FAA And United Airlines Investigate Unauthorized Cockpit Incident On Charter Flight


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and United Airlines are investigating an incident in which an unauthorized person was allegedly sitting in the pilot’s seat during a Colorado Rockies charter flight earlier this month.

A video shared on social media, which has since been deleted, shows a member of the team’s coaching staff sitting in the captain’s seat of a Boeing 757 simulating pushing the plane’s yoke and giving a thumbs-up gesture. The incident occurred on April 10 during a flight from Denver to Toronto.

According to the Wall Street Journal, United released a statement noting it was “deeply disturbed” by the footage. “As a clear violation of our safety and operational policies, we’ve reported the incident to the FAA and have withheld the pilots from service while we conduct an investigation.”

United’s policy and FAA regulations strictly prohibit cockpit entry during flight, even on chartered flights. The incident comes as the FAA announced increased scrutiny of United Airlines following a series of safety mishaps in recent weeks.  

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. Best way to prove stupidity? Film yourself doing something stupid and then brag about it on social media.

    For professionals in general (doctors, lawyers, pilot, engineers etc.) I think social media is a bad idea. Little if anything to be gained and so much to lose.

  2. Social media is a prosecutor’s or plaintiff attorney’s best friend. “Your honor, the evidence speaks for itself.”

  3. It’s crucial for professionals to maintain a responsible image both offline and online. Social media can turn small mistakes into career-threatening scandals. This incident indeed highlights the often-overlooked fact that social media posts can become compelling evidence in legal matters. It’s a reminder to think twice before sharing anything that might be questionable.

  4. A technicality: the article doesn’t say who shot the video and/or posted it. Regardless, the first issue was allowing people in the cockpit and then allowing someone to film it- the assumption always is that pictures and videos will make their way onto social media platforms

  5. Unless there were five people up in the cockpit I’m pretty sure it was the captain that was recording the event. I can’t imagine what she was thinking. ALPA may be able to keep her and the FO from being fired, but I don’t think they’ll be able to keep the FAA from taking a certificate action against them. When the dust settles she be lucky if she’s flying as an FO.

  6. “I love my job, and I spent a freakin’ fortune to get here, and I know this is breaking the regs, but I’ll do it anyway just this once.” I suspect something from PM-86/42 could be found and applied.

  7. Cameras in cockpits have been getting people fired for the entire 50 years I have been in aviation. First event I saw was in the Air Force, then several at my airline, and it continues now at multiple airlines (just Google the subject) and the relatively new phenomenon – general aviation pilots are losing their licenses for posting themselves doing stupid stuff in airplanes.

    • Gone are the days when we’d let the stews (FA’s) sit in the pilot seat, but no phone camera or internet then, a good thing when considering all the dumb things we all did when we were young. You can check anywhere on the internet, they got nothing on me!

  8. I can’t add anything of value to the comments above, but I can ask:

    Why is it that, when I click on the photo associated with the article to blow it up, the blown-up image is smaller than the original? I wanted some detail…

    • That’s a pet peeve of mine – I have a mouse key programmed to open the pic in another tab, where I can play with the size all I want.

  9. The majors are very strict about such protocols (as is the FAA). My son flies for a major and coming back from Europe one night at FL 360 or so, he took a beautiful photo of the aurora borealis with his cell phone and sent it to me after landing in the US. I asked him if I could post it with attribution on the net and he practically shouted at me “NO, no way. It’s against our carrier’s rules to use a camera in the cockpit. I could be fired!” He’s not a scofflaw — quite the opposite, in fact —, but was very taken with the beauty of the aurora and couldn’t resist one quick pic. So, you guys will never get to enjoy that one ;>)