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How Many Pilots Are Required to Fly a Plane?


Have you ever wondered why there are dual pilot operations during commercial flights and many other types of flights as well? Did you even know that they utilize two pilots during flights? The importance of having two pilots and what they do are assessed and detailed in this article.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires two pilots at all times for most aircraft that exceed 12,500 pounds. Other factors, such as flight length may also demand more than one pilot. One of the biggest reasons two pilots are required for commercial flights and private jets is safety.  

What Is a Dual Pilot Flight?

A dual pilot flight is when two pilots in the cockpit share responsibilities to fly the aircraft, monitor all the aircraft instruments and help provide a safe flight from beginning to end. During long flights, they can relieve each other of specific duties and get some rest. Additionally, in case of an emergency, having two pilots can help to mitigate the situation more effectively. A dual pilot flight can be split into two sets of responsibilities:


  • Pilot flying: The captain, or the pilot flying, sets up autopilot, controls the aircraft and ensures everything goes smoothly with the flight path. 
  • Pilot monitoring: The other pilot — the pilot monitoring — handles communications with air traffic control. They also monitor the aircraft's instruments and double check information such as the programmed flight path. 


Why Dual Pilot Operations Are Necessary

Before the FAA deemed it necessary to have two fully trained and rested pilots in the cockpit of a larger aircraft, there were many single pilot operations. The pilot was responsible for navigation as well as monitoring the instruments, communicating with air traffic control and other tasks that come up in the cockpit. Over the years, however, it became evident that dual pilot flights were much safer. A 2017 NASA/FAA study found that in emergency situations, single pilot operations pose an unacceptable safety risk. 

Here are just a few of the many reasons dual pilot flights are better than single pilot operations. 

Increases Confidence for Everyone Onboard

Even if a pilot has years of experience and a mastery of flying, it still helps to have another trained pilot in the cockpit helping. If only one pilot is responsible for all operations, a malfunction or a health issue is suddenly magnified. Another pilot provides the assurance and assistance that's needed to make the flight operate as safely as possible. 

Better Able to Handle the Landing Phase of the Flight

Jets are equipped with a highly sophisticated autopilot system, and it's common for it to be the primary source of aircraft control along the flight path. However, while many jet autopilots are adept enough to complete even a landing, this phase of flight is usually completed by the pilots manually. 

A pilot is better able to adapt to changing weather and other situations, and since the landing phase can be very busy, having two pilots helps ensure everything goes smoothly. Both pilots must have the training and knowledge to handle both normal and abnormal conditions. 

Helps to Ensure There's at Least One Healthy Pilot to Complete the Flight

The pilot's health is an entire section of monitoring in itself. The FAA enlists aviation medical examiners (AMEs) — highly trained doctors of medicine who are sometimes pilots themselves — to make sure pilots are healthy. Pilots must undergo a number of extensive tests to ensure they maintain their health and can fly without any reason to doubt their ability. 

Among the subsets of testing categories are eye, ear, nose, throat, equilibrium, mental, neurological and cardiovascular. All pilots must maintain these tests every year unless they are over the age of 40 — then they are required every six months.

Even with all these precautions, testing and regulatory training on safety, sudden illnesses and accidents happen. When those occasions arise, the second pilot can take over the complete job of flying the aircraft and landing safely at the destination. Dual pilot operations are a good practice still and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. To date, no record exists chronicling a situation where both pilots on a flight get sick simultaneously. Therefore, flight safety increases significantly with two pilots.

dual pilot

Ensures Overall Aviation Safety

Having two pilots is a sure way to make a flight immediately safer. Whether it be a technological malfunction, a health issue or a communication problem, having two experts in the cockpit vastly improves the efficiency and safety of a flight. 

Even smaller private jets require two pilots. Safety risk is significantly higher when a single pilot flies an aircraft, so dual pilot operations are almost always mandatory. With two pilots, the workload is split thereby decreasing stress significantly. Also, problems can arise quickly in the air — especially in a jet since it flies at higher speeds. 

While one pilot can focus on flying, the other pilot can focus on the mechanical components such as the engines and other aspects of the airplane to increase safety for all onboard. Dual pilot operations ensure that any abnormal situations that may arise are addressed and solved promptly. One pilot might know more about specific conditions than the other, utilizing teamwork to ensure a safe flight.

Do Private Jets Require Dual Pilots?

Ultimately, it's been proven that a plane should have two pilots — the safety benefits of dual flights far outweigh any of the cons. There are exceptions, though, and some flights may require only one pilot. Small aircraft under a specified weight limit may be able to fly with just one pilot and even some private charter jets as well.

Though you may gain some convenience and affordability, a single pilot flight also leaves the door open for potential problems. It's much safer to operate a dual-pilot flight to ensure a smooth flight. GrandView Aviation’s industry-leading safety standards require two pilots on all flights to meet FAA guidelines and to provide passengers confidence and peace of mind.

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Charter a Flight Today!

Are you thinking about taking a private jet to your next vacation or business trip? Grandview Aviation offers FAA-approved dual pilot operations flights in either jets or helicopters. Our fleet of Phenom 300 jets all feature luxurious amenities like fully reclining leather seats, gourmet catering and plenty of cabin space. Contact GrandView Aviation to book your flight today!



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