Author Topic: Apollo 11 LM roles  (Read 6806 times)

Offline StevieA

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Apollo 11 LM roles
« on: October 17, 2012, 04:56:33 AM »
Armstrong was Commander, Aldrin was LM Pilot, so why was it Armstrong piloting Eagle to his famous landing rather than Aldrin? A lot has been made of Armstrong's piloting skills, and he obviously trained well for it, including his ejection from the LLRV, whereas I've read little of Aldrin's training to pilot the LM.

Offline ka9q

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2012, 05:19:52 AM »
Because "LM Pilot" was a misnomer in Apollo. It really meant "Flight Engineer" as that's the role they played on both the CSM and LM. Some LM documentation even uses the label "flight engineer" for controls and displays on the right hand side.

But because all the astronauts (with very few exceptions, like Jack Schmitt) were already experienced pilots, they all wanted titles that included the word "pilot". So there was an LM Pilot on every Apollo flight through Apollo 17. Even Apollos 7 and 8, which had no LMs.

Instead of an LM Pilot, ASTP had a "Docking Module Pilot" (Deke Slayton) and the three Skylab ferry flights had "Science Pilots" (Joe Kerwin, Owen Garriott and Edward Gibson).

« Last Edit: October 17, 2012, 05:23:42 AM by ka9q »

Offline smartcooky

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2012, 05:34:29 AM »
Armstrong was Commander, Aldrin was LM Pilot, so why was it Armstrong piloting Eagle to his famous landing rather than Aldrin? A lot has been made of Armstrong's piloting skills, and he obviously trained well for it, including his ejection from the LLRV, whereas I've read little of Aldrin's training to pilot the LM.

The title Lunar Module Pilot is a bit misleading. He's actually more of a Lunar Module Co-pilot; capable of flying the Lunar Module. IIRC the only LMP who ever flew the LM was Alan Bean on Apollo 12, but it was after liftoff

AIUI this was the continuation of a tradition that began during the Gemini programme. Those astronauts were all test pilots (with egos to match) and none of them liked the idea that they were being given titles that implied their role in the mission was somehow a secondary one, so in Gemini, the titles were Command Pilot and Pilot. Its a bit like the Captain of an aeroplane and the First Officer or Co-Pilot. The Captain takes the "right seat" and flies the plane.

That tradition continued through to the Shuttle Programme, where the Commander did most of the flying and the Pilot was predominantly an operational position more akin to that of a Flight Engineer.
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Offline ka9q

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2012, 05:47:40 AM »
in Gemini, the titles were Command Pilot and Pilot.
And for Apollo 1 (which never flew) the titles were similar: Command Pilot (Grissom), Senior Pilot (White) and Pilot (Chaffee).

Quote
Its a bit like the Captain of an aeroplane and the First Officer or Co-Pilot. The Captain takes the "right seat" and flies the plane.
I'm pretty sure the captain takes the left seat.

This tradition was followed on Apollo where the Commander took the left seat of the CSM during launch and the left "seat" of the LM (always). The Command Module Pilot (CMP) sat in the middle during launch and took the left seat of the CSM at most other times as he was the one then flying.

About the only exception I can think of was Apollo 11, when Aldrin sat in the center and Collins sat on the right during launch. This may be because their assignments had shuffled around a bit and Aldrin was originally a CMP. The Apollo 8 backup crew, which normally would have become the Apollo 11 prime crew, was Armstrong as CDR, Aldrin as CMP and Haise as LMP. Then Collins came off medical leave and things got shuffled.

Offline Echnaton

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2012, 07:40:12 AM »
Welcome to the forum, StevieA.  It looks like your initial query has been answered, but if you have any more questions there are a number of very knowledgeable people here that can go on for some time about Apollo.   ;)
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Offline Glom

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2012, 07:50:22 AM »
And if Aldrin didn't have the title of pilot, his attempts to agitate to be the first one out would have been even more futile.

Offline smartcooky

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2012, 08:04:37 AM »
I'm pretty sure the captain takes the left seat.

In Civilian flying certainly, but very often not in the Military. Depending on the aircraft, many military aircraft with side-by-side seating fly the PIC in the right seat. C-130s usually have the captain in the left seat, but for some missions, e.g. Tac low-level cargo drops, the captain usually flies in the right seat.

This is always the case in helicopters (like Blackhawks, Hueys, Sea Kings, Hughes 300 & 500, Jet rangers etc)... cyclic control (roll/pitch) in the right hand, throttle/collective in the left hand. The reason for this is that helicopters are inherently unstable (even with force trim) so pilots tend not to want to let go of the cyclic when they need to operate switches and buttons on the instrument panel.
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Offline StevieA

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2012, 08:11:26 AM »
Thanks! It's always bugged me.

Steve

Offline Sus_pilot

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Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2012, 08:13:43 AM »
Additionally, in civilian aircraft requiring two pilots, the policy is each takes a leg of the flight, while the pilot not flying takes care of radios and other cockpit duties.  The captain, regardless of who's flying, is still the pilot-in-command, responsible for the safe conduct of the flight.

Interestingly, my understanding is that on long trans-Pacific flights, where there's usually a relief pilot on board, the captain is still PIC, even though he or she napping in first class.

Offline ka9q

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2012, 09:45:57 AM »
And if Aldrin didn't have the title of pilot, his attempts to agitate to be the first one out would have been even more futile.
Well....

He did have some precedent to point to. On Gemini, starting with Ed White on Gemini IV, it was always the less senior astronaut who performed the EVA. Even the first Apollo EVA was that of the LMP on Apollo 9, Rusty Schweikert, with CMP Dave Scott assisting from the door of the CM. Of course, I don't know of any EVA prior to Apollo 11 in which everybody in a spacecraft got out, so one could argue that these precedents didn't apply. But the general wisdom is that Armstrong got out first (as did all of the CDRs on the five later landings) because the front door swung in and toward the right (LMP) side. With the CDR always on the left side of the LM, it was much easier for him to get out first and back in last.

« Last Edit: October 17, 2012, 09:48:34 AM by ka9q »

Offline ka9q

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2012, 12:43:45 PM »
Interestingly, my understanding is that on long trans-Pacific flights, where there's usually a relief pilot on board, the captain is still PIC, even though he or she napping in first class.
There's also PF (Pilot Flying) and PNF (Pilot Not Flying). Not being a pilot I read about them in connection with the Air France 447 accident over the Atlantic a few years ago. Although the Pilot In Command is PIC for the entire flight, awake or not, PF/PNF can and does change quite a few times, often without the flight crew getting out of their seats.

I guess the PIC rules come from maritime practice, and it does make sense.

Offline Obviousman

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2012, 05:35:57 AM »
We use the terms Aircraft Comander (AC), Flying Pilot (FP) and Non-Flying Pilot (NFP). The AC is responsible overall, but if they are the NFP and the FP commits a gross violation, resulting in an incident, then the AC is not automatically held responsible. An investigatotion determines where responsibility lay.

Offline ka9q

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2012, 06:06:17 AM »
I've always wondered about the practice of holding a ship or airplane captain responsible for everything his subordinates do. It was certainly a common theme in the original Star Trek. Having never been in the military (or served on a civilian ship) I have no personal knowledge of or experience with it in the real world.

It probably depends on the context, i.e., military or civilian, the country, etc. Can you really hold a captain completely responsible for every action of a subordinate, even when the captain has no knowledge and the act violates the captain's own orders?

Offline Echnaton

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2012, 06:21:51 AM »
I haven't been in the military either, but my conversations with those who have suggests that passing the buck (more American slang) down to subordinates is as common there as it is anywhere else. 
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Offline ka9q

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Re: Apollo 11 LM roles
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2012, 10:17:24 AM »
Passing the buck down doesn't always work.

I live very close to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego Calilfornia. Several years ago, a F-18 crashed about a half mile from here, destroying two homes and wiping out an entire family except for the husband who was at work. It turns out that the F-18 had flown with known problems against regulations, and an engine failed in flight while operating off an aircraft carrier near the coast. He flew right over North Island Naval Air Station, right on the coast, and headed for the inland Miramar (with residential areas between it and the coast) on orders from his superiors on the ground. Apparently Miramar has better maintenance facilities and it would have been a hassle to transport the plane from North Island.

Anyway, the remaining engine failed as he was approaching Miramar, and he didn't make it. The pilot ejected but his plane crashed in a residential area. I figure he was about 5 seconds flying time from my house, which is closer to the base.

I had always thought the pilot in command of an airplane has the ultimate responsibility and the corresponding authority to override regulations in an emergency. Apparently this doesn't apply to US military pilots, at least junior ones like this one. I had expected a complete whitewash but to my surprise the Marines sacked something like a dozen people including the pilot's immediate superiors, but the pilot himself is apparently still able to fly. Isn't that interesting?