Wouldn’t it be awkward to have dual controls in your car? But then, wouldn’t it be handy for training a new driver? Or to share the driving with a passenger? Aircraft with dual controls enable pilot training and shared control with a second pilot.
Most aircraft are fitted with dual controls. Even two seat fighters have flight controls for the second pilot for training new pilots. A number of aircraft are specially fitted with dual controls for this purpose.
Some small aircraft, like the de Havilland Beaver, have a control stick that is shared by both pilots. The flight instruments are also shared with side-by-side seat configuration.
Realistically accurate flight simulators give pilots a substantial head start on training. But the eventual first flight is very real. The instructor will often fly the maneuvers that are being taught before handing over control. The new pilot will be allowed to fly until safe limits are exceeded. The instructor will then take over with his own flight controls.
Pilot training is a career long endeavor. A pilot with “high hours” will normally share his experience by working with newer ones. The new pilot can gain hands on experience with the security of an experienced pilot. In fact, all pilots must maintain their legal status to fly the aircraft type by flying the minimum number or hours each period.
Redundancy through duplication has always been striven for in the aviation industry. A failure in one set of controls should not affect the other. This goal carries over to the flight instruments. While many instruments and switches are shared, some rarely are. The air speed indicator and altimeter, with their own sensors, are two examples.
The cockpit of a multi-engine airplane is a very complex environment. It becomes a very busy place during take off and landings. Communication with traffic controllers, navigation, checklists and preparations must be done while doing the actual flying. The pilots will agree before hand who will perform which of the many tasks that lie ahead.
Pilot fatigue and exhaustion have caused countless accidents. Rest for the pilots during the flight is a matter of safety. Passengers would no doubt be alarmed at the sight of pilots bungling through a seat-switching maneuver while flying.
Most of us sleep right through a transatlantic flight without a worry. We know the aircrew will be well trained, proficient and alert. The system of dual controls and redundancy play an important part in the safety we enjoy.