Im Trying to find out what policies if any that companies have regarding the wearing of headsets and at what altitude crews are allowed to remove them. We fly large turboprops, our company has a policy of not removing your headset until top of climb and then at Captains discretion.
Hardly ever take mine off (DC H10-80), except to leave the aircraft, as too many years of no headset flying have caused hearing loss such that with airflow noises I miss too much radio traffic without it.
I'm not aware of any legislation mandating the use of headsets above/below a certain altitude/flight level.
On long range ops we only remove headsets when using HF on SELCAL watch. All radio comms must take place with headset on and both pilots listening especially for clearances. The B777 that I fly has a marvellously quiet flight deck but I still wouldn't trust the speakers in a busy ATC environment..
As a matter of interest, here in the UK we have the Air Navigation Order which, in Pt V, Para 46, Sub Para 5, says:
''(5) In any flying machine registered in the United Kingdom which is engaged on a flight for the purpose of public transport the pilot and the flight engineer (if any) shall not make use of a hand-held microphone (whether for the purpose of radio communication or of intercommunication within the aircraft) whilst the aircraft is flying in controlled airspace below flight level 150 or is taking off or landing.''
On a jumpseat a couple of years ago, I witnessed the crew of a European, but not British, major used hand held mics all the way from Arn to Lhr. Sporting, I thought! Cheers, mcdhu
I was thinking of bringing this subject up a while back, then the B757/Tu154 mid-air happened and as it may have been a factor I decided against.
Personally I made sure that at least one person had a head set on all the time and both of us for T/O. climb and descent.
I have sat on the jump seat many times when both pilots have had their head sets off and were relying on speakers and have been alarmed at the number of calls from ATC that were missed the first time and had to be repeated, often causing delays in whatever action ATC required.
It is my view that speakers and hand held micrphones are possibly OK for only one member of the crew, with at least one member on headset all the time.
My company follows the same practice as that of ETOPS. On oceanic sectors, and on SELCAL watch, headsets are removed and the speakers monitor Guard and Air-to-Air from the VHF boxes. Our aircraft are not fitted with handheld mikes.
In busy areas it is a dubious practice to rely on speakers. I can only vouch for our models of the B75/767, but if one pilot keys his mike for any purpose, incluiding cabin interphone or PA, it isolates the speakers. This is a potential hazzard if flying off-headset in a VHF environment.
We regularly hear ATC calling a flight several times for a frequency change, etc, without response, only to hear the said aircraft chirpily repy, some time later, expressing utter amazement that it had not received the previous calls. I often suspect that this is because both pilots are off-headset and one is engaged in treating the customers to a graphic description of the local scenery, or a meaningful discussion with the cabin crew.
If you fly an aircraft with this feature, make sure you go back on to headset before your colleague starts talking to the cabin or the company. Better still, keep the cans on when it's busy.
In the quiet cockpit enviroment on the A340, headsets are really not required for cockpit or radio comm's, however be that as it may our company has a policy for all types that headsets must be worn below 15,000ft. In fact it is company policy that the cockpit speakers should be active even when headsets are in use as a back up in case of headset failure.
Boeing's policies on headphone and Flight Deck Speaker use
In the airplane, headphones or boom microphones/headsets will be worn during takeoff until the top of climb and from the start of descent throughout approach and landing. During cruise, flight deck speakers may be used. Speaker volume should be kept at the minimum usable level to avoid interference with normal crew conversation within the flight deck. This is our standard procedure. Yours faithfully.