command prior to or throughout the flight.” This would call for the current pilot in command come relinquish that position to one more pilot, and also that other pilot to expropriate it.There’s only one captain top top a ship, and there’s just one pilot in command of one airplane, also if that a Boeing 747 v a certificated pilot sitting in every chair in the airplane. On paper, there room times when an ext than one pilot have the right to log the same flight as pilot in command time, but in the air, the final complete authority and responsibility ride on a single collection of shoulders.



ATC: Bossy, however not the boss

As the pilot in command of one airplane, execute you need to follow indict from air traffic manage at every times? No! no if, in your judgment, those instructions placed you or your flight at risk. The sweeping authority granted to pilots in command through the federal aviation regulation are really clear that you execute not need to “take orders” indigenous ATC in one emergency, or if those instructions might place you right into circumstances that could an outcome in one emergency.

As pilot in command, you—and only you—have “final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety that the flight.” the course, even though girlfriend don’t need to follow their instructions, friend are compelled to tell ATC you room refusing, and also why. However when?

FAR 91.123 (c) just says to inform ATC “as soon as possible” if you cannot comply with their instructions. The regulation is intentionally vague together no two situations are alike, however in the real civilization an “Unable to comply” message just takes about three seconds. So even while there is no requirement to notify ATC of an emergency in actual time, that still taken into consideration good form to execute so.

But remember her priorities: aviate, navigate, communicate. “Unable come comply” comes third. —WED

FAR 91.3 Responsibility and authority the the pilot in command.

(a) The pilot in command the an plane is directly responsible for, and also is the last authority together to, the procedure of the aircraft.

(b) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command might deviate from any type of rule of this component to the degree required to meet that emergency.

See more: " I Have Been Blessed Gospel Song S "I Have Been Blessed", I Have Been Blessed

(c) every pilot in command that deviates from a rule under paragraph (b) that this ar shall, upon the request of the administrator, send a created report of the deviation come the administrator.

William E. Dubois is an aviation writer who holds a commercial pilot certificate v instrument rating, and advanced and tool ground instructor certificates.