Roles and responsibilities

Discussing the Pilot in Command (PIC) means acknowledging that there has to be someone in charge of an airplane’s safety and the well-being of those on board.

Indeed, the PIC is legally accountable for any incident occurring throughout the aircraft’s operation, even while it’s moving on the runway prior to departure and following its arrival.

So, what exactly does the Pilot in Command do, what tasks do they have to perform before, during, and after a flight, and what’s the process for determining the PIC? We’re here to explain it all.

Who can be the Pilot in Command?

Depending on the type of flight, the person who holds the PIC position may vary:

  • For school flights, the instructor will be the pilot in command. Once the student has obtained the first pilot licence, the Private Pilot Licence PPL, he/she will become the PIC.
  • On airline flights, the PIC is the Commander.

On large commercial flights, where several pilots are part of the flight crew, there will always be one pilot designated as Commander, who will be responsible and have the highest authority during the flight.

What are the responsibilities of the Pilot in Command?

Before the flight, the PIC must ensure that he/she checks a large number of documents, including the following (among others):

✓ Certificate of airworthiness.
✓ Certificate of registration.
✓ Maintenance certificate.
Flight plan.
✓ Weather charts.
Radio stations.
✓ Among others.

During the flight, being the PIC does not necessarily mean being in control of the aircraft at all times.

On long-haul flights, there will be shifts to fly the aircraft. However, the PIC will have to supervise, be in charge of decision making and crew coordination to ensure a safe flight.

Other duties to be performed

If we are talking about a private general aviation aircraft, the Pilot in Command, who is usually the owner of the aircraft, may perform some more technical functions, such as changing the oil, filters, spark plugs or tyres.

In addition, before flying, he or she will have to perform a pre-flight check to verify that the aircraft is in optimum condition for take-off.

In conclusion, being the Pilot in Command or PIC of an aircraft requires a great deal of responsibility, and it is necessary to know the aircraft being flown, the environment and the procedures very well.

You must also have good situational awareness since, in the event of an emergency, the PIC will be responsible for the safety of people above all else, both those who may be on board and those who may be affected on the ground.

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