Three vs Two Crew Fun Fact

During the piston and turbojet eras the government had mandated a three-pilot crew operation when the gross weight of an aircraft exceeded 80,000 pounds. However, in April 1965 the FAA announced that it was abolishing the weight limit criteria and aircraft would be certified for two-crew operation on an individual basis.

The amendment to § 25.1523 Minimum flight crew was based on a notice of proposed rule making (Notice 64-21) issued on April 27, 1964, and published in the Federal Register on May 1, 1964 (29 F.R. 5805). The notice stated that the FAA believed that to continue to require a flight engineer (third crew) solely on the basis of airplane weight was unrealistic for airplanes that were being designed at the time.

This followed two years of consultations with pilots’ unions, airline managers, airframe manufacturers and human factors studies. The three-crewmember era lasted until the emergence of the first significant jet airliners designed for two pilots, the B-737 and the DC-9, both of which exceeded the old 80,000-pound gross takeoff weight limit.

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