FAA To Require Secondary Flight Deck Barrier


The FAA has issued a new rule that will require a secondary barrier on the flight deck of some new commercial airplanes. Designed to “protect flight decks from intrusion when the flight deck door is open,” the rule (PDF) affects operators conducting Part 121 passenger-carrying operations. It applies specifically to transport category airplanes manufactured two years or more after the rule’s effective date, which will be determined based on when it is officially published in the Federal Register.

“Every day, pilots and flight crews transport millions of Americans safely—and today we are taking another important step to make sure they have the physical protections they deserve,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

The FAA estimates that the purchase and installation of a secondary barrier will run $35,000. The rule also stipulates that aircraft manufacturers must install secondary flight deck barriers on commercial aircraft produced after it goes into effect. Proposed in 2022, the rule stems from requirements laid out the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Who remembers the pre 911 days when a passenger could ask the flight attendant if they could visit the flight deck once above 10,000′ and almost always get permission?

    I recall many times sitting awestruck in a jump seat or huddled elsewhere in the cockpit enjoying the goings on.

    Once I flew from Miami to JFK at night on a deadhead flight. I was injured while diving in the Keys (bit by a Morey of all things) and was miserable and needed to go home ASAP. The airline put me on the deadhead. I was the only passenger. I spent the whole flight above 10,000′ up front. I was a pre-student pilot at that time.

    I would tell the FA that I was a pilot/physician. Not sure if that helped but would provide an inkling of an idea I would be able to behave and appreciate the privilege.

    • I remember it well. Rode an Air France flight once, across the Alps, in the cockpit. A friend of mine sat in the jump seat of a 747 landing at LHR.

  2. Unfortunately there are a lot of things that went away after 9/11 with aviation. There are others that went away having nothing to do with 9/11 (local sightseeing rides). I’ll bet these “things” that have gone away is a big reason less and less young people are wanting to get into aviation. How many persons actually are able to just go to the airport to watch planes takeoff and land. I know my home airport did away with the observation decks years ago in the name of security. To be honest with all of the cockpit barriers now in place and this new requirement coming, I’m surprised the pilot uniform hasn’t disappeared as well, after all how many times do passengers actually see the cockpit crew anymore during or after the flight.

    • When we were kids we would ride our bikes to EWR (very hazardous, no reasonable access other than highways and crowded intersections; God bless a kid on a Sting-Ray) and go into the terminal to watch the planes. There was an observation area, I’ doubt it’s still there.

    • “There are others that went away having nothing to do with 9/11 (local sightseeing rides)”

      These went away? Can you explain?

      • Due to drug testing and other recent FAR changes local sightseeing rides that used to be given by a local operator under pt91 at a small airport are no longer legal. Most operators who have a pt 61 flight school operation sell that kind of airplane ride as an introductory flight instruction ride. Doing the occasional sightseeing ride without being part of a drug testing program has been illegal since the 1990’s.

  3. As a kid I got to see the business end of the plane several times as my Dad was a gate agent for TWA and he knew all the crews out of PHL.

    But this is so stupid. 22 years ago the first two aircraft were successfully hijacked and used to attack targets on the ground. The third aircraft was taken down by the people on the plane because they knew how it was going to end. It hasn’t happened since.
    If you think about it, this does nothing to protect the passengers on the plane. If anything it means a fighter pilot won’t have to live with the memory of shooting down a civilian airliner. Just allow the pilots to be armed again.

    • They are, but TSA makes it as difficult as they can to qualify because many in the federal government do not support this issue.

  4. “The FAA estimates that the purchase and installation of a secondary barrier will run $35,000.”

    Really? Maybe the FAA used their estimated labor rate of $85 per hour for calculating AD costs for aircraft owners to come up with this estimate.

    • This second door covers the times when the crew has to leave the cockpit in flight to, say, use the bathroom. Current procedure is for a flight attendant to position a drink cart or other obstacle in the aisle before the cockpit door is opened. The idea is to slow down a passenger trying to rush the cockpit at that moment.

  5. 1961; regularly was invited aboard as a visitor. One captain of a Caravelle plopped me down in the observer’s seat, put an oxygen mask on my face and said, “Here’s how we start the engines and started them up! C’mon along for the ride, we’ll arrange to fly you back home (KORD)” I regret that I had to tell him that I couldn’t because I was waiting for my dad’s flight to arrive and he’d kill me knowing that I parked his car in the lot and wasn’t there to pick him up or even to tell him where it was. 🙁

  6. The most dangerous element in aircraft now is already sitting in the left front seat. Some way to “take over” the flight from the ground would be more valuable.

    • As someone who does network security for a living. Please, for the love of all that’s good, do not do this. We simply do not know how to make this secure. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

    • Boeing has already patented a method to do this. Flight deck crew getting hijacked hits a code/switch and the ground crew takes over and the flight deck controls are “disconnected” or isolated from the airplane.

  7. “The FAA estimates that the purchase and installation of a secondary barrier will run $35,000.”

    Not insignificant. What has driven the need for one more expensive change? Since all the cockpit security has been in place how many cockpit incursions have there been? ANY??

      • This “logic” is why government spending and everything impacted by government interaction is so ridiculously expensive. I’d like to see us levying requirements as if the money were coming out of our own pockets. Because it is.

  8. I have to wonder if any of the rule makers will be financially benefiting in any way from this rule? What has driven this to be a topic ?

  9. This is a response to 9/11.

    It’s sobering to think that new college students (and even 19-year-olds) today do not remember this event: to them, it is something they learned about in history class and from their parents. By the time this rule change is implemented, many FOs going through those double doors will not remember the events that gave rise to it.

    Agree or disagree with the change, but take note: THAT is how quickly the FAA moves – in response to the biggest perceived crisis in decades. Meanwhile, GA is still stuck with regulations drafted in the 1940s and an airplane fleet from the 1960s. GA needs to be freed from the FAA, somehow – and soon – so the FAA can focus on catching up with history and serving the needs of airline passengers, and GA can modernize at last.

    • Trial lawyers ruined GA, though the FAA helped. They found that juries would award ten times the compensation for a death in an airplane compared to the same person’s death in an automobile. Deep pockets law made manufacturers pay, even where the pilot was in error. Liability insurance went from low single digit thousands per aircraft to a hundred thousand, more than doubling the cost of the average aircraft. Demand tanked, further increasing unit costs as fixed cost were spread across fewer units.

      20k annual unit production in the 60s became low hundreds annually in the 70s, with prices ten times the average worker salary instead of two. Every manufacturer either went bankrupt or sold out to a larger company, who then refocused production on the more expensive turbine aircraft. Lack of funds made FAA certification costs unmanageable, so nearly every piston aircraft you see now was made in the 60s.

  10. I don’t understand what a “secondary barrier” can do that a door cannot – yet this new requirement is for a device to be used when the door is open? So what does that mean? A gate? As stated, closing the door seems like the most effective option.

    • Because, as was mentioned earlier, pilots have to open the door in order to go to the bathroom. As I understand it, the pilot has to first notify a flight attendant. The attendant will then position a drink cart in the aisle to block any passengers from coming forward. Then the pilot can leave and go into the bathroom. Presumably a second door will take the place of the drink cart (which is on wheels and easily pushed out of the way).

      • Fly EL AL, sit in Business, and you will see this in action. They have such barrier for years. When a pilot needs to leave the cockpit, the access from the galley to the cockpit (and the toilet next to it) is blocked. Only then the cockpit door is open.
        Why a door needs to cost 35k? Why not… Everything on aviation is ridiculously expensive.

  11. Thomas Boyle, well said. GA is being crippled by dated regulations in addition to many other aspects. It pretty rediculous that i can depart beside an experimental that has better safety, and better equipment that i can have, and have hit brickwalls trying to get some of it because of regulations, or requirements that are so costly, it just wont happen. Common sense has been removed from the equation. The regulations arent keeping my safe; they’re keeping be from being safer.