Pilot Beard Ban Debunked

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Canadian researchers say they have debunked the long-held belief that facial hair interferes with the seal on pilot oxygen masks and at least one airline has lifted its decades-old beard ban. Air Canada, which commissioned the Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) study, says its pilots can now sport beards “to a maximum length of 12.5 millimeters (half an inch) and neatly trimmed.” The airline hasn’t said exactly why it paid the Environmental Medicine and Physiology Unit at SFU to test the beard hypothesis in its hyperbaric chamber but the facility’s director was unequivocal about the results. “The (no-beard) policy was based on outdated research on obsolete equipment and testing on respirators not intended for aircrew oxygen delivery,” said Sherri Ferguson. “We found no adverse effects on bearded subjects within the two parameters of our study.”

Those parameters covered the two basic reasons airline pilots need good seals on their oxygen masks. Air Canada supplied its standard-issue masks for the experiment. Delivery of oxygen was tested by putting three groups of bearded men (stubble, medium length and bushy) into the chamber and simulating depressurization at altitude. Oxygen saturation remained consistently healthy for all of the test subjects. The other test simulated smoke in the cockpit by introducing a vapor that irritates noses and throats. None of the test subjects reported any reaction.

Comments (9)

How about "a study" that validates the requirement for pilots to possess a medical certificate - to protect the Earth's population from a certain aluminum deluge from above? THAT would be fascinating.
When was the last time you heard a story about a pilot suddenly becoming incapacitated - from skin cancer?
Wives' tales. Nonsense. B.S.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | September 16, 2018 7:19 AM    Report this comment

Gee someone actually looked at data to change a policy. Talk about being a bureaucratic apostate.

Yars, i don't think that will happen in what is left or our cognizant life time.

Posted by: Leo LeBoeuf | September 16, 2018 9:52 AM    Report this comment

It's about time - the Sikh pilots in the RAF, Indian Air Force and Air India long ago demonstrated that the no-beard rule was nonsense.

Posted by: Rick Durden | September 16, 2018 10:51 AM    Report this comment

I can see why Air Canada wanted to check this box, but few people still think the beard rule is about oxygen mask fit and safety. The beard rule sits alongside the black hat, black tie, and pressed white shirt as things passengers expect of a professional looking pilot. Maybe soon Air Canada will allow mullets and man-buns on pilots--it's not like they interfere with the oxygen mask. Ooh... maybe we can start to allow those big disks that go inside the earlobe. And nose rings. And pink hair. Definitely pink hair.

Posted by: Geoff Rapoport | September 16, 2018 1:07 PM    Report this comment

I don't know about pt 121, but in pt 135, and pt 91k, and pt 91 for that matter, there is no specific regulation that states a pilot shall not or must not have any beard or any other facial hair when flying a pressurized airplane. Several companies ago I was typed in a Saab 340 and did proving runs with the FAA on board and the subject of my beard at the time was never brought up. The owner of the same company got typed in two different jets and he also has a beard and a handlebar mustache as well. The idea of not allowing beards (I am not talking about a long or unkempt beard here) is just another FAA interpretation without any regulation to back it up. I'm sure there is some military standard involved here as well.

Posted by: matthew wagner | September 16, 2018 7:50 PM    Report this comment

Now the guys from ZZ Top can finally apply for their dream jobs!

Posted by: James Freal | September 17, 2018 5:31 AM    Report this comment

Maybe Air Canada should extend their research into how to design a proper oxygen mask for the passengers so they can get rid of those idiotic round rubber cups and replace them with something that might actually work!

Posted by: John McNamee | September 17, 2018 11:51 AM    Report this comment

"Ooh... maybe we can start to allow those big disks that go inside the earlobe. And nose rings. And pink hair. Definitely pink hair."

I recently sighted up for training to take place at a vendors establishment. The person taking registration informed my that the "dress code" is business casual. I politely informed person on the other end of the phone, that there is nothing casual in my line of business.

I worry little if the pilot at the controls has a beard. Or an earring. Or what color their hair is. My only concern, is that are able to hit the numbers. I worry little about perception.

I the PIC wants to loosen his/her/thier tie, so be it. Hell, they could be buck nekked behind that (perceived) impervious locked cockpit door and if they get me and the rest of the passengers safely between points A and B (preferably without me spilling my drink) I consider it an acceptable flight on the part of the aircrew.

Perception doesn't fly the plane. AvWeb just reported on a crash involving a pilot who's certificate was revoked 21 years ago. Yet, everyone at the airport perceived the pilot as " competent and experienced".

Posted by: Robert Ore | September 17, 2018 8:28 PM    Report this comment

YEA! Tell that to Fedex - they won't even let jumpseaters fly with a beard!

Posted by: bill keeler | September 21, 2018 8:58 AM    Report this comment

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