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Difference Between a Ship Captain and an Airplane Captain

airplane captainWhat is the difference between the two? They are both called captains, but it looks like they do very different jobs. One flying at 35,000 feet and one going around the oceans.

Actually, they both do the same job. How?

Let’s see what they have in common.

Sure, they are in charge of two very different machines and two very different ways of transportation, but at the end the duties and responsibilities or quite the same. But let’s go through a few common points.

What does a Ship and an Airplane Captain have in Common

  1. A captain must take care of the safety of the passengers and crew (or cargo).
  2. He represents the law of the state of origin of the airline or shipping company.
  3. He represents the airline or shipping company itself and must be sure that everyone (including passengers) are following the company’s rules or international norms and regulations.
  4. He is responsible for most of the decision making on board the plane or ship.
  5. He is the last one to decide in case of emergency unless specified differently by the procedures.
  6. He must handle a crew.
  7. He is a leader.

These are some of the common points between the two. There are also others, but with some slight difference due to the specifics of the environment. Let’s see which one.

Common points in Handling a Crew

A captain must be a leader and handle his crew effectively. Whether it’s a second-in-command or a co-pilot, they still have to find the right symbiosis to communicate correctly, cooperate and bring everybody on board to work as a team.

They both follow a training called CRM – Crew Resource Management. Actually, CRM is used in Aviation, but in the “marine world” it is called BRM – Bridge Resource Management.

It is the same thing just called differently. Captains and crew members have to go through a specific training that allows them to understand what it takes to work as a team and get things done together, in the most efficient way.

Everybody knows that a team will always perform better than a single individual.

Common points on Navigation

A captain must navigate following international rules and regulations. The rules are very much different between air and sea navigation, but nevertheless their role is to understanding these rules and regulations and apply them correctly.

A captain must have a plan B and predict what will be the weather conditions along the route and know what are the potential hazards he will encounter and prepare for these.

A captain must plan. He must know how to plan his flight or his route at sea and he must assess the risks and plan for those, either to avoid them or to face them in case something goes wrong.

A captain must have experience and understand situations better than anyone else on board: he must have a “wider” situational awareness and use his experience to understand what is going on around him during the flight or during the cruise.

A captain must use his experience to make good and right decisions. A good decision doesn’t always apply, but the right one will! Those with little experience not always are able to understand what are the elements to consider to make the right decision, they often take in consideration also elements not so important for the decision they have to take. A captain can avoid this.

Any other similarities you can recognize?

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