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Home > Profession > Can a pilot smoke and 'entertain​' passengers in the cockpit?
Can a pilot smoke and 'entertain​' passengers in the cockpit?
Flying - Profession
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 10:22

Questions about cockpit behaviour of co-pilot
Dear Captain Lim,

Just yesterday, I came across this 'news article' while browsing the internet (See here). In the article, a young woman claimed she was entertained in the cockpit for the entire duration of her MAS flight back in 2011 and that one of those pilots was also the first officer of the missing B777-200ER of flight MH370.

She also claimed that the pilots were "smoking throughout the flight". In the video attached to the article, the news reporter also mentioned that while there are regulations preventing passengers from smoking in-flight, these do not apply to the pilots themselves.

I am aware that there are very strict regulations for pilots and their consumption of alcohol, and I assumed that there would be equally stringent rules for smoking as well. Thus, I found it very hard to believe that a pilot would not only smoke in the cockpit, but also get away with such a breach in security protocols.

The sceptic in me suspects that this story was more likely the result of a young woman who found her pictures with the pilots on her flight, made up most (if not all) of this story to go with the photos, and presented it to the media in an effort to bring some attention towards herself. This may or may not have been the case. Ultimately, my knowledge of what goes on behind cockpit doors is limited, hence the following questions:

1. Are there any regulations in place to prevent pilots from smoking in the cockpit? If there are, how would those regulations compare to the ones governing the consumption of alcohol?

2. Are there any smoke detectors in a cockpit?

3. From my understanding, pilots often work with different pilots on each flight. Therefore, how likely would it be that a pilot would agree to remain silent when his colleague on the flight deck was being very "inviting" towards some of his passengers? Wouldn't the pilot be more likely to report his colleague's errant behaviour, in the event that he failed to convince his colleague to act in a more professional manner?

The disappearance of flight MH370 is a sad event, which for some has likely ruined their confidence in air travel. As an aviation enthusiast, it saddens me even more that this article is being circulated, further damaging the public's perception of airline pilots.

Thank you very much in advance for taking the time to read my questions, and thank you for answering questions in your blog from those of us who want to know more about matters in aviation.

Warm regards,


PS. I have read your book 'Life in the Skies' and enjoyed it a lot and I am also enjoying the book 'Cockpit Confidential' by Patrick Smith, which I probably would not have picked up had you not recommended it in your new book.

Hi C.U.

Yes there are recent rules and regulations governing smoking in the cockpit. In the past, pilots were allowed to smoke in the cockpit as some aircraft have ashtrays in cockpit for pilots too. Since passengers have been banned from smoking, pilots today have also been stopped from smoking in the cockpit.

As always, some pilots do smoke in the cockpit and there’s not much that can be done about it unless they have been reported by their own crew. Some airlines will come down very hard on the crew. I know of a First Officer who reported his captain for smoking in the cockpit. After investigation the captain was demoted.

Unlike in the aircraft lavatories, there are no smoke detectors in the cockpit.

It is true that in some airlines, a few pilots do break the rules and invite unauthorised guests into the cockpit. As long as no one knows about it, then the issue is forgotten. However, there are some first officers who would object to such breach of regulations and report them to the management. As such, similar disciplinary actions would be taken against the captain.

As regards to the picture and the stories from the young woman, her stories may have been exaggerated, such as “smoking throughout the flight”.

Pilot Smoking in Aircraft Cockpit


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Thank you so much for answering my questions, Cpt Lim!
C.U. , 12 Mar, 2014

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