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Sterile Flight Deck

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Article Information
Category: Organisation and Human Factors Organisation and Human Factors
Content source: Skybrary Skybrary
Content control: Eurocontrol Eurocontrol

Description

The Sterile Cockpit Rule is an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation requiring pilots of commercial aircraft registered in USA to refrain from non-essential activities during critical phases of flight. The FAA imposed the rule in 1981 after reviewing a series of accidents that were caused by flight crews who were distracted from their flying duties by engaging in non-essential conversations and activities during critical parts of the flight.

The following is the actual text of the sterile cockpit regulation:

(a) No certificate holder shall require, nor may any flight crewmember perform, any duties during a critical phase of flight except those duties required for the safe operation of the aircraft. Duties such as company required calls made for such non safety related purposes as ordering galley supplies and confirming passenger connections, announcements made to passengers promoting the air carrier or pointing out sights of interest, and filling out company payroll and related records are not required for the safe operation of the aircraft.

(b) No flight crewmember may engage in, nor may any pilot in command permit, any activity during a critical phase of flight which could distract any flight crewmember from the performance of his or her duties or which could interfere in any way with the proper conduct of those duties. Activities such as eating meals, engaging in non-essential conversations within the cockpit and non-essential communications between the cabin and cockpit crews, and reading publications not related to the proper conduct of the flight are not required for the safe operation of the aircraft.

(c) For the purposes of this section, critical phases of flight includes all ground operations involving taxi, takeoff and landing, and all other flight operations conducted below 10,000 feet, except cruise flight. Note: ‘Taxi’ is defined as “movement of an airplane under its own power on the surface of an airport.”

To date, no rule similar to the FAA sterile cockpit rule applies in any European countries, although many European operators apply similar rules within their company, whether by regulation or as recommended practices.


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