What it is a “Sterile Cockpit”?

by Captain Joe

What is a sterile cockpit?

As a pilot your main job obviously is to fly the plane.

During non critical flight phases, during cruise for example, the autopilot takes over control and you have time to do your regular 30 minutes fuel checks, make sure all systems are working in order and if time permits have a chat with your colleague.

As soon as we have completed our approach briefing, we will request and start our initial descent towards our destination.

As we are descending into lower airspace and come closer to the airport, the radio communication and the navigation gets more complex.

There are more aircraft in the vicinity of the airport, so the air traffic controller is constantly giving instructions and regular frequency changes increase the workload during approach.

Terrain is another factor which requires a lot of concentration by pilots especially during bad weather.

So therefore airlines have come up with a procedure named the “sterile cockpit below 10.000 feet”.

Meaning that pilots should fully reduce unnecessary conversation to an absolute minimum and only use standard operating phraseology to ensure a safe cockpit operation in these critical flight phases where a high demand of concentration is required.

To avoid distraction, communication with cabin crew members shall only be established in case of an emergency.

Even after landing the “sterile cockpit procedures” applies, until completion of the parking checklist.



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