If the pilot in command of a GA aircraft tells a passenger to do or not do something, is the passenger legally obligated to obey the pilot? For example, if the pilot tells a passenger "Stop talking" (presumably because the passenger is being distracting), is the passenger required to stop?

Assume that obeying the pilot is legal (i.e. the pilot isn't telling the passenger to commit a crime), no contracts or other prior agreements have been made, and the passenger is not required to obey the pilot for other reasons (e.g. the passenger is not the pilot's minor child).

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    $\begingroup$ Iirc in europe aviation laws generally define the PIC as the person responsible for the safe execution of the flight. To achieve this, the PIC has virtually unlimited powers, so if safety was involved, yes, in most european jurisdictions the passenger would have to obey the PIC $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ I think this falls under Mom Law, as in "Don't make me turn this plane around!" $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 20:19

1 Answer 1


There is no such general requirement. However, passengers are forbidden from interfering with crewmember duties, per 91.11:

No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember's duties aboard an aircraft being operated.

So in practice a passenger is required to comply with many instructions, where failure to comply would interfere with the PIC's ability to fly safely.

"Stop talking because you are distracting me during a critical phase of flight" would likely be considered such an instruction. (Though the pilot may be better served by just turning off the intercom). "Stop slouching, bad posture offends me" would probably not be.

Note also that disobeying this law is not a crime. The FAA can levy civil penalties (e.g. fines) against passengers who ignore crewmember orders, but they can't send them to jail or anything. There is a criminal prohibition against physically interfering with crewmember duties in 49 CFR 46504:

An individual on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States who, by assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both. However, if a dangerous weapon is used in assaulting or intimidating the member or attendant, the individual shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

But this does not apply to merely disobeying a instruction.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm going to guess that there is also a law against endangering a plane, such as trying to open the door of a pressurized plane, even if you don't intimidate a member of the flight crew doing so. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ @DJClayworth I'm not aware of any such law specific to aircraft. But endangering people is a crime regardless of whether you are on an aircraft or not. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 3:02

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