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Can a pilot leave the cockpit during flight?

Can a pilot leave the cockpit during flight?

Pilots are generally free to leave the cockpit during the cruise phase of flight. This can be to make a trip to the restroom, check on certain things in the passenger cabins, or to simply stretch their legs.

Can pilot open cockpit window while flying?

When the aircraft is not pressurized, either on the ground or if depressurized during the flight (intentionally or due to an accident), then pilots can open them. On most modern aircraft, the opening procedure is the same. The window is unlatched, and it then slides inwards into the cockpit and opens to the side.

Are pilots allowed to talk in the cockpit?

The strictly enforced Sterile Cockpit Rule means pilots are barely allowed to talk to each other if their aircraft is flying below 10,000 feet (about three kilometres). The law instructs pilots to focus entirely on “their essential operational activities” and “avoid non-essential conversations”, The Sun reports.

Does a pilot have to stay on plane?

Like any profession, pilot lifestyles vary significantly. Some pilots work for companies that allow them to be home most nights. Other operations can keep pilots flying around the world for weeks at a time. Many operators have a bidding system for the assignment of crews to trips.

What is world’s longest flight?

For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page. Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers. Singapore Airlines currently operates the longest flight in the world: a whopping 9,527-mile nonstop journey from New York to Singapore.

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What happens if a pilot has to use the bathroom?

Can a pilot leave the cockpit to use the facilities? Answer: There are very strict protocols for a pilot to use the lavatory during flight. This ensures that security considerations are mitigated while meeting the physiological needs of the pilots. Yes, pilots can leave the flight deck to use the lavatory.

Are there cameras in cockpits?

Airplane cabins have cameras that are primarily used for safety and security reasons. Cameras can be placed outside the cockpit so pilots are aware of what’s going on outside their cockpit door. Flight attendants can use cameras to view a cabin that might otherwise be obstructed from their seats.

Why are there 3 pilots in cockpit?

The third officer would serve as a relief pilot and aircrew member, and could move between pilot, co-pilot, radio officer, and flight engineer positions to provide a rest period for the primary crews. Third officers in modern civil aviation are often not formally titled as such.

Is phone allowed in cockpit?

NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Wednesday has lifted the ban on the use of personal electronic devices like cell phones at all times during a flight, provided they are used in a non-transmitting or “Airplane” mode.

What do pilots see when they fly?

Pilots have a unique viewpoint while flying private or commercial aircraft. They get an unobstructed view of stunning natural sights, such as pink lakes and rectangular-shaped icebergs. Some have reported seeing UFOs, while others have flown over swirling hurricanes.

What happens if cockpit window breaks?

A broken window would cause the air inside to rush out rapidly, causing little objects like phones and magazines (and even larger ones, like people) to be carried away. This is all due to the high-pressure difference at high altitudes.

Are plane cockpit windows bulletproof?

Since the windows are essentially made from plexiglass, they aren’t bulletproof. However, they rarely fail. And even if they do, modern airliners such as the Boeing 737 used to operate Flight 1380 can survive and land after most depressurization events.

Are cockpits bulletproof?

So to summarize, any airplane operating under 121 rules (i.e. scheduled air carrier operations) must have bullet-resistant cockpit door.

Can a pilot text while flying?

Nonflight related conversations, including via electronic devices, are banned during take off and landing and during flight below 10,000 feet. Above 10,000 feet, commercial pilots can use tablets and laptops.

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Does the pilot have a camera in the bathroom?

«We can confirm from our investigation that there was never a camera in the lavatory; the incident was an inappropriate attempt at humour which the company did not condone.» The BBC has requested comment from the lawyer representing the pilots.

Why are cockpit voices female?

Female voice recordings were used even during World War II in aeroplane cockpits due to the fact, they spoke at a higher pitch than male pilots, so they were easier to distinguish.

Do pilots lock the cockpit door?

The cockpit door automatically locks, but a keypad outside allows a flight attendant to insert a security code to gain access. A buzzer sounds, and the pilots must switch the door control inside the cockpit to “unlock” to release the door after verifying the crew member through a peephole or video surveillance.

What does a pilot say before taking off?

“Let’s kick the tires and light the fires”

Famously uttered by Harry Connick Jr. in Independence Day, the military phrase signals that a plane is just about ready for takeoff, says Mark Baker, a commercial pilot of 35 years and current president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

Why are cockpits locked?

After 9/11, changes were made to the security of cockpits in an effort to make hijackings more difficult. According to the US Federal Aviation Administration, doors should typically be tough enough to withstand a grenade blast. They are usually left locked throughout the flight.

Why do cockpits have red lights?

Similarly, airplane cockpits use red lights so pilots can read their instruments and maps while maintaining night vision to see outside the aircraft. Red lights are also often used in research settings.

Do cockpits lock now?

While cockpit doors are required to stay closed and locked during flight, pilots step outside to use the restroom, let flight attendants bring in food, or switch crews for rest purposes. After 9/11, Congress mandated airlines to fortify cockpit doors, making them virtually impenetrable.

How long can a pilot stay awake?

Only flights that are longer than eight hours require an additional pilot to be on board so one pilot at a time can rotate out for rest. On shorter flights, US regulations expect both pilots to remain alert for the entire length of the flight, without any chance for rest during the flight.

How long can a pilot not drink?

No drinking within 8 hours of flight

They also restrict pilots from «flying or attempting to fly an aircraft within 8 hours of consuming alcohol or if they have an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or greater,» according to FAA rules.

Can a pilot refuse a passenger?

Section 44902(b) of the FAA, known as “permissive refusal,” provides pilots with broad authority to remove passengers. The pilot in command stands in the role of the air carrier and can decide whether to remove a passenger from a flight for safety reasons.

Can pilots fly like in Top Gun?

“They did shoot the vast majority of the movie with real airplanes doing real flying, not models or CGI.” Pilots can perform most of the airplane scenes, including the air combat maneuvering, known as dogfighting.

Two in the Cockpit rule: Yes or No?


During a flight, the cabin crew are busy with the inflight service and thus it wouldn’t prove commercially viable to take a crew member away from duty and ask them to sit in the cockpit every time a pilot wishes to take a quick break. It could mean that the cabin service is slowed down and customer service is not being delivered to the highest of levels due to being one member down and also increasing the workload of the other crew members. Resolving this by increasing the crew compliment by one member in order to compensate, might seem viable, however for the sake of just a few minutes during the flight, especially when the break might even be taken after the service has been finished, it may prove unnecessary from a scheduling and HR point of view.

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Reasons for

As we all know, aviation is an industry where safety is at the centre of everything. Safety of the crew, passengers and aircraft, as well as those on the ground are considered priority when it comes to day to day operations and is ingrained in the very fabric of our nature. One of the main ways this is achieved is via redundancy and backup of systems, whether they may be primary or secondary systems, or even equipment and flight planning. This is a consideration of the SHELL and the ‘Swiss Cheese’ model, which stands for; Software, Hardware, Environment, Liveware, Liveware. The model combines the Flying subsystem with the Human subsystem, showing all of the components that are conducive to flight operations. The human subsystem is the Liveware + Liveware and comprises the pilots and crew, as well as those on the ground such as ATC. The ‘Swiss Cheese’ model is an analogy for stopping errors from developing over various stages, with the aim of preventing an error early on so that it doesn’t develop into something more sinister down the line and possibly leading to catastrophe. So the question is, if the flying subsystem is built to include redundancy, then definitely the human subsystem should include that too, because after all humans aren’t invincible or flawless and should be treated as such. Pilot incapacitation is a rare but real threat. Most commercial airliners are designed to be multi-pilot aircraft and so the optimal operative environment is just that, with multiple crew members at the helm, actively monitoring and managing the aircraft at all times. If a sole pilot, on break cover, in the cockpit falls unconscious, there is still the autopilot engaged and so won’t be an immediate threat, however, if the pilot falls onto the controls thus disengaging the autopilot, then the situation takes a nefarious turn. This is not the end of the world as such, as crew can still enter the cockpit using an emergency code and rectify the situation, however, there is a time delay followed by a few second window in which the door unlocks, which if you miss for a multitude of reasons, there is another delay of around 2 minutes (aircraft dependent) before the code can be entered again. Just imagine the aircraft is in a steep dive over mountainous terrain and you have to wait for 3 minutes. I’m guessing that wait will be very harrowing — every second counts. However, if there was already break cover in the flight deck then the situation would be different. A critical event could happen at any time of the flight and the Startle Response during this event can temporarily incapacitate a pilot, thus losing precious time depending on the severity of the situation. Studies show the startle factor can last up to around 60 seconds from the onset of the stimuli, during which the pilot in focus’s senses are “frozen”, thus not being able to act in full compos mentis. This is especially the case during periods of low stimulation, such as the non-critical cruise phase. Conversely, there could also be a tendency to act in haste and rush into a reaction which could later prove to be a poor decision. There have been many cases of the startle factor being the cause/catalyst in a serious aviation incident. When there is more than one pilot in the cockpit, if a situation arises where one pilot becomes startled, the other pilot can regain the pilot in focus’s attention and bring their focus back to the situation, regaining all senses. Most of the time, critical situations don’t require an immediate response — the reason why pilots are trained to “sit on their hands”, analyse the situation and react in a sensible and informed manner, eliminating the risks of a rushed action. However, there are some situations, such as inflight wake turbulence or stalls etc, whereby a quick reaction is needed. A notorious incident was a Challenger business jet being caught in the wake of an A380 at 34,000ft over the Middle East, causing it to flip upside down between 3-5 times. Had it not been for the pilot’s quick reaction, there would no doubt have been fatalities. Imagine a time critical scenario where a passenger airliner becomes caught in a wake, with just one pilot in the cockpit as the other is out on a walk around, and something like that happens causing the pilot to succumb to startle, with no one present to recentre their focus back. Mental health issues in pilots is a taboo issue within the industry, which is however steadily starting to gain focus and attention. Although pilots have an extensive physical checkup every 12 months, in order to keep the Class 1 Medicals current, there are no checks for psychological health. I’m sure we have all heard about the horrible incident which occurred in 2015, where the pilot of a European airline was found to have initiated a Controlled Flight Into Terrain, deliberately crashing a passenger airliner, with 150 people onboard, into the Alps. It was understood that the First Officer was suffering from serious and long standing mental health issues which he did not disclose to his airline or colleagues. At the time, the Captain was out of the cockpit on a break, leaving his First Officer alone in the cockpit as per normal procedure. It wasn’t until he went to return that he realised that his First Officer was denying the entry code, thus locking the Captain out of the cockpit. The cockpit voice recorder which was recovered from the wreckage, had audio footage in which the Captain can be heard frantically banging on the cockpit door, emotionally begging and pleading with the first officer to open the door, joined by the excruciating screams and cries of the onlooking passengers who had just realised the severity of the situation they were now trapped in. It is no surprise that the specific nature of this event sent shockwaves through the aviation community and far beyond into the general public, with many people worried about boarding an aircraft and leaving their lives in the hands of the human beings at the front. If one wishes to speculate, then if there was a second crew member inside the cockpit, then one could argue the situation may have turned out differently. History within this industry has seen various examples of attempted pilot suicide, some successful and some unsuccessful. With the ever increasing stresses put on pilots, from within the industry and general life, this is a situation that must be addressed and given utmost importance and consideration — naivety, denial and ignorance can prove to be fatal.

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We have looked at both sides of the coin and analyze the implications of each. Humans are not perfect, just like technology and so if we choose to put maximum effort and focus into ensuring aircraft are technically optimal and safe, with proactive and ongoing monitoring, maintenance and research, then the human factor which is incharge of operating them should be given just as much care and attention. It doesn’t mean that if a colleague is having a bad day and is tired/grumpy, that they have a worrying ulterior motive. We are all humans with emotions and can’t be expected to be jolly and bouncy 100% of the time, especially towards the end of a block and a few sectors down, but covering all bases may not be such a bad idea. After all, as many past situations across various areas of life have shown, only one anomaly needs to slip through the data net for there to be a catastrophe. Airlines adopting strict procedures and sacrificing a crew member from service for a few minutes to cover a cockpit break may just prove to be worth it on that very rare occasion something sinister occurs. It is understood that some airlines already adopt such a procedure, whereby if a pilot wishes to take a break, they must first call a crew member into the cockpit and once they have entered, only then can the pilot exit the cockpit — Something which more, if not all airlines could adopt. Cabin Crew currently receive basic training on how to deal with pilot incapacitation, which involves removing a pilot off the controls, locking the seat and removing the pilot from their seat if the situation dictates. Possibly more can be added to this element, such as basic radio communications and overview of cockpit controls — a cost which may one day prove to be worth it, if not just to put passengers’ minds at ease. The purpose of this article is not to scare or deter people from flying, as it is still, statistically, by far the safest form of travel. It is intended to engage those within the industry and provoke serious thought, to consider potential dangers and incorporate effective measures, as we all work together in making this safe and efficient industry even safer. Thank you for reading,

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Aviation regulators push for more automation so flights can be run by a single pilot

This is despite a wealth of evidence showing the value of having two in the cockpit

Mon 21 Nov 2022 // 15:01 UTC

Regulators are pushing the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to examine ways of making single pilot operations the eventual norm in commercial flights.

The area that I think is the most concerning is a pilot sitting on their own in the dark and tired at 3am body clock time for four hours with only text messages from air traffic.

In a working paper [PDF] filed with the aviation standards body, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) requested on behalf of member states that the «necessary enablers» be created «for a safe and globally harmonized introduction of commercial air transport (CAT) operations of large aeroplanes with optimised crew/single-pilot operations while ensuring an equivalent or higher level of safety compared to that achieved in current operations.»

There are two obvious drivers for the proposal – cost cutting and crew shortages. Technology has over decades reduced the need for more people in the cockpit and the hope seems to be that further improvements can pare the current two down to one.

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«One of the driving factors for the industry to propose taking advantage of the introduction of these new concepts of operations is a foreseen reduction in operating costs,» the paper says, though it does note: «Potential additional costs related to higher-level ground support and two-way communications should also be considered. On the aircraft manufacturer side, the development and certification of new cockpit designs and associated systems may require significant investment, although these will likely produce safety benefits and savings in the medium/long term.»

The requirements for a full flying license are also incredibly onerous, which creates a bottleneck in the supply for qualified pilots. For most European airlines, you need 1,500 hours flight time before you get a full license. Until then, you’re on provisional terms and need a fully qualified pilot operating alongside you.

Nonetheless, single pilot operations (SPO) seems to be the direction of travel for the aviation industry. Chris Kempis, director of flight operations at Cathay Pacific, described it as «the unavoidable challenge» at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Safety Conference last month, but said it is «many, many times more complex» than going from three crew to two.

EASA’s Safety Risk Assessment Framework for Extended Minimum Crew Operations (eMCO) and SPO aims to address the following points:

  • Pilot workload: Ensure that the workload of the single-pilot during the cruise phase of the flight is acceptable in normal, abnormal, and non-normal operations.
  • Pilot error: Ensure that the cockpit design is appropriately tolerant of errors, noting that when operating as single-pilot, there is no scope for cross-checking actions by another pilot.
  • Pilot incapacitation: Detect whether the single-pilot during the cruise phase of the flight is no longer fit to fly. Ensure that the level of safety remains acceptable in case of pilot Incapacitation.
  • Fatigue: Ensure that the level of fatigue remains at least as acceptable as for conventional two-pilot operations.
  • Sleep inertia: Ensure resilience of the aircraft and of the operational environment for the time required for the resting pilot to recover sufficiently from the effects of sleep inertia that they can either take command of the aircraft and continue to a safe landing in case of incapacitation of the pilot-flying or be able to assist the pilot-flying with a complex failure scenario.
  • Breaks due to physiological needs: Allow the single-pilot to temporarily leave their station to attend to their physiological needs during an eMCO segment of the flight while ensuring an acceptable level of safety and security.
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«The psychological barriers are probably harder than the technological barriers,» Boeing Southeast Asia president Alexander Feldman told a Bloomberg business summit in Bangkok last week. «The technology is there for single pilots, it’s really about where the regulators and the general public feel comfortable.»

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And there is reason for concern. Just to look at Boeing, not even two pilots could overcome the 737 MAX airliner’s flawed MCAS software, which played a part in the deaths of 346 over two doomed flights in 2018 and 2019. Obviously, there could be no limit to the amount of testing and vetting with regard to any further reliance on automation.

There are also a number of events in recent memory which demonstrate the value of having two pilots in the cockpit. Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed in 2015, killing all 150 on board. Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had been treated for suicidal tendencies and was declared unfit for work by his doctor. Lubitz kept this information from his employer and reported for duty. Once the aircraft, an Airbus A320-211, reached cruising altitude, Lubitz waited for the captain to leave the cockpit, locked the door, and began a controlled descent into the side of a mountain.

Following the incident, EASA itself recommended that there be two authorized personnel in the cockpit at all times. The rule has since fallen out of favor with regulators.

There is also the «Miracle on the Hudson» of 2009, where the captain and first officer in tandem safely landed a US Airways Airbus A320 on the Hudson River after striking a flock of geese, causing both engines to fail. All on board survived.

«Proposed automated solutions do not provide the same safety and security margin as having a second rested, qualified, well-trained pilot physically present on the flight deck,» says another ICAO paper [PDF] on eMCO dated August 2022.

A commercial pilot who spoke to The Register on the condition of anonymity said: «I would say it’s more of an ambition of the airlines and aircraft manufacturers. I have certainly had conversations about it with our managers (who deal with Airbus) in the past.

«The area that I think is the most concerning is a pilot sitting on their own in the dark and tired at 3am body clock time for four hours with only text messages from air traffic.

«It’s mentally tough going and more likely to result in the build up of anxiety and stress when something goes wrong. Pilots are trained to be open and questioning of plans of action e.g. asking the other pilot what they think is the best direction to turn to avoid the thunderstorms.

«Also the vast majority of problems in cruise on long-haul flights come from the cabin. I assume the single pilot would have to give total control to the ground monitoring team while they deal with the cabin issue. Not sure the data link systems are up to that.

«Having two pilots at the front seems like a small price to pay to get to where you want to go in one piece.» ®

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