Air travel has revolutionized the world. It has made the planet much smaller and allows us to travel anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours. However, keeping a plane that can weigh up to 500 tons in the air is not a simple endeavour.

To make sure that we are all kept safe when flying, it is critical that there are strict rules in place to ensure that pilots follow best practice and get themselves and their passengers to their destination in one piece. In this article, we will look at some of the things that pilots have to do and the strict rules that they have to follow.

Development of rules for pilots

When commercial aviation began to take off in the nineteen twenties, there were very few rules controlling the actions of airlines or the pilots who were flying.

However, as travelling by plane became more prevalent a number of regulations were introduced to ensure that passengers and crew were kept safe. The first significant move to do this began when the Department of Commerce in the US was given the ability in 1926 to regulate commercial flights, and this was further consolidated across the globe with the agreement of the Convention on International Civil Aviation which came into effect in 1947.

This move was essential to allow consistent rules for pilots flying across the planet and set down standards for an international flight. Since then we have seen a number of strict rules and regulations which are enforced on all commercial international flights across the world.

This video gives you an insight into the rules for pilots in the cockpit when flying and Airbus aircraft

Critical and non-critical phases

The cockpit of an airplane is one of the most strictly regulated places you can be. Rules for pilots differ during different phases of flight. Flights are separated into two distinct phases. Critical phases are times when the pilots need to be personally in control of the plane. These include taxiing, takeoff, landing and when the aircraft is flying lower than 10,000 feet. Non-critical phases are points where the plane is under control of the autopilot and the rules for pilots in the cockpit at this time are less onerous.

During Critical phases, the pilot is prohibited by law from doing anything which is not required to operate the plane safely. The must give their full attention to flying the plane and can be reprimanded or even charges if they deviate from this.

However, during non-critical phases when the plane is on auto-pilot, cockpit crew are given much more leeway on how they spend their time. Surprisingly, when not flying the plane, most airlines allow pilots to read newspapers, flick through procedures or flight manuals or even maybe take a little time to do some online assignment writing around flight subject, for some extra cash of course. This last one is of course very tongue in cheek, but it does demonstrate the leeway that pilots have during non-critical phases of flight.

Rest and recuperation

Pilots are legally required to rest after 8 hours of flying in the US, and the co-pilot will take over monitoring the flight while the pilot has a nap. The pilot can then get some rest and wake bright and ready to take over control again. They can even leave the cockpit to rest while the other cockpit crew take over their responsibilities.

Watch what you eat

There are specific rules about what cockpit crews are allowed to eat when flying. The pilot and co-pilot are required to eat different meals which are prepared separately in case one of the meals has become contaminated. This helps to ensure that there is someone who can land the plane even if the other cockpit crew are incapacitated.

As you can see, there are some stringent rules for pilots in the cockpit, especially during critical phases. However, there is also some leeway given to the pilots and co-pilots during non-critical phases. This allows pilots to be focused when they need to be while at the same time being able to relax a little when the autopilot is in control of the aircraft.