Who Is Allowed in the Cockpit of an Airplane?

Last updated on Apr 20, 2024

Posted on Apr 20, 2024

In the age of airplane selfies and endless in-flight entertainment options, some might wonder - can you just stroll up to the front of the plane and join the pilots? The answer, like most things in aviation, is a bit more complex.

Restricted Access: A Post 9/11 World

Prior to the September 11th attacks, cockpit visits for curious passengers, especially children, were occasionally permitted. Today, security regulations have understandably tightened. For safety reasons, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strictly prohibits unauthorized personnel from entering the flight deck during flight. This includes passengers, even well-meaning ones!

Who Gets the Pilot's View?

The cockpit is an exclusive zone reserved for essential personnel tasked with operating the aircraft. This primarily includes the pilot and copilot, also known as first officer. They are the backbone of the flight, responsible for navigating, monitoring complex systems, and ensuring a smooth and safe flight from takeoff to landing. On some longer flights, you might see additional pilots or qualified crew members come in to take breaks and share flying duties. These extra crew members are vital for maintaining alertness and focus during extended journeys, ensuring everyone on board reaches their destination safely.

And a little known additional crew member is the flight dispatcher. Flight dispatchers enjoy most of the same benefits of cockpit access like pilots for the purposes of commuting or personal travel. They are qualified much like pilots in terms of what they must know and be familiar with on the aircraft.

Landing Your Dream: A Glimpse into the Flight Deck

Don't despair, aviation enthusiasts! While in-flight visits are off-limits, there are still ways to peek behind the curtain and satisfy your curiosity about the cockpit. Some airlines allow cockpit visits after before and after landing, when the aircraft is parked and secure at the gate. This is a fantastic opportunity to chat with the pilots, ask questions about the specific flight you were on or their experiences in general, and get a closer look at the flight deck instruments.

The pilots are more than happy to chat with people of all ages. And I hear some airlines give away trading cards!

Etiquette for Aspiring Aviators

Here's the best approach for aspiring aviators or anyone curious about the cockpit: Politely ask a flight attendant if cockpit visits are possible after. They will be able to gauge the pilots' schedule and willingness to host a visitor. If the pilots are agreeable and have some time, they might be happy to invite you in for a quick visit. Remember, their primary focus is safety, so be respectful of their time and any restrictions they might have. Perhaps they are running behind schedule or need to complete paperwork before disembarking all the passengers.

Final Thoughts

It’s always a treat to get a look inside of the cockpit and get a glimpse at what pilots see on a day to day basis. All the pilots I’ve flown with are more than happy to share and inspire about aviation.

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