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Home > Interviewing Process > ETOPS and CRM queries in a pilot's interview...
ETOPS and CRM queries in a pilot's interview...
Pilot Career - Interviewing Process
Monday, 29 September 2008 09:27

Hello Captain Lim,  

I was told by my friend that in the Cadet Pilot interview, he was asked this question:

What is the advantage of a 4-engine over a 2-engine airplane? The reference was to BOEING 777 series and a BOEING 747.

I tried searching your website and also the Internet but couldn't find a clear cut answer to this question. Could you please provide me with an answer to this?

I have one more question:

You are a co-pilot and you find that your captain is approaching the airport at a higher speed than normally followed. You tell the captain about it and the captain tells you, I have flown this approach more than 500 times. What does the co-pilot do then?

I don't have any friend who is a pilot to give me guidance. I would be very grateful to you if you could provide me with answers to the above mentioned questions.

Thank you very much.



Hi Rahul,

These two questions test the candidate's knowledge on ETOPS and CRM - topics that I have written about before.

ETOPS (Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim Smile Laughing). Okay, that was rather simplistic, but joke aside, it stands for "Extended-Range Twin-Engine Operations"

In the past, two-engine planes were restricted to routes that put them within 60 minutes of an alternate airport in case of an engine failure. So it was very restrictive on many twin-engine planes when they have to fly over large expanse of water (sea or ocean). That leaves only the 3 or 4-engine planes to do the job.

However, in 1988, FAA had amended the ETOPS regulations to allow the extension from 60 to 180 minutes diversion flight time subject to stringent technical and operational qualifications.

This regulation enables the Boeing 777 to gradually replace the aging 4-engine Boeing 747 to fly across many oceanic routes around the globe. Because these modern, two-engine aircraft are more economical to operate than the three-engine or four-engine aircraft, the traveling public would benefit, amongst others, the possible reduction in air fares.

However, those in favor of having 4-engine planes argued that there is an extra safety margin by having four rather than two engines. For example, a Boeing 747 can lose two engines and still remain airborne. In contrast, a Boeing 777 would have to fly on only one engine but a four-engine aircraft would offer a higher redundancy safety factor.

The first question seeks to find out whether you understood what ETOPS is all about. You can then give your view that, with the more reliable and economical Boeing 777 being granted ETOPS of more than 180 minutes today, the advantage of flying on the less-economical 4-engine B747 is almost outdated. In other words, the two engines Boeing 777 is just as good as the 4 engines Boeing 747!

The second scenario is typical of a captain who does not practice CRM (Crew Resources Management) - a module that all pilots have to undergo to enhance safety in the airlines. CRM practices have prevented accidents. Gone are the days when the captain is the ‘king' in the cockpit and whatever he says goes! This is no longer accepted. Human errors contribute to about 75 % of air accidents and CRM encourages teamwork. Today a copilot is encouraged to speak out if he thinks the captain is not following company procedures.

It has been shown that there were a few bad accidents attributed to the co-pilot (First Officers) not being assertive enough.  Typical examples were the Air Florida flight (see video) that crashed into the Potomac River Bridge in Washington in 1982, the Flash Airlines crash (video) in Egypt and the KLM/PANAM crash (video) in Tenerife.

So, the answer to your question when the captain told off his copilot that "he has flown the approach 500 times" is to make a report to the management about his attitude (Don't worry - the management would side the copilot!). There must be a free flow of communication in the cockpit.

Speak out (assertively) or else the copilot would also be guilty or not pointing out the mistakes of the captain in an accident investigation - all the conversation are recorded on the CVR (cockpit voice recorder).


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Comments (6)

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but wouldn't you get into the Captain's bad books if you lodge a complaint against him/her?
john , 30 Sep, 2008
if the plane doesn't even get to land safely, that's probably one of the last few things u will even think of

its better to get into captain's bad books, than to be buried a few feets underground

cheers , 22 Feb, 2010
But is that the answer the interviewer wants to 'hear'?
I've been told by people in the industry that there is actually a room for 'right' answer and a 'wrong' answer.. but not a honest answer...
Tim , 17 Feb, 2011
honest answer..
i feel the honest answer in this case is like what captain lim had stated, telling the captain that he is wrong or report him to the management.. otherwise it will be pointless for all pilots to go through crew resource management (CRM)
jem , 11 Jul, 2011
act now, not later
Rahul asked a question many co-pilots have to deal with. As a (assertive) copilot I train new (ab initio) copilots in these kind of situations (CRM). Reporting a captain does not solve your problem in this case since you are still flying! The short version: make the captain aware of his speed compared to flight phase, ask him when he's going to reduce (to keep me as copilot in the loop), state your concern, state the limit (500 ft established on speed or Go-around). Preferably in this order. Let's face it: If you demand a Go-around on a rushed approach you already have something to explain at the office, regardless of reporting the captain. And the captain will equally not like you …..
This IS a very short version.
Dennis , 04 Sep, 2011
4 Engine A380
If the two engines Boeing 777 is just as good as the 4 engines Boeing 747, and have replaced them, what does Airbus still produce 4 engines A380s?
Chris , 12 Dec, 2017

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