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Working Together: Understanding PF and PM Roles

The flight deck roles of Pilot Flying (PF) and Pilot Monitoring (PM) are foundational to ensuring safety, efficiency, and smooth operations. This dual structure leverages the unique strengths and focus areas of two pilots, optimizing operations and enhancing situational awareness. This blog post delves into the distinct responsibilities and collaborative dynamics of the PF and PM roles in a two-crew commercial aviation operation.

The Pilot Flying (PF): Commanding the Aircraft

The Pilot Flying, often designated based on the flight segment or operational requirements, is primarily responsible for operating the aircraft’s controls and navigating along the planned route. This role demands a high level of skill, concentration, and decision-making, as the PF is the aviator directly guiding the aircraft through various phases of flight, from takeoff to landing.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Aircraft Handling: The PF manages the aircraft’s flight path, altitude, and speed, ensuring adherence to the flight plan and air traffic control (ATC) instructions.
  • Navigation: Utilizes onboard navigation tools to maintain the correct course, making adjustments as necessary for weather or ATC directives.
  • Flight Planning: Plays a crucial role in pre-flight preparations, including reviewing the flight plan, weather conditions, and fuel requirements to ensure a safe and efficient flight path.

The Pilot Monitoring (PM): The Vigilant Co-Pilot

The Pilot Monitoring, or pilot not flying, plays a critical role in supporting the PF by overseeing the operation’s broader aspects and performing tasks that complement the PF’s duties. The PM’s vigilant oversight is crucial for identifying and mitigating potential issues before they escalate, ensuring a safe flight.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Monitoring Instruments: Continuously checks flight parameters and systems to ensure everything operates within normal ranges, alerting the PF to any anomalies.
  • Assisting in Navigation: While the PF handles the controls, the PM may manage navigation systems, inputting changes or corrections as needed.
  • Communicating with ATC: The PM often handles all communications such as receiving clearances, traffic advisories, or weather updates.
  • Cross-Checking: Performs checks and verifications of the PF’s actions and decisions, ensuring all procedures are followed accurately.

Collaborative Dynamics: A Symphony in the Skies

The effectiveness of the PF and PM roles hinges on seamless communication and collaboration. Regular briefings, shared situational awareness, and clear, concise communication protocols are vital. This partnership allows for a division of labor that maximizes the crew’s overall effectiveness, ensuring that while one pilot focuses on flying the aircraft, the other oversees the broader operational picture.

CRM in Action:

The PF and PM roles exemplify Crew Resource Management (CRM) principles by emphasizing teamwork, communication, and mutual support. CRM training ensures both pilots are equipped to interchange roles fluidly as required, fostering a dynamic and adaptable flight deck environment.


The delineation of responsibilities into Pilot Flying and Pilot Monitoring roles is a testament to commercial aviation’s sophisticated approach to safety and efficiency. This structured partnership allows each pilot to focus on specific tasks while maintaining an integrated view of the flight operation, ensuring that commercial flights are not just about getting from point A to B, but doing so with the highest standards of precision and care. As aviation continues to evolve, the synergy between the PF and PM will remain a cornerstone of successful flight operations, making the skies safer and flights more efficient for everyone onboard.

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