Aviation Roles


  • Responsibilities overlap in many instances
    • Where this occurs, it is expected that both parties fulfill their responsibilities
  • Common parties include:
  • Other parties include:
  • The roles and responsibilities of the pilot and controller for effective participation in the ATC system are contained in several documents. Pilot responsibilities are in the CFRs, and the air traffic controllers are in the FAA Order JO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, and supplemental FAA directives. Additional and supplemental information for pilots can be found in the current Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), Notices to Air Missions, Advisory Circulars, and aeronautical charts. Since there are many other excellent publications produced by non-government organizations, as well as other government organizations, with various updating cycles, questions concerning the latest or most current material can be resolved by cross-checking with the above-mentioned documents
  • Think you've got a solid understanding of aviation roles? Don't miss the aviation roles quiz below, and topic summary


  • The Pilot-In-Command, or PIC, of an aircraft, is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to the safe operation of that aircraft
    • Therefore, there shall only be one acting pilot-in-command at any given time
  • In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency
    • Each pilot in command who deviates from a rule as stated above shall, upon the request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator
  • No person may operate an aircraft that is type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember unless the pilot in command meets the requirements of FAR 61.58
  • No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember's duties aboard an aircraft being operated
  • The decision to abandon aircraft should be tempered by the pilot's responsibility for the safety of lives that may be endangered by a subsequent flight of a pilotless but controllable aircraft
  • It is the responsibility of the pilot/crew to aviate, navigate, and communicate, in that priority, throughout all aspects of both routine and unusual circumstances
  • Note that ATC isn't as much as mentioned
    • You can deviate from any regulation necessary to meet the extent of an emergency, but you may be asked to explain why
    • You cannot deviate from any regulation without appropriate reason, and ATC cannot clear you to do so
  • Required pilot flight crewmembers, when exercising the privileges of that pilot certificate or authorization, must have on their person or readily available:
    • A pilot certificate appropriate to the operation
    • A special purpose pilot authorization issued under FAR 61.77, if applicable;
    • A temporary certificate issued under FAR 61.17, if applicable;
    • A document conveying temporary authority to exercise certificate privileges issued by the Airmen Certification Branch under FAR 61.29(e), if applicable; or
    • When operating an aircraft within a foreign country, a pilot license issued by that country may be used
  • Pilots-in-command are required to:
  • The PIC should verify safety pilots if required, are appropriately experienced to perform that role

Second-In-Command (SIC):

  • Airplanes that require at least two pilots, either by type certification or operation, require someone to fly as Second in Command
  • Certification is governed by FAR 61.55
  • See also: Obtaining an SIC Type Rating

Remote Pilot-In-Command:

  • No person may operate a civil small unmanned aircraft system unless it is in a condition for safe operation. Before each flight, the remote pilot in command must check the small unmanned aircraft system to determine whether it is in a condition for safe operation
  • No person may continue flight of the small unmanned aircraft when they know or have reason to know that the small unmanned aircraft system is no longer in a condition for safe operation

Flight Instructor:

  • The instructor's job is to facilitate learning
  • Instructors are, therefore, unofficially responsible for letting students get themselves into situations where learning can occur but not letting those situations devolve the instructor loosing situational awareness or not having the ability to return the aircraft to safe flight

Air Traffic Controller:

  • Responsible for giving first priority to the separation of aircraft and to the issuance of radar safety alerts, second priority to other services that are required but do not involve separation, and the third to additional services to the maximum extent possible

Aviation Mechanic Technician:

  • Aviation mechanic technicians is a general term for aircraft mechanics
  • Ratings include Airframe (A), Powerplant (P), and both (A&P)

Airport Manager:

  • An airport manager is responsible for a given airfield
  • Should be contacted for more information regarding the airfield and to report any possible hazards

Aviation Medical Examiner:

  • Aviation Medical Examiners, or AMEs, are approved medical professionals who may clear a pilot for flight in the form of a medical certificate
  • An applicant may search for an AME online or by contacting the Manager of the Aerospace Medical Education Division, P.O. Box 26200, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73125

Safety Pilot:

  • A safety pilot is required whenever the pilot flying cannot meet see-and-avoid requirements, such as during simulated instrument conditions with a view-limiting device
  • A safety pilot must possess a current medical certificate, occupy the other control seat, and be appropriately rated in the category and class aircraft flown [§ 61.3(c), § 61.51, § 61.57(c), and § 91.109]
  • The pilot operating under simulated instrument conditions must also log the name of the safety pilot

Aviation Roles Knowledge Quiz:


  • To maintain a safe and efficient air traffic system, each party must fulfill their responsibilities to the fullest
  • The responsibilities of the pilot and the controller intentionally overlap in many areas, providing a degree of redundancy
    • Should one or the other fail in any manner, this overlapping responsibility is expected to compensate, in many cases, for failures that may affect safety
  • When it comes to the role of the PIC, note that you are responsible for the safe operation, especially in an emergency; ATC is not the PIC, and the PIC should not accept instructions that interfere with safe operations
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