Open Cockpit Door on Aegean Airlines flightBack to Forum
Anonymous6 May 2016
This is my letter to Aegean airlines this morning (and a description of, what I believe is, a security breach that I witnessed last night).
I am a frequent traveller on Aegean Airlines flights between London and Athens. I am writing to convey my concerns about a disturbing incident that took place on A3608 from Athens to Heathrow on Thursday 5 May 2016.
Around 2 – 2½ hours into the flight, and while the plane was overflying Switzerland, one of the pilots left the cockpit to talk to one or more flying attendants in the front galley. As the pilot left the cockpit, he did not close the cockpit door behind him; the door was left wide open. The curtain separating the galley from the business class cabin was pulled half-way and the open cockpit door was clearly visible. The pilot stayed in the front galley for around 7 minutes; most of this time he was not standing in front of the cockpit door (and thus he was not blocking it); instead he was standing on the side of the galley where the meals were prepared. During this time, two passengers, a man in his mid-40s and an older lady, passed through the front galley and entered the front toilet of the aircraft. The toilet door is adjacent to the cockpit door which remained open throughout. The pilot remained on the side of the galley; hence the aforementioned passengers stood between the open cockpit and the standing pilot for at least as many seconds as they needed to enter or exit the toilet. I was sat in 1C and could clearly see what was going on; I took a photograph and a short video of the open cockpit.
After the pilot returned to the cockpit I approached the chief flight attendant to convey my concerns about safety while the door was left open and passengers could pass by. The chief flight attendant and I engaged in a polite conversation for a couple of minutes; she was friendly and professional. I said I thought an open cockpit door for 7 minutes is a violation of civil aviation regulations or good practices and I was so concerned that I would write to both the UK and Hellenic Civil Aviation Authorities. I also said I had taken a photograph and a video. I neglected to explicitly say that I hadn’t recorded her face (or anyone else’s) – and I certainly did not record any faces or speech. She did not seem concerned about that anyway. At the end of our conversation she apologised that I felt disturbed and said she would inform the pilot about this.
When the plane landed at Heathrow, the chief flight attendant asked me to wait for a few minutes because the pilot wanted to talk to me.
While the passengers were disembarking, the pilot appeared on the cockpit’s doorstep and attacked me verbally in an aggressive and intimidating way. He made no reference whatsoever to the open cockpit door; instead he demanded that I erase the video and the photographs because, he claimed, they were taken ‘illegally’. He said, ‘as a man to a man I request you erase them now’. He also said that if he had the time, he would call the police to arrest me. The chief flight attendant was also present. I tried to explain that there were no faces/speech recorded and that I was willing to show the material to him; he refused and he kept shouting at me. I asked him to call the police but he said he was too busy to do so. I realised he was reluctant to discuss the issue in a civilised calm way so I thanked him for flying us into Heathrow, I also thanked the chief flight attendant, and I disembarked.
I was disturbed by the open door and the crew’s lack of attention to it for 7 minutes. I was concerned about my safety as two passengers stood literally on the cockpit’s open doorstep while we were flying in 36,000 feet. I was disturbed by the aggressiveness and lack of calmness by the pilot at the end of our flight; I now question his capacity to deal with a serious in-flight crisis had a crisis taken place in one of his planes.
I’ll be grateful if you deal with my safety concerns seriously. I hope I will not read back the usual commercial script ‘we put our passengers’ safety first’ but a to-the-point correspondence about how Aegean views this incident. As I believe an open cockpit door is a serious security breach, which can have potentially catastrophic consequences, it is my duty to also report it to the CAA and the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority. Depending on your response and/or actions I may review my flying habits between Greece and the UK.
[Photo and video attached to the letter but omitted from the forum]6 May 2016
I wouldn’t assume that seeing the flight deck door open over Switzerland means a breach of regulations – if it had happened in UK airspace it would be a different matter.
On the other hand, taking video footage onboard is probably in breach of some regulation.
You might get a ban from flying Aegean over this.6 May 2016
I understand the concern and have often seen an open cockpit door though only for a few minutes before they pop back inside. As for photography, my son snapped a few photos of the open cockpit when we boarded a recent flight. The FA asked if he had taken a picture of their faces (he hadn’t) as they said that is not allowed though photos are fine, so the OP may be ok.
Having said that, it’s very easy to delete a photo or video, then retrieve it back again. Or if you have time, copy them to the SD drive and just delete the ones on the internal memory while they watch. A bit pointless to ask you to do this really but clearly the pilot was worried.
I agree with FDOS, you may be banned from Aegean but from the sounds of it you won’t be flying them again anyway?6 May 2016
I rather take an opposing view. I won’t go in to the legalities as I don’t know, but my guess would be that the flight crew (or at least one of them) acted outside Aegean policy and that is the reason for the agitation by him after the flight. I think the OP should complain to the Airline at the very least over the way he was spoken to by the pilot. The pilot was clearly bluffing about the police as if he genuinely thought an offence had been committed onboard the aircraft then the police would have been waiting and or he would have made time to get the police. I think here we have a pilot who stepped over the mark of his company instructions and tried to bluster his way out of it and failed miserably.6 May 2016
Why are crew so sensitive about having their photos taken – do they think they will be appearing on the 10 o clock news?
If I queried every one who may have accidentally taken my photo as I passed through a ‘shot’, I suppose I too would become paranoid.
Similar to the OP, I am very uncomfortable when I see one of the pilots leave the flight deck on a shorthaul flight and stand speaking to the cabin crew, knowing there is only one pilot of the flight deck.6 May 2016
MrMichael – 06/05/2016 16:33 BST
I don’t think you are right, from what the OP posted. Also, I think the incident would have been ignored/denied, rather than the captain confronting the pax…… I saw an airline do a fairly big boo boo and have a passenger (someon’e relative) in the flight deck in UK airspace, with her leaving after landing (absolutely against the law) – one passenger made quite a fuss about it and the crew just denied everything, pretending she had been in the lav after landing – LOL.
Obviously, the OP didn’t realise that his filming was against company policy, but I have seen a passenger offloaded for this – NB: I am not commenting whether this makes any sense or not, just passing on an observation.
Martyn, I don’t know why the airlines are so sensitive over people filming their crew, but they seem to be – also, they don’t seem to like people filming equipment or protocols, which I can understand more.
I also understand your discomfort, but if the door had been open on Germanwings……6 May 2016
“I also understand your discomfort, but if the door had been open on Germanwings……”
I wanted to say something similar but thought I might get shot down over it, but how I agree.6 May 2016
It’s a risk perception, I guess, which is the more likely an attack on the flight deck or pilot suicide.
Neither would concern me greatly, to be honest, but I do respect other people who perceive the risks in a different way, as it is a personal assessment, without much data to fall back on.7 May 2016
Thank you all for the comments.
Just to clarify, I did not film any crew member or record any conversation. Neither the captain (who was standing behind the wall separating the galley from the cabin) nor the first officer or any other crew member were visible to me or my camera. I was unaware, and still am, of breaking any regulation of Aegean. I searched online extensively and found nothing on their website.
What disturbed me is not that the captain was not in the cockpit. I realise that different airlines follow different procedures on this even after the Germanwngs crash. I was disturbed by the door remaining open for so long (7 mins) while passengers were allowed to walk up and down and use the toilet. Indeed an open cockpit door would have prevented the Germanwings crash but that doesn’t mean it’s not a security concern. I suspect no one is suggesting that an open cockpit door is safer than a closed cockpit door.
I am awaiting Aegean response to this. If the pilot abided by the company’s regulations, then that’s fine with me. But I will have to consider whether I will fly them again because I really don’t see why the door should be kept open for so long.
If Aegean decides to ban me from flying them, then that’d be equivalent to punishing a vigilant passenger who saw something -potentially- wrong and reported it immediately. (And who voluntarily submitted his video and photographs to them).7 May 2016
As far as I am aware the only airspace where an open cockpit door becomes a serious issue if it occurs in flight is within the USA.
I stand to be corrected but the difference in the USA and the rest of the world is that in the rest of the world flight deck doors etc form part of the airline operating procedures, whereas in the USA, it comes under ‘federal’ law.
I recall a BA crew that had their wrists slapped in the USA when the flight deck door became unlatched during decent and landing a few years back.7 May 2016
MartynSinclair – 07/05/2016 12:26 BST +1
The current strengthened cockpit doors and all that goes with them were introduced world wide following 9/11. They have gone on perhaps to deter others, we’ll never know but certainly have caused tragedy last year with the awful happenings at Germanwings.
The captain is in command of the aircraft. If he deems it suitable to open the door and stand in the forward galley while talking to the cabin crew so be it. I think it’s preferable the door remain open during that time than the captain be potentially locked out of the flight deck permanently as happened with Germanwings.
Micro management of what the captain may or may not do does not have a place in the culture of safety, on any airline he is a highly skilled professional and he’s not going to do anything that compromises his or anyone else’s safety. I’m more concerned when I see one member of the flight crew leave the cockpit and shut the door behind them.
I don’t fly with A3 often but on the occasions I have I’ve never thought they compromised safety in any way.
Personally I think this is all a storm in a teacup.8 May 2016
Having spent most of my time as a passenger (1976-2001) travelling in a regime where the flight deck door was often open and in flight visits by pax were common, I’m personally much less concerned that some others.
Somehow, I doubt that many terrorists would try to mount the type of attack that caused 9/11 (as awful as a it was) and thus this is a slight risk (even though not impossible).
I’m not going to criticise AlexanderT for feeling the way he does, but reflect that media hysteria and a society that wishes to eschew all risks does create a frisson of fear that wasn’t present 25 years ago.8 May 2016
I wonder if the response is really proportionate to the circumstances.
If I felt strongly I might have have been tempted to outline my concerns and ask the airline for their thoughts. However to be contacting the airline, two regulators and putting it on BT within 24 hours is in my view disproportionate.
Security incidents are few and far between, and include situations (Germanwings) where it would have been safer if the door was open.
In any case I’m not sure what the OP’s qualifications are in this area but personally I would not be making comments about a “violation of civil aviation regulations or good practices” or “I believe an open cockpit door is a serious security breach” unless I was very sure of my ground or was qualified to do so.
Maybe the OP can help us here and tell us which regulations were breached/violated and what his qualifications are to reach these conclusions?8 May 2016
I am still concerned every time I see a pilot leave the flight deck leaving only 1 pilot in control. On a shorthaul flight I see absolutely no reason for a pilot to leave the flight deck other than a toilet break and personally, I would be far happier for the flight deck door to remain open or a crew member to occupy the jump seat.
For a pilot to stand chatting in the galley, passing the time of day on a shorthaul, to me shows a degree of lax airmanship!
Granted an Athens flight is longer than ‘short haul’8 May 2016