Flight engineer
Flight engineers work in three types of aircraft: fixed-wing
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

 (airplanes), rotary wing
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

 (helicopters), and space flight (ISS
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...


As airplanes became even larger requiring more engines and complex systems to operate, the workload on the two pilots became excessive during certain critical parts of the flight regime, notably takeoffs and landings. Piston engines on airplanes required a great deal of attention throughout the flight with their multitude of gauges and indicators. Inattention or a missed indication could result in engine or propeller failure, and quite possibly cause loss of the airplanes if prompt corrective action was not taken. In order to dedicate a person to monitoring the engines and other critical flight systems, the position of Flight Engineer was created. The Flight Engineer did not actually fly the airplane; instead, the Flight Engineer had his own specialized control panel allowing him to monitor and control the various aircraft systems. The Flight Engineer is therefore an integrated member of the flight deck crew who works in close coordination with the two pilots during all phases of flight. The Flight Engineer position was usually placed on the main flight deck just aft of the pilot and copilot. The flight engineer role was earlier referred to as the flight mechanic on the four engine commercial seaplanes like the Sikorsky S-42
Sikorsky S-42
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Davies, R.E.G. Pan Am: An Airline and its Aircraft. New York: Orion Books, 1987. ISBN 0-517-56639-7....

, Martin M-130
Martin M-130
|-See also:-External links:* at the University of Miami Library*...

 and the Boeing 314
Boeing 314
The Boeing 314 Clipper was a long-range flying boat produced by the Boeing Airplane Company between 1938 and 1941 and is comparable to the British Short S.26. One of the largest aircraft of the time, it used the massive wing of Boeing’s earlier XB-15 bomber prototype to achieve the range necessary...

. The first commercial land airplane to include a flight engineering station was the Boeing 307
Boeing 307
The Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner was the first commercial transport aircraft with a pressurized cabin. This feature allowed the plane to cruise at an altitude of 20,000 ft , well above weather disturbances. The pressure differential was 2.5 psi , so at 14,700 ft the cabin altitude...

 but only ten were built before the onset of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

; during the war the Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

 required a flight engineer. The first military operation involving Flight Engineers was in February 1941 on a Short Stirling
Short Stirling
The Short Stirling was the first four-engined British heavy bomber of the Second World War. The Stirling was designed and built by Short Brothers to an Air Ministry specification from 1936, and entered service in 1941...

, and was the first four-engined bomber raid of the war by the RAF
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...



The Flight Engineer (Air Engineer in the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

) is primarily concerned with the operation and monitoring of all aircraft systems, and is required to diagnose and where possible rectify or eliminate any faults that may arise. On most multi-engine airplanes, the Flight Engineer (FE) sets and adjusts engine power during take off, climb, cruise, go-arounds, or at any time the pilot flying (PF) requests a specific power setting to be set during the approach phase. The FE sets and monitors the following major systems: fuel, pressurization and air conditioning, hydraulic, electrics, ice and rain protection, oxygen, fire and overheat protection, and powered flying controls. FEs are also responsible for preflight and postflight aircraft inspections, and ensuring that the weight and balance of the aircraft is correctly calculated to ensure the centre of gravity is within limits. On airplanes where the FE's station is located on the same flight deck just aft of the two pilots (all western three-man deck airplanes), they also monitor aircraft flight path, speed, and altitude. A significant portion of their time is cross checking pilot selections. The flight engineer is essentially the systems expert of the airplane with an extensive mechanical and technical knowledge of aircraft systems and aircraft performance.

On some military airplanes(C-5, E-3, KC-10) the Flight Engineer sits behind the co-pilot in the cockpit, facing sideways to operate a panel of switches, gauges and indicators, and on the Tupolev
Tupolev is a Russian aerospace and defence company, headquartered in Basmanny District, Central Administrative Okrug, Moscow. Known officially as Public Stock Company Tupolev, it is the successor of the Tupolev OKB or Tupolev Design Bureau headed by the Soviet aerospace engineer A.N. Tupolev...

 Tu-134 the flight engineer sits in the nose of the airplanes. On other western military airplanes, such as on the P-3 Orion
P-3 Orion
The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the United States Navy and introduced in the 1960s. Lockheed based it on the L-188 Electra commercial airliner. The aircraft is easily recognizable by its distinctive tail stinger or...

 and C-130H
C-130 Hercules
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport...

, FE's sit between, slightly aft of, and slightly higher than the pilots. On civilian airplanes the FE is positioned so that he can monitor the forward instruments, pilot selections and adjust the thrust levers located on the centre pedestal; the FE's chair can travel forward and aft and it can swivel laterally 90 degrees, which enables him to face forward and set the engine power, then move aft and rotate sideways to monitor and set the systems panel. The Flight Engineer is the aircraft systems expert onboard and responsible for troubleshooting and suggesting solutions to in-flight emergencies and abnormal technical conditions, as well as computing takeoff
Takeoff is the phase of flight in which an aerospace vehicle goes from the ground to flying in the air.For horizontal takeoff aircraft this usually involves starting with a transition from moving along the ground on a runway. For balloons, helicopters and some specialized fixed-wing aircraft , no...

 and landing
thumb|A [[Mute Swan]] alighting. Note the ruffled feathers on top of the wings indicate that the swan is flying at the [[Stall |stall]]ing speed...


The basic philosophy of a three man flight deck on western airplanes should an abnormality or emergency arise is as follows: the Captain hands over the actual flying of the aircraft to the Copilot, then the Captain and Flight Engineer together review and carry out the necessary actions required to contain and rectify the problem. This spreads the workload and ensures a system of cross-checking which maximizes safety. The Captain is the manager and decision maker (Pilot Not Flying, PNF), the First Officer/Copilot is the actual flier of the aircraft (Pilot Flying, PF), and the Flight Engineer reads the check-lists and executes actions required under the auspices of the Captain (PNF). There can be occasions when the roles of the pilots during a emergency are reversed, i.e. the Copilot becomes the PNF and the Captain becomes the PF; one such example was on the A300 B-Series aircraft when there was a complete loss of generator-supplied electrical power, whereupon the standby instruments that were powered were on the Captain's side only, requiring the Captain to be PF and the PNF and Flight Engineer to resolve the issue.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 many bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

 aircraft incorporated the flight engineer position. However, this Engineer also doubled as a gunner, usually operating the upper turret as was the case of the B-17.

On all commercial airliners with a Flight Engineer the FE is the third in command, after the captain and first officer.

The commercial airlines in the U.S.A, to reduce crew costs, convinced the F.A.A. to change the requirements for a FE to that of a pilot with a commercial license, doing away with the previously required specialist technical background and expertise. The Pilot FE became known as the Second Officer. The Second Officer could progress up the chain of command to First Officer and then Captain if he/she so desired. However the second officer did not have to possess a flight engineer license.

All commercial airlines outside the U.S.A retained the requirement for a "Professional" Flight Engineer with specialist technical background and qualifications. Some "Professional" FE's have training as pilots but a pilot's qualification isn't the primary requirement for the position of a "Professional" FE.


The advent of computer technology, reliable software, and a desire by commercial airlines to cut costs by reducing flight deck crew have eliminated the requirement for Flight Engineers on modern airliners. The same general logic has led to the removal of the Flight Engineer position in many modern military aircraft. Flight Engineers are a rare sight today; however, older airplanes still flying today such as early model Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

s, the Boeing 727
Boeing 727
The Boeing 727 is a mid-size, narrow-body, three-engine, T-tailed commercial jet airliner, manufactured by Boeing. The Boeing 727 first flew in 1963, and for over a decade more were built per year than any other jet airliner. When production ended in 1984 a total of 1,832 aircraft had been produced...

, the Boeing E-3 Sentry, the Lockheed L-1011
Lockheed L-1011
The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, commonly referred to as the L-1011 or TriStar, is a medium-to-long range, widebody passenger trijet airliner. It was the third widebody airliner to enter commercial operations, following the Boeing 747 and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Between 1968 and 1984, Lockheed...

, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10
McDonnell Douglas DC-10
The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is a three-engine widebody jet airliner manufactured by McDonnell Douglas. The DC-10 has range for medium- to long-haul flights, capable of carrying a maximum 380 passengers. Its most distinguishing feature is the two turbofan engines mounted on underwing pylons and a...

 and the Tupolev Tu-154
Tupolev Tu-154
The Tupolev Tu-154 is a three-engine medium-range narrow-body airliner designed in the mid 1960s and manufactured by Tupolev. As the mainstay 'workhorse' of Soviet and Russian airlines for several decades, it serviced over a sixth of the world's landmass and carried half of all passengers flown...

s still require Flight Engineers.

On new generation two-man deck airplanes, sensors and computers monitor and adjust systems automatically. There is no onboard technical expert and third pair of eyes. If a malfunction, abnormality or emergency occurs it will be displayed on an electronic display panel and the computer will automatically initiate corrective action to rectify the abnormal condition. One pilot (PF) does the flying, and the other pilot (PNF) will resolve the issue. The PNF has the additional workload of monitoring the PF, carrying out the requested PF commands, doing the radio work, and reading the checklists to ensure that the computer has done its job and that follow up procedures are accomplished as per checklists.
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