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Do the flight crew with a commercial airline have to wear a face mask while on the flight deck, as both crew are in close proximity to each other and in a tight confined area? If not, why not?

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It probably depends which airline you're talking about.

At mine, we're given the choice. I choose not to wear it once the cockpit door is closed. I'd rather have clearer ATC communications, clearer intracockpit communications, and a better chance of successfully donning my oxygen mask in time to prevent incapacitation if it becomes necessary. The immediate safety of all of the people on the airplane is more important to me than the very marginal benefit a mask would provide to my own health.

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  • $\begingroup$ Does flying 'mask free' also aid the 2 pilots with interpreting each other's 'body language' too ? $\endgroup$ – Graham Stevenson Oct 9 '20 at 19:20
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I can answer this question accurately - not as an airline pilot directly, but as the son of two.

To keep it short, no. Airline pilots are free to make their own decision about their safety in the cockpit. In the airport, yes. In the taxi, bus, or ground transportation, yes. But, when they enter the cockpit, they usually sanitize the entire touch area, use some germ-x, and settle in for the 12-14 hour flight. When going back into the cabin, they put a mask back on (while on break).

There have been some cases reported in the pilot body but not enough to cause any large issue. Thanks for your question.

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    $\begingroup$ This certainly feels like the right answer, but do we know that no airlines have mandated the wearing of masks. This answer is essentially a single data point - your parent's airline has not mandated it $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Oct 6 '20 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ I am also aware from them that the same practice is occurring at the other major airlines in the United States. $\endgroup$ – Grayson Bertaina Oct 6 '20 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ This YouTube video also confirms the same practice for a major European airline. $\endgroup$ – Bianfable Oct 6 '20 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to add to this answer that there may be flight safety concerns with the use of masks. In an emergency like a pressure drop, face masks may prevent the pilot(s) from putting on their oxygen masks in time or add additional workload to an already hectic situation. They could interfere with talking clearly to the other pilot or ATC, or be moved up and down by jaw movement that may seem trivial, but may be disturbing if a dangerous flight situation were to happen suddenly $\endgroup$ – Erik Oct 7 '20 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ I am not answering because the common use of "airline" is large part 121 jets with cockpit doors. However, I fly part time for a small airline and our policy is to wear masks. But this is flying a Cessna Caravan, with no barrier between crew and passengers... FWIW. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Oct 11 '20 at 19:56

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