The Landing: The Jumpseat Through (Recent) History

Access to the flight deck jumpseat has been a staple of commercial flight since the time when aircraft became large and complex enough to warrant more than one pilot. Officially called “auxiliary crew stations,” their uses have historically included being a seat for trainee pilots or for FAA inspectors observing flight operations and for transporting off-duty crewmembers via deadheading.

For decades, commuting via the jumpseat was a way of life for pilots. Then the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred. What follows is a brief timeline of how jumpseat access and captain’s authority have been affected since that day.


After 9/11, the FAA restricted the use of the cockpit jumpseat and placed it under the then new Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The use of the jumpseat was limited to government officials and flightcrew members who were working.


Recognizing the vital role of jumpseat access to commuting pilots, and the overall erosion of pilot-in-command (PIC) authority over flight deck access, ALPA's Executive Board resolved that spring for the Association to give “its full support to the FAA’s proposed jumpseat verification procedures as developed in concurrence with ALPA.”

ALPA’s Board of Directors (BOD) further resolved that “the president [of ALPA] will take any and all additional, appropriate measures needed to ensure that the ability of ALPA members to ride the jumpseat of reciprocal airlines is promptly restored.”

After the BOD meeting, the Air Transport Association (ATA, now Airlines for America) asked ALPA to lead a coalition to develop a system for restoring off-line jumpseat access. Capt. Dennis Dolan, then ALPA’s first vice president, headed the Jumpseat Coalition, which consisted of representatives of ALPA, other pilot unions, the ATA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and the FAA.

The resulting system was called the Cockpit Access Security System (CASS), a computer-based system that transmits queries to airline employee databases via an ARINC proxy server to positively verify the identity and employment status of pilots asking to use an off-line jumpseat.


In May, the TSA approved a six-month CASS trial program.


In September, the TSA approved CASS as a permanent program and made it available to all domestic U.S. airlines operating under a TSA-approved security program.


At its annual Air Safety Forum, the Association rolled out the “No Pilot Left Behind” jumpseat initiative, designed to help commuters get to and from work more easily and strengthen captain’s authority over all aspects of operations.


In October, full flight deck jumpseat privileges for off-line Canadian pilots were restored when Canada’s director general of civil aviation signed an exemption to Section 705.27(3) of the Canadian aviation regulations.

Also in 2010, ALPA’s jumpseat website was created, the Association’s central repository of jumpseat information.


In April, thanks to ALPA’s National Jumpseat Committee efforts, the TSA amended several flight deck access regulations negatively affecting flight safety and security and advised U.S. airline operators they were authorized to allow off-line pilots access to the flight deck jumpseat, contingent on PIC approval and adherence to CASS protocols, regardless of the aircraft’s passenger load.

Also that April, Canada approved an exemption to Subsection 705.104(1) of the Canadian aviation regulations, clearing the way for Canadian airlines to provide flight deck jumpseat access to off-line pilots.


In October, ALPA’s Executive Board passed a resolution to form a new Aviation Jumpseat structure within the Air Safety Organization. With the approval of ALPA’s president, and confirmation by ALPA’s Executive Council, Capt. Rich Odbert (FedEx Express) was named ALPA’s first Aviation Jumpseat chair.


The Aviation Jumpseat Committee continues to advocate for PIC control over flight deck access, ensures that flight deck jumpseats are made available to all individuals authorized to use them, and works to verify that appropriate procedures, equipment, and training are used to protect the safety and security of the flight deck and jumpseat.

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

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