The Airline Pilot Captain's Responsibilities
During the Airline Pilot's career the pilot will at some stage complete a command course. Assuming the pilot passes this, the pilot will become a Captain as a vacancy exists within the airline. They may simply move from the right hand seat to the left hand seat on the same aircraft type. Or they may then have to be retrained for another type of aircraft. This course is quite intense. Rather than go into a lot of useless information of no use to Flight Simulator Pilots, I am going to just touch on some of the things and Airline Captain needs to know and consider.
As Captain of the Aircraft you are responsible for the correct and safe working of the aircraft, and the passengers and Cabin Crew. You can then enjoy your hobby by at least trying to think like a Captain.
This responsibility starts from the moment you sign on duty until you hand over the aircraft command to the relieving captain. Or maybe parking it for the night in which case you are responsible for securing it. You are responsible for all Law Requirements. Much of these law requirements are in fact common sense. I will go through a few of them.
1. Before flight the commander of an aircraft must ensure that the aircraft is safe to fly. And that they flight can be made safely with due regard to weather etc. This would include ,checking the weather for the whole route, and diversion airfields on the route ,that maybe required in an emergency at the time the aircraft passes. I have done a weather course for you so you understand what has to be considered weather wise.
These emergencies could include landing on route so a sick passenger gets urgent medical treatment. Rowdy passengers causing trouble. Or an aircraft defect that requires the aircraft to land immediately. An international flight must take off & land at a Customs and immigration Airfields if crossing International Boundaries under normal conditions.
In picking the airfields, the Captain has to pick airfields that have adequate emergency fire cover and can handle that size of aircraft . Also does the airfield have fuel for the aircraft and is the runway long enough for landing and taking off again with the weight ? Is the airfield going to be open at the estimated time of arrival ?
2. The passenger and payload weight now has to be worked out so that atake off weight can be reached and the fuel plan worked out for the flight. An aircraft has to carry enough fuel to hold for 45 minutes and divert. It must have at least one hours flying time fuel in the tanks on landing. Depending on the time of the flight headwinds and tailwinds has also to be taken into account and sometimes more fuel is loaded as a precaution. Also the Captain has to check the aircraft is within the weight and balance limits for the whole flight and that the aircraft is not too heavy for landing. If insufficient fuel then a landing must be made to refuel. The take off weight is important in case of an emergency immediately after take off requiring an emergency landing. Also if the temperatures are very hot you may not be able to take off with the full fuel and have to land for a top up.
3 The navigational flight plan has to be checked with NOTAMS to ensure the route is acceptable to Air Traffic Control. War Zones sometimes spring up. The Captain must make sure the route is not going through one of these closed airways. Checks for Volcanic ash clouds in some regions also have to be taken into account.( If flying to Orlando check no space shuttle operations in progress that might affect the flight.) Also are there any restrictions or instructions for the Airway concerned. (Special instructions for Cyprus for example concerning ignoring Ercan radio).
4 Any unserviceable navigation aids, closed taxiways, also have to be noted. As does erection of cranes around the airfield. Safety height for the flight in each stage has also to be noted. Much of this work is cross checked with the co pilot as both pilots will monitor each other.
All this part is done before leaving the Operations Room for the aircraft. Sometimes this information maybe delivered to a hotel for the Captain, if a night stop is made.
On arrival at the aircraft the Captain will carry out the normal checklists with the Co Pilot but is in addition responsible for ensuring any deferred maintenance does not make the flight illegal. Also has the the aircraft got the required number of cabin crew required by law ?.
5. It is a requirement that any aircraft flying in Controlled Airspace must have all serviceable navigation & radio equipment. and clearance from Air Traffic Control. During preparation the Captain will have to deal with load sheet from the Dispatcher. Monitor things like baggage being loaded on time, Passenger problems from the Cabin Crew and ensuring the aircraft has been fuelled to the requirements. Also ensure the aircraft has a pushback truck attached. This as well as doing checklists. Also liaison with the Ground Handling Agent. As you can see a vast responsibility.
6 At some point the pilots come together for the departure briefing. This will include working out the probable taxi route to runway, Runway in use from ATIS broadcast. A check of the Standard Instrument Departure and climb gradients is essential. In the event of emergency which pilot is doing what in the emergency drill. Noise abatement procedure for the airfield needs to be checked.
7 The Captain is also responsible for ensuring the passengers get a safety briefing and that the cabin is ready for departure. (This is normally done by the Senior Cabin Crew Member who reports this is done).
8. The Captain is responsible for passing on numbers onboard to the company and that the aircraft has the correct survival equipment onboard for the flight undertaken.
9 The aircraft is not permitted to move on an airfield without Air Traffic Control permission. It is the Captain's responsibility to ensure this is complied with. In addition the Ground Engineer will assist when clear to start engines that all hatches are closed and nothing to endanger the aircraft on push back.
10 Check In bad weather that departure minimum weather is within limits is also the responsible of the Captain. The reason this is important is if the aircraft took off and had an emergency the weather would be below limits for landing back again and nearby airfields would suffer weather much the same. An emergency on departure plan must be worked out and the Co pilot briefed.
11 After take off the captain is overall responsible for the safety of the flight. This includes flying to the flight plan or ATC instructions. Not to enter or leave Controlled Airspace without clearance etc.
Normally on take off clearance in the London Area Clearance to enter controlled airspace would have been granted already for airline flights as the base of controlled airspace is 2500 ft. But for somewhere like Newcastle Controlled airspace is further to the West and higher. On departure the aircraft would be operating under a radar advisory service. The radar service controller would liase with London Manchester or Scottish Control before controlled airspace is reached and get permission to hand the aircraft over. The pilots would then contact the controlled airspace after getting permission from the Controlled Airspace Controller.
The captain is responsible for not colliding with anything, and if need be to take avoiding action if a collision is imminent. If need be without ATC permission. If this happens a report is required to be submittted and ATC advised immediately.
12 The Captain is also required to ensure that the aircraft stays in its ETOPS range at all times. Bearing in mind that emergency airfields chosen may close and put the aircraft outside its permitted certified range. (Africa for example over the desert as some airfields close.)
13 Should a deviation of route be required perhaps to go around weather this must be confirmed it is acceptable to ATC. If any instruction given by ATC cannot be complied the Captain should challenge the ATC immediately.
14 Should a complete radio failure occur the captain should ensure that the aircraft follows the radio failure procedures for the country concerned. these are contained in Aerad Supplements. They vary from country to country. Most countries expect the aircraft to follow exactly the flight plan and land as normal. ATC will then expect the aircraft to descend. Normally the STAR and Approach Chart will be followed to the latter and other aircraft will be turned out the way or held over a waypoint until the aircraft has passed.
15 Should heavy delays occur then fuel needs to be carefully monitored and the captain must decide whether to abandon the flight or divert to another airfield. If this is done the Normal destination airfield ATC must be notified so that overdue action search and rescue is not implemented when the aircraft fails to arrive. An airborne flight plan to ATC may need to be made and a request to cancel or amend the other flight plan.
16.The captain is responsible for informing the passengers. Passenger Wheel chair requests must be passed to the handling agents at the destination.
17 The destination airfield weather must be monitored constantly if the forecast is bad weather at the time of arrival. Before an approach is made the weather must be within the limits published in the charts or Company Operating Procedures. The main diversion airport weather must also be monitored.
18 During the flights the Captain is to ensure that position reports are sent as requested by air charts or ATC. The aircraft is not allowed to fly in restricted or danger areas or aerodrome traffic zones without prior permission.
19 The Captain must make a mental note at all times where the nearest airfield that can handle the flight is. This is so that in an emergency the aircraft can divert immediately Also the safety descent height as the terrain may well be hidden in cloud and at night.
Many of these tasks are done by discussing with the Co pilot as the flight progresses
Upon Landing it is the Captain that steers the aircraft to the parking stand using a tiller.
I hope this has not been too exhaustive for you.
All persons on the aircraft must obey the Captains Instructions.