The Regs, the Jumpseat, and You—in the United States and Canada

By Capt. Rich Odbert (FedEx Express), Chair, ALPA Aviation Jumpseat

In the United States, jumpseat authorization and admission to the flight deck is governed by Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) directives, and company policies (which can vary). But universally, the captain is, and shall always be, the final authority over matters relating to admission to the flight deck.

That authority is codified into federal law as Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

FAR 91.3 (a) states, “The pilot-in-command [PIC] of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.”

FAR 121.535 (d) states, “Each [PIC] of an aircraft is, during flight time, in command of the aircraft and crew and is responsible for the safety of the passengers, crewmembers, cargo, and airplane.”

FAR 121.547 (c)(1) states, “An FAA air carrier inspector, a DOD [Department of Defense] commercial air carrier evaluator, or authorized representative of the administrator or National Transportation Safety Board who is checking or observing flight operations,” is allowed flight deck access.

In addition to these responsibilities under the FAA’s jurisdiction, the PIC of the aircraft also serves as the in-flight security coordinator per TSA regulations. As a critical link in the security chain, captains have the responsibility to verify each jumpseater’s identity and authority to occupy a flight deck jumpseat. When a jumpseat request is made, whether for a seat in the cabin or on the flight deck, the PIC is responsible for performing the following procedures:

1. Verifying company ID by means of face/name match.

2. Verifying FAA flight and medical certificates.

3. Verifying Cockpit Access Security System (CASS) approval—if questions arise regarding an individual’s CASS approval, it’s recommended that the gate agent recheck CASS while the PIC observes. CASS serves only to meet the employment and identity verification requirement necessary to occupy a flight deck jumpseat. It has no bearing on eligibility to ride in the cabin.

4. Briefing the jumpseater on any relevant items. If a jumpseater is to remain on the flight deck, the captain should ensure that he or she is properly briefed on safety, security, communication, and evacuation procedures. Security procedures should always be briefed verbally because they’re very fluid. Other procedures may be done verbally or by means of a printed, aircraft-specific briefing card in accordance with applicable government regulations and company procedures.

A jumpseater who will occupy a cabin seat doesn’t need to be CASS approved. If the CASS request is denied—and there may be many reasons—that denial should be used as a way to ask a few relevant questions to determine the individual’s actual status. A few security questions that only someone inside a company would know work well for this purpose. It’s important to be proactive in order to keep unauthorized, and potentially dangerous, individuals off the flight deck.

Boarding Priority for the Flight Deck

Certain individuals, such as government or company officials in the performance of their duties, may require higher priority to the flight deck in accordance with government regulations (e.g., FARs 121.547 and 121.583) or company policy.

The FAA has recently reinstated the Flight Deck Training program for air traffic controllers that allows them to ride on the flight deck under FAR 121.547 (c)(2). They aren’t FAA inspectors and must be verified for flight deck eligibility through CASS, and they don’t share the same priority as FAA inspectors. An air traffic controller doesn’t have priority over any pilot for the flight deck jumpseat, and his or her personal identity verification card must be verified.

ALL-Cargo Operations and Supernumeraries

FAR 121.583 applies to all-cargo operators and details allowable “supernumeraries”—third-party, noncrew personnel—who can be a company employee, FAA inspector, NTSB representative, or generally someone responsible for such activities as safely handling hazardous materials or bringing animals on board. These personnel, per regulation, must have unobstructed access to an emergency exit and an approved seat and seat belt and be briefed on smoking, the use of seat belts, the location and operation of emergency exits, and the use of oxygen and emergency oxygen equipment. And for extended overwater operations, they must know the location of life rafts and life preservers and be shown how to don and inflate a life preserver.

At the present time, animal handlers are not subject to the same security checks as others covered under FAR 121.583, even when flightcrew members aren’t protected by an intrusion-resistant cockpit door. ALPA is actively working to have fingerprint-based criminal history records checks be conducted on all employees and agents of aircraft operators, foreign air carriers, and indirect air carriers in the United States who have unescorted access to FAR Part 121 all-cargo aircraft and to cargo intended to be shipped aboard them.

Canadian Regulations

In Canada, jumpseat authorization and admission to the flight deck is governed by Canadian aviation regulations (CARs), Canadian Air Transport Security Authority security directives, and company policies. The captain is, and shall always be, the final authority over matters relating to admission to the flight deck.

The current regulation restricting who has access to the actual cockpit jumpseat is found in CAR 705.27. It doesn’t provide access for pilots from other airlines. However, there is an exemption in place that permits all Canadian PICs to grant access to other Canadian and certain foreign pilots as long as all of the conditions in the exemption have been met and the PIC’s company has approved them.

CAR 705.27–Admission to Flight Deck

(1) Where a Department of Transport air carrier inspector presents an official identity card to the PIC of an aircraft, the PIC shall give the inspector free and uninterrupted access to the flight deck of the aircraft.

(2) An air operator and the PIC shall make available for the use of the air carrier inspector the observer seat most suitable to perform the inspector’s duties, as determined by the inspector.

(3) No person shall be admitted to the flight deck of an airplane other than

(a) a flightcrew member,

(b) a crewmember performing their duties,

(c) an inspector referred to in subsection (1),

(d) in accordance with the procedures specified in the company operations manual,

(i) an employee of the air operator who is not a crewmember performing their duties, and

(ii) a pilot, flight engineer, or flight attendant employed by a wholly owned subsidiary or a code-share partner of the air operator, and

(e) a person who has expertise related to the airplane, its equipment, or its crewmembers and who is required to be on the flight deck to provide a service to the air operator.

(4) The air operator shall verify:

(a) in the case of a person referred to in paragraph (3)(d) or (e), the identity of the person by means of a personal photo identification issued by the air operator, its wholly owned subsidiary, its codeshare partner or a foreign government or a restricted area pass as defined in the Canadian aviation security regulations, and

(b) in the case of a person referred to in paragraph (3)(d), the fact that

(i) the person is currently employed by the air operator, or by a wholly owned subsidiary or code-share partner of the air operator, and

(ii) no seat is available for the person in the passenger compartment.

(5) No person referred to in paragraph (3)(d), except an employee of the air operator who is undergoing the aircraft cockpit familiarization required for the performance of their duties, shall be admitted to the flight deck if a seat is available in the passenger compartment.

This article was originally published in the September 2019 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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