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View Full Version : Who sets the altitude alert?


CFI Guy
09-28-2015, 01:12 PM
At my previous employers the PM always set the altitude alerter and was confirmed by the PF even with the AP engaged.

The SOP at my current company states the PF will make any altitude changes when the AP engaged. They claim the data shows less altitude deviations took place with this system in place.

I think it's 6 one way and a half a dozen the other. I'm just curious to hear other company's SOPs and arguements whether one way is superior over the other.


RI830
09-28-2015, 01:49 PM
At my previous employers the PM always set the altitude alerter and was confirmed by the PF even with the AP engaged.

The SOP at my current company states the PF will make any altitude changes when the AP engaged. They claim the data shows less altitude deviations took place with this system in place.

I think it's 6 one way and a half a dozen the other. I'm just curious to hear other company's SOPs and arguements whether one way is superior over the other.

I've seen it done both ways through my career.
I agree it's one half does another, but as long as it gets set correctly is all that matters.
Beyond that, it just a thing we have to get used to.

biigD
09-28-2015, 02:00 PM
I guess the thinking is that by having the PF do it (assuming the AP is on), you have two people more actively involved in the process. One guy listening and responding to ATC, and the other actually setting the altitude based on what he heard.

Honestly, it's six of one, half dozen of the other to me too. But when the PNF is setting it, I suppose a PF that has his mind elsewhere can confirm, point, or whatever without really paying attention to the actual ATC instruction. He'll just repeat whatever the PNF put in the window.


HIFLYR
09-28-2015, 02:13 PM
We are if the AP is on the PF sets the altitude in the FCP window and the PM confirms it.

iceman49
09-28-2015, 05:15 PM
Culture wars :)

2StgTurbine
09-28-2015, 05:32 PM
I have worked at both and prefer the PF controlling the altitude selector. When you are in a descent and you get a "Cross XYZ at FL280", sometimes you would rather level off and sometimes you would rather continue the descent. Also, changing the altitude knob when the aircraft is capturing an altitude is not good and I have noticed it happening more when the PM sets it. I think it is a little awkward when the two people are effectively controlling the flight path of the plane (altitude pre selector and FMS) at the same time.

rickair7777
09-28-2015, 06:54 PM
PF should control Alt Selector IMO. If he's hand flying, he should direct the PM to do it on his behalf. I agree with 2stgturbine, sometimes you may not want final assigned Alt in the selector.

JohnBurke
09-28-2015, 09:14 PM
At my previous employers the PM always set the altitude alerter and was confirmed by the PF even with the AP engaged.

The SOP at my current company states the PF will make any altitude changes when the AP engaged. They claim the data shows less altitude deviations took place with this system in place.

I think it's 6 one way and a half a dozen the other. I'm just curious to hear other company's SOPs and arguements whether one way is superior over the other.

I've seen it done both ways, but I think the more generally accepted and mandated practice is that when the autopilot is disengaged, the PF commands changes and settings, and when the autopilot is engaged, the pilot flying makes them.

Because the alerter is part of the aircraft flight control when operating in auto modes, it makes sense for the pilot flying to handle the alerter.

So long as the training and policy is uniform and consistent, it will work either way.

Packrat
09-28-2015, 09:21 PM
I've seen it done both ways, but I think the more generally accepted and mandated practice is that when the autopilot is disengaged, the PF commands changes and settings, and when the autopilot is engaged, the pilot flying makes them.

Because the alerter is part of the aircraft flight control when operating in auto modes, it makes sense for the pilot flying to handle the alerter.

So long as the training and policy is uniform and consistent, it will work either way.

Agreed. Seen it done both ways, but your way makes more sense to me.

John Carr
09-29-2015, 10:50 AM
PF should control Alt Selector IMO.


If you get hired by, say, UAL, make sure to tell them that.

My favorite way to fly the plane is the way the company pays me to.

80ktsClamp
09-30-2015, 08:57 PM
I've seen it done both ways.... If it's set and verified intentionally by both pilots, the outcome should be the same.

With that being said, my OCD says whoever is working the autoflight panel should set the altitude. It is more logical for whoever is working the autoflight panel to work the whole thing.

John Carr
09-30-2015, 09:08 PM
With that being said, my OCD says whoever is working the autoflight panel should set the altitude. It is more logical for whoever is working the autoflight panel to work the whole thing.

Wait, would that apply ONLY to the Airbus? :p

sandlapper223
10-01-2015, 08:07 PM
I've seen it done both ways.... If it's set and verified intentionally by both pilots, the outcome should be the same.

With that being said, my OCD says whoever is working the autoflight panel should set the altitude. It is more logical for whoever is working the autoflight panel to work the whole thing.

Autoflight panel in an Airbus? It's called the FCU. OCD. Ok. Let me help. With the autopilot engaged, usually the pilot flying will set the altitude in the "FCU altitude window" with the "altitude selector knob". That's OCD. 😁

9780991975808
10-25-2015, 07:04 PM
The altitude alert is just that: a visual or auditory alert to level off for whatever reason. It should be set to the next step limit (step climb, MDA, etc.), ATC altitude clearance limit, MOCA (especially in an emergency descent), or any other normal or non-normal operation altitude limit. The PF's job is to fly the airplane - with or without the autopilot. Period. He has no business turning knobs, throwing switches or pushing buttons not essential to that task. If the altitude alert is also the altitude capture, and he is using the autopilot, then setting the altitude alert is part of his job. Either way, the entire crew should look at it, think about it, and confirm that it's not only correct but also reasonable. People do make mistakes.

If the employer's procedures deviate from that, the PIC will have to decide to either follow the employer's procedures and accept any risks they entail, or risk his job. The brave ones might even push for changes to unsafe or impractical procedures. My 2c.

JohnBurke
10-25-2015, 08:07 PM
The altitude alert is just that: a visual or auditory alert to level off for whatever reason. It should be set to the next step limit (step climb, MDA, etc.), ATC altitude clearance limit, MOCA (especially in an emergency descent), or any other normal or non-normal operation altitude limit. The PF's job is to fly the airplane - with or without the autopilot. Period. He has no business turning knobs, throwing switches or pushing buttons not essential to that task. If the altitude alert is also the altitude capture, and he is using the autopilot, then setting the altitude alert is part of his job. Either way, the entire crew should look at it, think about it, and confirm that it's not only correct but also reasonable. People do make mistakes.

If the employer's procedures deviate from that, the PIC will have to decide to either follow the employer's procedures and accept any risks they entail, or risk his job. The brave ones might even push for changes to unsafe or impractical procedures. My 2c.

You seem to feel it's your way or the highway. You know best then, is that it?

Is it possible that so many employers and operators are doing it wrong, or is it possible that there's more than one way to safely skin a cat?

Imagine in the real world, so many pilots who have but a single seat, who actually manipulate flight controls as well as twizzle knobs, talk on the radio, and generally do what's required to operate that aircraft. How do they do it?

Some operators have the pilot flying or operating pilot set the alerter when the autopilot is engaged, as it's part of the autopilot function. Some don't. Which is correct? Both.

That's why we have standardization within an organization, isn't it?

f10a
10-25-2015, 08:46 PM
All the airliners I've flown or JS on, Boeing, MD, CRJs, and Airbus had the flying pilot control the MCP when on autopilot and the non flying pilot control it when not on autopilot. I'd love to see data supporting deviation rates between methods.

On the corporate side, oddly, Bombardier always has the non flying pilot set the altitude. Not sure why they don't standardize their protocol between their commercial line and business jet line but I prefer the Boeing etc method best. PF sets the altitude, points at it until the other pilot verifies it and repeats.

This also goes into why do most, if not all, corporate jets not use flows and have ridiculously long read and do checklists?

9780991975808
10-25-2015, 09:06 PM
You seem to feel it's your way or the highway. You know best then, is that it?

Is it possible that so many employers and operators are doing it wrong, or is it possible that there's more than one way to safely skin a cat?

Imagine in the real world, so many pilots who have but a single seat, who actually manipulate flight controls as well as twizzle knobs, talk on the radio, and generally do what's required to operate that aircraft. How do they do it?

Some operators have the pilot flying or operating pilot set the alerter when the autopilot is engaged, as it's part of the autopilot function. Some don't. Which is correct? Both.

That's why we have standardization within an organization, isn't it?

Not really. But I do know what leads to retirement and what doesn't. A lot of lives were lost before the industry finally learned that the PF should fly the airplane and do nothing else. You might not agree; and I'm sure there are still operations where that's not possible. But neither invalidates the principle.

Arguing that a pilot can do more than just fly his airplane is a lot like arguing that an airplane has built-in safety margins. Both might be true, but those margins are there to carry unexpected loads.

The sole purpose of standardization within an organization is to increase flight crew utilization efficiency. It's a purely economic decision. Its worst form is cross-fleet standardization - a true recipe for disaster.

JohnBurke
10-25-2015, 09:45 PM
A lot of lives were lost before the industry finally learned that the PF should fly the airplane and do nothing else. You might not agree; and I'm sure there are still operations where that's not possible. But neither invalidates the principle.


Lives were lost doing many things, and continue to be lost doing many things.

Today, many airlines, corporate departments, government organizations, and private operators continue to require the PNF to set the altitude alerter when not in automated flight, but have the PF set it when operating the aircraft through the AFCS or autopilot. This is a current legitimate practice, not an antiquated, abandoned, antique practice of yesteryear. We do not continue to see lives lost as a result of this standard practice.

The fact is that it doesn't matter a whit whether the PNF sets the altitude alerter at all times, or only during manual modes of flying. So long as the practice is standardized, either way works fine, and continues to work fine. Both are equally safe.

When the PF is operating the aircraft through automation, the PF is generally not manipulating the traditional controls, but using alternate indirect controls with an autopilot panel or through the FMS/FMC. The alerter is a part of that system when using automated modes. When the PF is operating the alerter, he IS operating the autopilot/FD.



Arguing that a pilot can do more than just fly his airplane is a lot like arguing that an airplane has built-in safety margins. Both might be true, but those margins are there to carry unexpected loads.


Your statement is non-sequitur and a straw man effort. Following a manufacturer-recommened, standardized, industry-accepted practice is hardly comparable to exceeding limitations on the premise that one could do so based on design tolerances. It's a ridiculous comparison and a false assertion.

The fact is that many aircraft are flown single pilot, in which the pilot does everything. These aircraft are flown safely, legally, and professional training is available from highly reputable organizations which fully supports this kind of flying. Perhaps it's foreign to you and you don't understand it. Don't confuse your inexperience and misunderstanding with fact. The fact is that flying continues with one pilot doing everything, safely, as a route matter of the design of the aircraft and the operation involved.

A flying pilot who sets an altitude alerter does not compromise design criteria for an aircraft, and does not endanger the operation when that practice is standard for that organization. Moreover, when setting that alerter is a basic function of flying the aircraft in automation, every bit as much as commanding a rate of descent, a heading, or making an FMS/FMC input (common, standard tasks for the flying pilot when in automated flight).


The sole purpose of standardization within an organization is to increase flight crew utilization efficiency. It's a purely economic decision. Its worst form is cross-fleet standardization - a true recipe for disaster.

This is absolutely untrue.

The purpose of standardization within an organization is far more than economic; it's a critical component of safety within an organization. Expectations of behavior and practice, from checklist use to roles in the cockpit to actions in an emergency are necessary for safe operation. Standardization is not a recipe for disaster, and there are very valid arguments for cross-fleet standardization in operating practice for safety's sake over and above any other point of discussion.

9780991975808
10-26-2015, 06:18 AM
...

Altitude alert and A/P altitude capture arm are not the same, though they may be combined. Altitude alert by itself doesn't do anything - other than alert the crew. Setting it contributes nothing to flying the airplane. Hence it's not a PF function. When combined with the A/P, it's some variant of altitude select that also serves to report A/P mode and status. In this case setting it is a PF function because the PF is selecting the desired altitude.

Your list of qualifiers, speculations and beliefs regarding my statements, experience and state of mind isn't all that constructive. I don't see any value in it. Sorry.

You might want to reread what I called "recipe for disaster."

Larry in TN
10-26-2015, 10:15 AM
All the airliners I've flown or JS on, Boeing, MD, CRJs, and Airbus had the flying pilot control the MCP when on autopilot and the non flying pilot control it when not on autopilot.
At United Airlines the PM sets the MCP Altitude. The PF points and verbalized the newly set altitude then selects the appropriate vertical mode and/or FMS entries.

JohnBurke
10-26-2015, 07:32 PM
Altitude alert and A/P altitude capture arm are not the same, though they may be combined.


That really depends on the system at play; very often they are engaged through the same control; set the alerter, and you've assigned the autopilot an altitude to fly or capture. They may have different functions (alerting vs. a command), but in many cases, it's the same thing, scheduled through the same piece of hardware, with the same physical motion.

I don't see any value in it.

Not particularly surprising. You see what you want to see, and your narrow view is dictum as the only way. Your way, or nothing at all. There no value in such a view at all.


You might want to reread what I called "recipe for disaster."

I did, and responded accordingly.