I have observed this many times for long haul flights where they have extra cockpit crew: during takeoff they all gather in the cockpit and then disperse to their rest areas. They meet again somewhere halfway to hand off flying responsibilities and then gather again before landing. Usually approximately half an hour after/before takeoff/landing.

One way of thinking is, if you are going to rest, rest from the beginning. Just take over your duties when your turn comes up. Why even bother visiting cockpit if you are going to be there only for first 30 minutes or so of the flight.

I understand takeoff/landing are most critical phases of the flight where things can go wrong. But then airline have deemed that whoever is flying the plane at that point is fully capable of flying or in other words fully accredited crew is managing the flight.

Is there any other reason why all the crew has to meet in the cockpit during these phases?


2 Answers 2


There'a a few reasons for this:

Safety: During takeoff and landing, everyone should be buckled into a secure seat. They have these seats in the cockpit, and in large aircraft, they're actually very comfortable. Laying down in a crew bed would not be allowed during takeoff or landing (though it happens, off the record). Do note that these beds do indeed have belts that are similar to those on rolling hospital beds, but it's not intended that these be used during takeoff or landing. It would be very difficult to escape the small confined space of the crew bunks during an emergency. Though some crew areas have seats, these are typically not "safe" seats, and they are only meant for resting on while in level flight.

Redundancy: If something goes wrong with one, or both, of the pilots flying, you would really regret letting the other two qualified pilots go lay down in the back of the plane. Safety comes first in aviation, and the pilots are there to support each other.

Extra Help: Extra crew sometimes helps the flying crew, whether that be by looking up information, radio frequencies, airport identifiers, and so forth.

Socializing: Pilots are (usually) pretty friendly to each other. They all share a common interest, and while some of the older pilots may be a bit grizzled, they all got into aviation for their love of aircraft. There's typically some pretty lively conversations in the cockpit. As noted in the comments, this is while on the ground, pre/post taxi. Even during flight operations, additional pilots may be in the cockpit assisting with spotting traffic, birds, and so forth. Conversation is limited somewhat during taxi, takeoff, landing, and all other flying activity below 10,000ft (or until at cruising altitude, if cruising altitude is <10,000ft),

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have any citations for this? There is no socializing below 10,000ft in accordance with the sterile cockpit rule and some (maybe all) crew bunks do have belts or restraints your other two points are logical although the copilot is generally considered the redundancy $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Nov 2, 2018 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Dave Regarding socializing, that is on the ground (pre/post taxi). Regarding the bed belts, those are for keeping you in the bed during turbulent flight, and being knocked around while sleeping. It's not meant for restraining you during landing and takeoff. Beyond that, in the event of an emergency, evacuating a bunk (that takes a good bit of contortion to get into in many aircraft) is not very easy. There is similar reasoning to why you typically would stay above-deck rather than below-deck on a smaller boat during rough seas. $\endgroup$
    – M28
    Nov 2, 2018 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Dave Crew rest areas are not certified for occupancy during takeoff and landing. Any seat used during takeoff and landing (Part 25.785(b)) must meet 16g crashworthiness requirements (25.562) and there's no way you can meet that lying down in a bed. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Nov 2, 2018 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ There's more to socializing than idle chit chat: the sterile cockpit rule doesn't prevent socializing. Indeed, working together is one of the best ways to socialize. $\endgroup$
    – Hugh
    Nov 3, 2018 at 9:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Matt In particular, a belt on a bed will stop you lifting off the bed and hitting the ceiling; it won't do a lot to stop you sliding backwards and forwards and hitting the wall. $\endgroup$ Nov 3, 2018 at 10:08

Replacement crew attend the initial briefing to ensure that they have all required information for their leg of the flight.

Additional crew on the flight deck can provide additional assistance as shown when reviewing the response to the uncontained engine failure of Quantas QF-32 out of Singapore. Coincidentally, two qualified pilots were present in the flight deck and materially assisted with closing out alarms, evaluating the impact of the damage and reducing the time taken to only two hours before preparing for landing.

The ATSB final report, on page 38 makes the observation "supporting flight crew provided valuable input and assistance to the primary flight crew". While they acknowledge the primary crew would likely have responded similarly without their presence, it could have resulted in additional delay before landing.

It is trite that the crew on an aircraft is as small as the manufacturers and airlines can make them at acceptable risk. Any additional help is to the benefit of the primary crew discharging their responsibilities, and the additional crew as being committed to the same outcome as all other passengers.


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