Who Is PIC When 2 Certificated Pilots Fly Together?

It’s important to verbally communicate the responsibilities before a flight.

Question: I have a private pilot certificate, and I want to build time by flying a Cessna 172 with a friend who also has a private certificate and wants to build time. How do we determine who is pilot in command (PIC) on these flights? Is it the person who sits in the left seat? Can we both be PIC?

Answer: Let’s start by reviewing FAR 91.3, which defines pilot in command as “the person directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of the aircraft.” It does not state which seat the person needs to be in, However, (puts on CFI cap) you will note that flying from the right seat may be a little more difficult (at first) because the sight picture is different from the left. Takeoffs and landings can be a little tricky initially.

FAR 61.57 reminds us that “no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers or of an aircraft certificated for more than one pilot flight crewmember unless that person has made at least three takeoffs and three landings within the preceding 90 days, and the person has acted as the sole manipulator of the flight controls.” If either you or your friend are out of currency, you cannot be PIC on the flight until you do three takeoffs and landings.

When it comes flying with another pilot, make sure you designate responsibilities before you start the engine. For example, you will be the PIC, therefore the pilot on the controls. Your friend will be in charge of radios and navigation during the flight. Say the words out loud: “I am the pilot and command, and you are on the radios and navigation.” Insist your friend confirms understanding of those responsibilities back to you—”You are the PIC, and I am in charge of the radios and navigation,”—so there is no confusion.

Do you have a question about aviation that’s been bugging you? Ask us anything you’ve ever wanted to know about aviation. Our experts in general aviation, flight training, aircraft, avionics, and more may attempt to answer your question in a future article.


New to Flying?


Already have an account?