Captain, first officer, cabin crew…do you know who are the crew members in an airplane? When travelling by plane you have surely seen members of the cabin crew walk up and down the aisle of the aircraft, welcome you onboard, say goodbye to you as you exit the plane, provide services to you and other passengers throughout the flight…who is who in the passenger cabin and the flight deck?
With this article we aim to clarify some basic doubts regarding the crew that travels in the cabin, their roles, and their hierarchy: a strict order that is needed for everything to work out correctly, knowing who occupies which position to be able to carry out their jobs with zero incidents.
Welcome onboard today’s flight!
Roles of the crew personnel
- Commander: Commonly referred to as captain, this is the role of maximum authority onboard an aircraft at any given time. The captain sits on the left seat of the cockpit.
- First Officer: Or copilot, is the second pilot sitting on the right seat. Although this is a position of less authority than the captain, a first officer is just as important as the captain when it comes to flying the aircraft and tackling any unusual situation.
- Flight Engineer: As of today, this position no longer exists on modern commercial aircraft. The flight engineer used to be the third person in the cockpit in charge of engine operation and carrying out calculations relevant to the aircraft’s operation.
- Passenger Cabin Crew: Also known as flight attendants, the primary role of these crew members is to ensure the safety of the passengers in case of an emergency. There is usually a cabin senior, another crew member who oversees the passenger cabin. The cabin crew will also attend passengers throughout the flight.
Captain, first officer, and cabin crew is the team that makes up your crew whenever you fly.
Where in the aircraft does the crew travel during the flight?
To determine this, we must first distinguish between the two main sections inside an aircraft fuselage: the cockpit and the passenger cabin. What crew members fly in each of these? Let’s find out.
The flight deck is where both pilots fly, this section occupies the frontal part of the fuselage, right up in the nose of the aircraft. According to the European Aviation Safety Agency and the American Federal Aviation Administration, it is mandatory for commercial flights to be operated by at least two pilots.
Additionally, the pilot at the controls of the plane cannot remain alone in the cockpit while the other leaves, even for brief periods of time. When one of the pilots has to exit the cockpit, the one who stays must be accompanied by another crew member.
Although the law dictates that at least two pilots are necessary for a flight, for long-haul flights the number of flight crew members can increase up to 3 or even 4. This is referred to as Extra Crew or Relief Pilots. When a pilot boards an aircraft as a passenger he or she can notify the crew of their presence in case they are needed in an emergency.
When a pilot boards an aircraft as a passenger he or she can notify the crew of their presence in case they are needed in an emergency.
The passenger cabin is located right outside the cockpit and in most cases extends all the way to the back of the fuselage. Apart from the passengers, this space is occupied by the cabin crew, commonly referred to as flight attendants. During a normal flight, they will be in charge of allocating you to your seat, assisting passengers with their handheld baggage, or offering you help if needed throughout the flight.
The cabin crew is mainly responsible for your safety throughout the flight, especially in case of emergency. They have received extensive training to combat any complications that may arise and impact the safety of the flight.
Did you know that the pilots cannot have the same meals during a flight? In case the food they eat causes them to fall ill.
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Task-sharing in the flight deck.
The cockpit is where all the aircraft controls are located. At first sight you may notice two steering-wheel-like yokes or sidesticks (depending on the manufacturer). In the case of yokes, they are mechanically interconnected, meaning that moving one will cause the other to move as well. The control wheels or sticks can be used by both pilots to control the airplane, one of the many tasks of a pilot.
On the left side of the flight deck is where the captain sits, and some aircraft models only feature a tiller for ground steering next to that seat. On the other hand, both seats have a set of pedals, used for the lateral control of the plane in the air and at high speeds during takeoff and landing.
Between both pilots there is a center console with numerous buttons and levers which both pilots can reach with their hands. The two main levers on the center console are used to control the thrust/throttle, fundamental for the airplane to take off and therefore fly.
As seen, the flight crew are two (or more) crucial crew members for a flight to be operated without incidents. Their tasks are strictly distributed, organized, and prioritized to achieve the proper functioning of the aircraft at any given time, and so that all that is left for you as a passenger is to enjoy the flight.
Who is the cabin crew member?
A cabin crew member or flight attendant is a professional who has been trained for the safety and correct functioning of the aircraft. They play an essential role in the safety of the passengers and proper operation of the flight. Their training is based on the strict rules set by the governmental bodies and institutions in charge of managing the safety of aviation, such as EASA or AESA.
But what role do they play exactly?
As mentioned, the cabin crew flies in the same cabin as the passengers, to ensure their wellbeing and that the safety rules are being followed. The legal requirement for cabin crew in an airplane is a ration of 1/50, meaning that there must be at least one flight attendant for every 50 passengers, this being strictly mandatory for a flight to depart.
Amongst their main roles are the following:
- Ensure compliance with the [safety] rules.
- Assisting passengers for their comfort and calmness throughout the flight.
- Checking the emergency equipment and its correct placement.
- Attending and helping during any medical emergency.
- Managing and carrying out emergency evacuations.
- Putting out fires.
- Giving the passengers any legal information.
Ensuring Compliance with the Safety Rules
The rules must be followed onboard every aircraft with composure and education. The cabin crew shall, during every phase of the flight, make sure that these rules are being complied with. These rules include, but are not limited to the fastening of seatbelts, assigning of passenger seats according to their boarding pass, avoiding the use of electronic devices during the critical phases of flight, and informing the passengers of the correct placement of handheld baggage in the plane.
Assisting the Passengers for their Comfort and Wellbeing
One of the most important points for passengers is to travel comfortably. The cabin crew will assist them and work to avoid any situation that would alter a calm environment inside the passenger cabin, or one that would cause the captain to intervene.
Ensuring the Correct Placement of Emergency Equipment
When speaking of safety onboard a commercial airplane, they are highly equipped with materials and emergency plans for any type of situation. The crew shall be able to evacuate the aircraft within 60 seconds with all safety measures in place. Before every flight, they make sure all emergency systems and equipment, such as the life vests, are onboard, in their correct location, and functioning properly.
Managing and Carrying Out Emergency Evacuations
Evacuations, especially fast ones, are vital in these kinds of aircraft, which is why all emergency exits and guidance to such must be correctly signaled. Additionally, the crew must inform the passengers in emergency exit rows of their role in the unlikely event of an emergency. Any sort of evacuation shall be completed in less than 60 seconds, this is why order, information, and collaboration between passengers and crew are all essential in and out of the cabin.
Providing the Passengers with any Legal Information
Should an incident occur, the crew will be in charge of making manifest any sort of legal measure that would be carried out in case of a breach of rules or an argument/fight between passengers.