The NPR podcast A Surgeon Reflects On Death, Life And The 'Incredible Gift' Of Organ Transplant features Dr. Joshua Mezrich a surgeon who flies to other hospitals to retrieve organs for transplant discussing his book When Death Becomes Life.

In the beginning of the interview he says (my transcription effort):

There’s lots of different ways different centers do it. At our center we have some pilots who fly for the state who are on call for us, and typically we fly in a Pilatus, which is a single engine turboprop,

It is true that organs sometimes get sent on commercial planes; kidneys in particular, so if you ever see a cooler in between the pilots when you board it’s typically a kidney.

Are there little seat belts or other restraints for the organ-containing coolers kept in cockpits of commercial aircraft? Or are they just placed on the floor?

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    $\begingroup$ I couldn't find a stowage or luggage tag, so I chose cargo. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 0:32

1 Answer 1


"between the pilots" depends on the aircraft. On larger commercial aircraft and even some fairly small planes the area between the seats is occupied by the FMS and throttle units and there really isn't anywhere to put a cooler as seen here:

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A lot of aircraft (bigger than the PC-12 mentioned) have jump seats in the cockpit. If unoccupied these seats have a set of restraints that could theoretically hold a cooler depending on size.

You can find the legality of putting stuff on the floor in the cockpit in answer to this question.

For short distances organs move in helicopters and for longer distances they may move in a private jet presumable in the back with a courier. I would not jump to the conclusion that coolers in the cockpit are organs. Ive seen a few organs loaded into lear 35's at my local airfield.

For the record, if you ever see a cooler in my cockpit its more than likely a ham and cheese sandwich.

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    $\begingroup$ What, not a kidney and cheese sandwich? ;-P $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean there was that one time, but thankfully the archer has a small pilot relief window.... $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 4:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Dave Ha! And here I thought that was an air vent... $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 5:29
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    $\begingroup$ Given the way the air tends to come into the cockpit via that hole, it pains me to imagine the fluid dynamics involved in attempting to jettison a former lunch by way of that vent... $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Tim my advise is to use your hands as a kind of directional funnel. You are generally best to ask from some paper towels on UNICOM before landing... $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 20:00

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