View Full Version : Alone in the cockpit

14th Mar 2010, 20:01
Are you allowed to remain alone in the cockpit if the other guy goes to the toilet?

My point is: especially at high altitudes, leaving someone alone in the cockpit behind a locked door doesn't seem a good idea to me.
Yes we have cameras, but... in case of decompression...

And what about the risk of a suicide attempt of the only guy who could lock everyone else outside? Not so remote. It has happened before, at least 3 times....

I personally have a FA come inside when one of us two goes to make a phone call to the pope, but I'm amazed it's not mandatory here... :mad:

14th Mar 2010, 20:07
Yes, of course. I do my best barrel rolls then anyway.

14th Mar 2010, 20:15
I think you have a proble?:confused:

14th Mar 2010, 20:17
After the introduction of the locked door policy we actually had a rule like that. However it simply didn't work out. The FAs are busy at nearly all times and as a result we couldn't go to the restroom which was ok on short flights, but simply impossible on longer ones. After a few months that rule vanished again and yup, we are alone in the flightdeck if one goes back to do whatever, same as you are when the other remains in the flightdeck but takes a nap, another allowed thing.

14th Mar 2010, 21:08
I personally have a FA come inside when one of us two goes to make a phone call to the pope...

SOP with a few carriers.

14th Mar 2010, 21:22
Waste of time and worry. Suicidal pilots have ample opportunity to brain the other pilot with a crash axe or fire extinguisher - or simply to shove and lock the control column forward on short final. In a decompression the pilot is sitting next to a quick donning O2 mask, any helper would be standing and not nearly as familiar, so would be the most likely to have hypoxia problems. In short, an FA on the flight deck isn't worth the effort.

14th Mar 2010, 21:29
Its our SOP to have a cc in the cockpit mainly to open the door for the other pilot to get back in. Like anything in life its all about balance and finding a happy medium. I could argue that:-

- having them in there chatting is fine and I am all up for that but it usually is just as I get a radio call and atc instruction. This could be potentially more threatening than any chance of a decompression or me keeling over with me being on my lonesome.

- if we did have an explosive decompression would you be more or less likely to be distracted trying to save them and getting them on oxygen rather than running through the memory items.

- what if the cc were the ones wanting to commit suicide and decided to poison you or bash you over the head whilst you were strapped in and then prevented the other pilot from coming back into the cockpit.

14th Mar 2010, 21:42
Is it not still a requirement in the circumstances for the remaining pilot to don the oxygen mask for the period ?

FCS Explorer
14th Mar 2010, 23:58
could a flight attendant stop a pilot from crashing the plane? -nope.
would she be of use during a rapid decom? -nope.
what if the guy gets a heart attack? -the other one enters the code and opens the door.

15th Mar 2010, 00:17
Hi john_t,

Is it not still a requirement in the circumstances for the remaining pilot to don the oxygen mask for the period?

I remember it used to be a requirement on 707s - but it's not been required under UK CAA regs since the quick donning O2 masks were fitted.

15th Mar 2010, 00:31
.. since the quick donning O2 masks were fitted.

Not for this little black duck - TUC is too short at normal cruise levels to rely on single pilot operation predicated on grabbing the mask. Much easier and more appropriate, I suggest, to use the mask until one's colleague has attended to whatever and returned to the cockpit.

galaxy flyer
15th Mar 2010, 01:21
J-T and rudderrat

Interesting, FAR 91.211 requires the remaining pilot to don the 02 mask when the other pilot leaves when above FL250 and one pilot don oxygen continuously when above FL 410. The UK and AU rules differ?

I didn't say it, but the FL 410 rule is routinely disregarded.

15th Mar 2010, 02:03

- are you for real ? - and, calling the hostie for what ?

Due to such problems my company has adopted a new SOP. We have to bring our own portable öpaque plastic bottle. Though some captains feel reluctant to do so, the manual prescribes to extend the curtains prior putting the "family jewls" out and take the leak.

The guy's on the upper management also have decided to stroke a deal with NASA and bring those space-ship designed type dyper's just in case you want to soil yourself.

Fortunatly we are not doing long-hauls in the place I work in.


15th Mar 2010, 03:55
to don the 02 mask when the other pilot leaves when above FL250

Precisely my thought.

The requirement for quick donning equipment is above FL250 with this being the line in the sand for TUC considerations.

At some point, operator management needs to put a flight standards line in the sand to avoid having folk setting themselves up for an irrecoverable situation.

The industry has seen several such fatal events (I can recall one civil and one military fatal in Australia in the not too distant past - and another near miss situation where a passengering pilot picked up the signs early enough to enable the situation to be rescued).

That should be sufficient to prove the need for a degree of operational caution, I would have thought ?

15th Mar 2010, 04:35

The O2 rule for the pilot alone in the cockpit hasn't been SOP for around 15 years anywhere I've flown.

15th Mar 2010, 04:40
That rule hasn't been around since JAR-OPS 1 here. It used to be the same as it is apparently still in the US, but it was removed. Quick Donning masks is all you need now.

15th Mar 2010, 05:47
The O2 rule for the pilot alone in the cockpit hasn't been SOP for around 15 years anywhere I've flown

Fine - but, in the situation, I would choose to don and use my mask until the other guy/gal gets back and, if I'm in the left seat, he/she would be directed to do likewise. Guess I'm just a dinosaur ?

I wonder if the relaxation in the operational rules has anything to do with civil folk not routinely doing chamber runs so that they can get the experience of what a severe hypoxic incident is like .. and observe the variability amongst people in their hypoxic responses ? Like a number of things, one really needs to walk the walk to get an appreciation of the story .. sometimes talking the talk just doesn't cut the mustard.

I can't comment on the current operational rules, specifically, as I'm a tad out of touch with them. However, using the mask didn't cause us a problem in times past and, to me, it is a QED risk exercise matter.

The fact is that hypoxia has an insidious fatal track record which, in my view, is of sufficient frequency to warrant a conservative approach to the problem.

15th Mar 2010, 09:36
J_T, the FARs require the following............ its in FAR91.

(ii) At flight altitudes above flight level 350 unless one pilot at the controls of the airplane is wearing and using an oxygen mask that is secured and sealed and that either supplies oxygen at all times or automatically supplies oxygen whenever the cabin pressure altitude of the airplane exceeds 14,000 feet (MSL), except that the one pilot need not wear and use an oxygen mask while at or below flight level 410 if there are two pilots at the controls and each pilot has a quick-donning type of oxygen mask that can be placed on the face with one hand from the ready position within 5 seconds, supplying oxygen and properly secured and sealed.

(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, if for any reason at any time it is necessary for one pilot to leave the controls of the aircraft when operating at flight altitudes above flight level 350, the remaining pilot at the controls shall put on and use an oxygen mask until the other pilot has returned to that crewmember's station.

15th Mar 2010, 12:08
.. however, my chamber run history tells me that I lose consciousness without any cognitive clues .. into total ga-ga land .. for me it is a no-brainer .. I go on oxygen to make the problem go away altogether and then I don't have to worry about it.

15th Mar 2010, 12:46
I think I would be fired pretty quickly if I insisted on putting on the mask every time someone went for a leak. Normal sector is on average 10 hours with at least one leak happening when I am in the left seat and one when I am in the right, on average. So would have to rip the scratch resistant guard of both masks every flight, they would require engineering to clean and restow both masks on every sector, they would need to top up the O2 on every sector.

I understand if safety was the top priority for airlines but lets be honest, it is not. If it was that would be sop, so would longer layovers, so would 4 crew on night flights over 9 hours. It is just the way it is, whenever someone goes for a leak I do make sure that nothing is covering the O2 mask, should not be anyway but just check, watch the cruise page a bit closer and always think that the first thing I am going to do is grab that mask if anything seems odd with the air or me or ears or display regarding pressurization.

Edited to ask how you would deal with this situation. London to Hong Kong, by the time you get to the high ground that is about 9 ish hours into the flight so there has been a fair bit of use of the cockpit O2 due to toilet breaks if you are required to don the mask if alone. The escape charts are based on the MEL dispatch O2 requirement for the route so I guess you would need to land in Novosibirsk to top up O2 to make it legal, I know the MEL is pre dispatch but surely good airmanship would require a diversion to top up with O2. Its all about profit and acceptable risk.

Adrian Cronauer
15th Mar 2010, 14:04
And what about the risk of a suicide attempt of the only guy who could lock everyone else outside? ...It has happened before...

Ahhh, you must be a Singaporean matey. Else maybe a Silk Air pilot.

15th Mar 2010, 14:58
There is probably no more violated FAR in US operations than this one. This is unfortunate, if for no other reason than it sets a standard of non-compliance which has a demonstrated tendency to migrate.

In my own experience, I recall having to assist the first officer in setting up his comm panel during an actual cockpit/cabin smoke event. Now, before everybody goes off on a tangent about training, let me say that first, I agree, and second, if you donned the mask and set it up everytime you were required to, it wouldn't be a problem. The day you need it is not the day you want to find out what you don't know about it. (By the way, he wasn't a complete neophyte...after we got his comm problem solved, he proceeded to run the checklist, troubleshoot the problem and stop the smoke, based on an idea that I am quite sure I would never have had.)

Along those lines, it may be wise in the case of someone leaving the cockpit to at least pull it out and see if it is all intact, disentangled and so forth. I frequently find Eros masks on my current mount to be, well, showing obvious signs of not having been used recently.

I also had the fun of a simulator exercise in the 727 some years ago. We ended up landing it in manual reversion...with the masks and goggles on. What struck me then was that, as in all such situations, the more familiar one is with the equipment and with the difficulties involved in using it, the lower the stress level encountered. It has always seemed to me that the only way to get comfortable with using the mask is to use it regularly.

That said, the point regarding total oxygen quantity on long haul is worth considering. It can certainly be argued that some authorities have not kept the regulatory requirements in step with contemporary design and incident data.

galaxy flyer
15th Mar 2010, 15:41

I stand corrected, FL350, not FL 250. I am certain it was 250 back when I "wrenched" the Boeing Tri-motor.


You are quite correct on it being the most ignored rule. Bizjets routinely cruise for hours above 410 and rarely, maybe never, have one pilot on O2 for the entire time. We have a "cruise" mask that is supposed to be more comfortable for long-term use, it isn't much.


15th Mar 2010, 15:54
Our SOP dictates O2 abv FL350, I' d rather had a CA to chat...

galaxy flyer
15th Mar 2010, 22:27
One point--somewhere in the deep (ok, shallow) recesses of my memory, I was told that an airframe is under its greatest dynamic pressure (q) in the low to mid-twenties. The indicated is around 280KIAS to 330 KIAS, the cabin differential is approaching it maximum and the air is "thick" enough to produce serious turbulence, if present. All this adds up to maximum stress. I don't know the engineering behind this, but it makes sense and tracks the history of in-flight breakups due to complete airframe failure absent convective turbulence and loss of control.


15th Mar 2010, 23:00
If the crew is all female, do they get up and go the bathroom together? :cool:

16th Mar 2010, 04:14
GF, the 121 rule is at 25, the 91 rule at 35.

16th Mar 2010, 10:34
A quick side note:
Re-stowing of the quick don O2 mask is a maintenance action in my current outfit…

Easa country

15th Mar 2014, 22:17
Well, maybe someone will think again about my stupid question now that.....

16th Mar 2014, 03:04
14 CFR 121.333 - Supplemental oxygen for emergency descent and for first aid; turbine engine powered airplanes with pressurized cabins. | LII / Legal Information Institute (http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/121.333)

regarding Oxygen.

It hasn't really been changed for US airlines.

sometimes things are a pain, but it is a bigger pain to crash and or live and have to do all the paperwork.

26th Mar 2015, 06:41
Now you guys won't say anymore I've got a problem....

de facto
26th Mar 2015, 08:08
Imagine this rule being implemented in China...the salary would have to go significantly higher to kiss an ashtray on a regular basis..:}