It would seem reasonable on large commercial airlines to require that there be two people in the cockpit at all times. For example when the pilot goes to the toilet a member of the cabin crew must enter the cockpit until the pilot's return. Such a rule would greatly reduce the probability of pilots being locked out and reduce problems should they be locked out. Do any airlines enforce such a rule?

  • $\begingroup$ That's great unless the captain and the purser are in cahoots. They could still lock the first officer out. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Mar 26 '15 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Freeman - Agreed, that's why I said "reduce problems". I don't think there's any way we can completely eliminate them. $\endgroup$ – Derek Jennings Mar 26 '15 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ Looks like two people in the cockpit at all times is about to become the rule: theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/26/… $\endgroup$ – Derek Jennings Mar 26 '15 at 20:04

EDIT: please see at the bottom of the answer the update from EASA

Are two people required in cockpit at all times on large commercial aircraft?


From EASA, pag. 101-102: (emphasis mine)

CAT.OP.MPA.210 Crew members at stations

Flight crew members

  1. During take-off and landing each flight crew member required to be on duty in the flight crew compartment shall be at the assigned station.

  2. During all other phases of flight each flight crew member required to be on duty in the flight crew compartment shall remain at the assigned station, unless absence is necessary for the performance of duties in connection with the operation or for physiological needs, provided at least one suitably qualified pilot remains at the controls of the aircraft at all times.

  3. During all phases of flight each flight crew member required to be on duty in the flight crew compartment shall remain alert. If a lack of alertness is encountered, appropriate countermeasures shall be used. If unexpected fatigue is experienced, a controlled rest procedure, organised by the commander, may be used if workload permits. Controlled rest taken in this way shall not be considered to be part of a rest period for purposes of calculating flight time limitations nor used to justify any extension of the duty period.

Do any airlines enforce such a rule?

As other answers mention, yes.

EDIT: On the 27th March 2015 EASA has issued the following Safety Information Bulletin :

operators are recommended to implement procedures requiring at least two persons authorised in accordance with CAT.GEN.MPA.135 to be in the flight crew compartment at all times, or other equivalent mitigating measures to address risks identified by the operator’s revised assessment.

This still does not mean that 2 people are required, but are recommended.

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    $\begingroup$ This only partially answers the question - EASA is only one of many possible safety regulators, and it may be that some airlines have such a rule even though not legally required. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Mar 26 '15 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ Nate's second possibility is, in fact, the case. Some airlines do this, at least in the U.S., though it isn't required by a reg. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 26 '15 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @raptortech97 the question is about "large commercial aircraft", airlines can require stuff only for their flights. $\endgroup$ – Federico Mar 27 '15 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Federico The question also specifically asks "Do any airlines enforce such a rule?" While it's not a legal/regulatory requirement, it is a requirement at some airlines. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 27 '15 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ For the sake of completeness for future references to this page, you might add that the temporary EASA recommendation was directly a result of the Germanwings flight 4U9525 accident ... "The Agency makes this recommendation based on the information currently available following the dramatic accident of the Germanwings flight 4U9525..." (easa.europa.eu/newsroom-and-events/press-releases/…) $\endgroup$ – Porcupine911 Mar 27 '15 at 20:18

It's not required by a regulation, but, yes, it is required by the procedures of some airlines, at least in the U.S.

A flight attendant taking the seat of an absent pilot to ensure there are always two people in the cockpit, and/or blocking access to the open door with a trolley, are often seen on US flights, but not necessarily on others, Hansford said. For instance it is not a requirement on Australian flights.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/26/germanwings-crash-safety-of-cockpit-doors-on-all-planes-questioned

I've also heard numerous U.S. airline passengers claim to have witnessed this frequently, though I don't recall having seen it personally.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a requirement at my airline (a US carrier). $\endgroup$ – Porcupine911 Mar 26 '15 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Porcupine911 Any chance you could edit in a quote from your operating procedures into the answer or are those considered proprietary? Either way, thanks for the input! $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 26 '15 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, @reirab but it's not allowed. $\endgroup$ – Porcupine911 Mar 26 '15 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ I flew on Southwest the day after the Germanwings incident and noticed that a flight attendant entered the cabin while pilot left to use the restroom. Not sure if this was in response to the incident or part of normal operations though. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Bridgman Mar 27 '15 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @JeffBridgman I'm pretty sure this was done commonly in the U.S. long before the Germanwings incident, though I'm not sure about SWA specifically. I'd be surprised if any airlines have changed their operating procedures this quickly, though, so I'd guess that procedure was already in place on Southwest. $\endgroup$ – reirab Mar 27 '15 at 14:20

The FAA has very similar rules about flight crewmembers leaving their station.

§121.543 Flight crewmembers at controls.


(b) A required flight crewmember may leave the assigned duty station

(1) If the crewmember's absence is necessary for the performance of duties in connection with the operation of the aircraft;

(2) If the crewmember's absence is in connection with physiological needs; or

(3) If the crewmember is taking a rest period, and relief is provided—...

It goes on to describe the requirements of a relief crewmember, but this is only if the pilot is taking a "rest period".


The "Two Crewmember Rule" has been mandatory for all US passenger airlines since 9/11 as well as for all foreign airline flights in and out of the US.The only exceptions are a few very small commuter airlines that fly single-pilot in Cessna 402s and Caravans and Piper Chieftains in remote places like Alaska, Hawaii and the V.I. (and Nantucket!).

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    $\begingroup$ Please cite a source (such as an applicable FAR) for such a requirement. $\endgroup$ – Fred Larson Mar 30 '15 at 16:27

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