reducing "Crew-caused"
approach and landing

Pilot-in-charge Monitored Approach

Frequently Asked Questions

The Frequently Asked questions will later be divided into four categories. Click on a question to view or hide the answer.

In procedural terms, yes. The procedure is often referred to simply as "monitored approach".  It has also been referred to as "pilot-monitored"  "split", "delegated" and "delegated handling" approach or procedure.  In what seems to be the only research paper that has addressed general perceptions of what "monitored approach" means in the aviation community as a whole (FAA sponsored 2004), one finding was that the simple term "monitored approach" is ambiguous and was believed by some pilots to refer to approaches monitored by Air Traffic Control. 

It is also an almost universal SOP requirement that the "Pilot Not Flying (PNF)" monitors the "Pilot Flying (PF)".  Many pilots using "traditional" PF/PNF procedures where the PF flies both approach and landing are offended by the implication that their approaches are not being monitored: of course, they are. Some authorities get around this by referring to the procedure as the "pilot monitored approach" (PMA) as opposed to "co-pilot monitored".  Current thinking specifically replaces the negative term "pilot NOT flying" term with the positive term "pilot monitoring (PM)".
Because of these common misperceptions, I have used the term "Pilot-in-charge Monitored Approach", to encapusulate the basic philosophy: it is a procedure in which the second pilot or co-pilot handles the aircraft for the approach, being monitored by the pilot in charge, who will be doing the landing. lt is shortened to PicMA for simplicity in this website.

Many if not most airlines encourage Captains to let First Officers gain experience by "role reversal".  There are many versions of this but in general it involves the F/O doing the majority of the duties normally assigned to the Captain and vice versa. This would include the tasks involved in conducting the approach.   

Such role reversal may involve the F/O doing not only the aircraft handling including takeoffs and landings but also other tasks normally assigned to the Captain, e.g. flight planning, load sheet and technical log inspection, passenger liaison and PA etc., even though the Captain retains the legal responsibility as aircraft commander.  In this case the F/O is acting as if he/she were the Captain until the Commander decides other wise, i.e. the F/O is temporarily "in charge" and the Captain is (temporarily) the co-pilot.

This may be characterised as "Pilot in Charge Command (or in Charge) Under Supervision" flying, with the acronym PICUS, and is valid for recording experience for crew licencing purposes. 

"PicMA" stands for Pilot in charge Monitored Approach, since during the approach on such a sector the F/O will be doing the captain's normal duties as pilot responsible for the overall conduct or "in charge" of the flight, and hence doing the monitoring during the approach. The Captain as Aircraft Commander of course remains legally responsible for supervising the actions of the copilot, whatever degree of role reversal is being undertaken.  

Depending on specific company and national regulations and processes this may have different local and legal definitions, e.g. "pilot in command under supervision", "leg and leg flying", "first officer flying", "co-pilot sector", "role reversal", etc.  Professional pilots understand what is meant in the current context and the term "pilot in charge" is used here to convey that the "monitored approach procedure" is part of the duties to be transferred during sectors where the Captain allows the other pilot to carry out the takeoff and landing. These issues are discussed in some detail in the section on First Officer Flying.

There isn't an organisation as such.  An earlier version was picma."" because it was an available address for a non-commercial site, and "" had already been taken. Subsequently ".info" top level domains became available. 

Anonymous forums (such as PPRuNe) provide wide access and often excellent discussion, but are also open to abuse, mischief-making and time-wasters.

The intention of the PicMA site is to promote serious discussion only. All users need to be assured that everyone has some qualification to particpate in discussions.  

Some aspects of low visibility operations that PicMA was originally developed to deal with have been addressed by the availability of autoland systems and head-up displays for Cat 2 and 3 conditions. These operations have become generally much safer as a result. But Cat 2 and 3 approaches with autoland account for a minuscule minority of approaches

However nearly all landings today still follow approaches made visually or using Cat 1 or non-precision facilities.  Almost all approach and landing accidents to modern "automated" aircraft happen for the same reasons that PicMA was developed to overcome over 60 years ago.

Furthermore, it is clearly not only known limited visibility that causes problems. The need for more effective monitoring and better overall flight management by crews is of great concern. Mandatory CRM training has had very significant benefits but is incapable of completely resolving these aspects. Recent events with some of the most advanced aircraft demonstrate exactly this point.  

So no, automation and CRM training has not rendered the concept out of date.  

One  operations manager's objections can be summarised as "There is less clarity around pilot flying and monitoring functions when there a handover of control. Hasn't that contributed to several incidents throughout aviation involving an unusual attitude or loss of control at the bottom of a IFR approach?" 

In fact if compared on an exact like-for-like basis there is usually MORE clarity about who is flying and who is monitoring when using a PicMA procedure. The NTSB pointed this out in its 1974 study. It noted that a transfer of internal and external monitoring duties is called for in procedures without a transfer of control (i.e. traditional PF/PM procedures), but not in PicMA procedures. This exchange of monitoring duties is far more hazardous than a planned exchange of control.

The NTSB recommended that to ensure the essential continuous monitoring of the aircraft's instruments from the OM to landing, the wording of monitoring tasks should be specific. Procedures which involve a transfer or exchange of visual scanning responsibilities (i.e. traditional PF/PM procedures) should require that the appropriate crew member announce that he or she is relinquishing previously assigned duties or responsibilities.

In addition, procedures should limit sighting call-outs to those visual cues which are associated with the runway environment, and un-required callouts which can result in the premature abandonment of instrument procedures should be prohibited.

Few if any operators comply with these NTSB recommendations in full.

As far as multiple occurrences of "unusual attitude or loss of control at the bottom of a IFR approach" resulting from control handover is concerned, it has not been possible to find any examples of this in an extensive literature search. This concern appears to based on hearsay and rumour, not fact.

Accidents and incidents involving control handover have almost invariably been the result of UNEXPECTED handovers when it had been intended that a First Officer would do the landing. Either the Aircraft Commander has belatedly taken over, or the First Officer has abruptly relinquished control, because what he or she perceived to be an unsatisfactory situation.  The two factors of the situation already being unsatisfactory, plus a completely unexpected reversal of PF/PNF role, can indeed be catastrophic. But neither of these factors is present in a PicMA approach.

What is true is that there have been many instances of loss of control or unusual attitudes at the bottom of "traditional" IFR approaches, usually as a result of the Pilot Flying being unprepared for a go-around. This has applied particularly with modern automated aircraft. The probability of such loss of control is significantly reduced by PicMA because the copilot is fully "primed" for a go-around on every approach.  

You seem to be implying that PicMA should be used on all flights, but isn't it actually only needed in bad weather? 

It's true that most people associate PicMA procedures with specific weather criteria (cloudbase and visibility RVR). That certainly mitigates a lot of risks. However many accidents involving poor planning and management, many involving breakdowns of monitoring, and many cases of descent below MDA without visual reference have occurred when none of these criteria were met.

These criteria rely totally on the assumption that weather reported to crews prior an approach is what will be found by that crew on arrival at DH/MDA. In fact nothing can be further from the truth - weather reports can be grossly misleading. Accident reports show that on a very high proportion of occasions the crew were completely taken by surprise by the conditions especially vbisual cues, they found.

Standard Procedures should prepare the crew to cope with the worst case even if it doesn't arise. Having a good procedure available, and crashing because you didn't "need" to use it is unforgiveable, but is actively encouraged by employing such restrictive criteria.

Secondly, having it as a "bad weather" procedure means that it is not practiced on a routine daily basis. Crews become habituated to doing things differently to that needed when perfectly predictable but not everyday circumstances occur. Using PicMA as a single procedure in all conditions ensures that crews are completely practiced at it and fully familiar with all aspects when the need is strongest.

The use of PicMA on all appraoches forms a safety net against many threats that are well known and routinely occur.   

Why did you set up this site?

In late 2013 I was approached by pilots from an operator that had successfully used PicMA based procedures for decades in a very challenging environment.This operator had much exposure to low visibility landings. Their company had just been acquired by another, and new managers who were unfamiliar with the concept wished to impose a change to traditional  PF/PNF procedures.

The reason given was improved safety, on a stated basis that low level exchange of control had been shown to cause many accidents. However, when asked to provide examples it was admitted that the information was based on hearsay only, and no evidence was forthcoming to support it.  

It was particularly alarming that this change was said to be taking place with the full approval of the operator's regulatory authority.

In providing background information to these pilots, which caused this mistaken position to be reversed, I became aware that much of the background material to safe low visibility operations was in danger of being lost. It also became apparent that accidents and incidents due to factors that the procedure addresses continue to this day, and that no single organisation had ever brought together the three basic human factors aspects that the procedure addresses.  

This site has been set up to collate as much relevant material as possible into in a single easily accessible resource for use by any party concerned with air safety and the reduction of crew-caused accidents.  

What's in this for you? What do you get out of setting up this website and pushing for pilots to change the way they work? 

Basically self-preservation. My flying today is as a passenger, and I want my flights and those of my friends and family to be as safe as possible!