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Basically, if the cabin in a large air liner is depressurized, are pilots protected in any way, specifically:

  • Is the cockpit separately pressurized from the rest of the cabin?
  • Can they keep consciousness if sudden depressurization happens?
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  • $\begingroup$ If you search here for "oxygen", you will find many related questions with a lot of detail. $\endgroup$ – Simon Jul 1 '15 at 4:53
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No, the cockpit is not separately pressurized. That would be impractical and not particularly useful.

However, pilots do have oxygen masks, just like the passengers. Unlike the passenger masks, these masks are generally designed to be donned extremely quickly, with one hand (they tend to have automatic straps that clamp on without needing to be manually adjusted). The masks also have a separate oxygen supply from the passenger masks, and have much more oxygen available for each mask, and have other nice features. Furthermore, when one pilot is off the flight deck, the other wears an oxygen mask that's either releasing oxygen or set to automatically do that if the plane depressurizes.

If sudden depressurization happens, there are still a few seconds of useful consciousness for most people. That time is enough for airline pilots to put on their masks. Once the crew has on oxygen masks, they can control the depressurized plane just fine (depending on how it depressurized, of course: if the tail broke off, there's not much that can really be done).

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    $\begingroup$ Among the "other nice features," there is a microphone in the mask so that the pilot wearing it can talk on the radio or the intercom system (to the other pilot, or to the cabin crew). $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jul 1 '15 at 9:02
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The cockpit crew have their own oxygen bottle that supplies only their masks with plenty of capacity to handle a depressurization or smoke event to landing. The masks are quick-don and can supply 100% O2 at positive pressure. This means you can put them on with one hand with a very quick maneuver (grab to pull out of its stowed position which inflates tubing that you put over your head which compress when you let go of the mask) and they can provide breathable air even if ambient partial pressure of oxygen would be too low to breathe.

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