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Home > Air Safety > Why non pilots are not allowed to manipulate the control switches in the cockpit?
Why non pilots are not allowed to manipulate the control switches in the cockpit?
Aviation - Air Safety
Friday, 13 May 2011 16:22

Kid in the Cockpit

Hello Captain Lim!

Capt. Lim, you are perhaps the only pilot in the world who is educating aspiring pilots like me without a single penny and without knowing who the person is you are helping. I really appreciate your kindness in clarifying our questions regarding every aspect of flying.

You, being a highly experienced pilot, may be able to solve my questions regarding my favorite plane - the B777. I have been an avid fan of this particular aircraft and have been living my dream of commanding a B777 through Microsoft Flight Simulator X and have encountered many questions regarding the landing.

My first question is that, do pilots do more than just deploying the speed brakes (I know that spoilers are automatic) and reversing the thrust?

Or do planes have (not Autobrakes!) brakes like we do in a car to slow the B777 down at landing?

If yes, then where are the controls for brakes and when do you use them for slowing down the plane on the runway. I believe that if pilots use brakes, then they use them at 60 knots when it is safe to not reverse the thrust anymore.

I have researched on this topic but read somewhere that pilots cannot 'wheel-brake' the plane on the runway. Is this correct?

My last question is when I visit the B777 cockpit when I fly overseas - I have no intention to offend you, but why the pilots do not let me touch/move knobs/ push buttons when I am in the cockpit, and before asking them to touch the controls knobs, I tell them that I won’t mess anything up. I do know a lot of controls on the B777 but still they prevent me for even turning on and off the flight director switches. Is there a FAA/ ICAO law for this? or why this?

I would really appreciate if you could answer these questions.

Thank You,

Vishakh Shukla

Greetings from Austin, TX, USA!!

Hi Vishakh,

I hope you understand that speed brakes are mainly used in the air to decrease the speeds by the extension of spoilers, for example to reduce from 300 knots to 200 knots. On the ground, spoilers are deployed to kill the lift on the wings during touch down so that the plane sits firmly on the ground in order for the wheel brakes to become more effective..

Additionally, wheel brakes are automatically engaged if they were set 'on' before landing, or if not, the pilot can also manually engage them with their feet just like you do in your car. The wheel brakes are engaged gently as the plane decelerates and modulated accordingly by the pilot if the autobrakes are not on and the reverse thrusts are cancelled, usually around 70 knots.

The autobrakes selection switches are on the cockpit panel and are in three selections – Low, Medium and Maximum. It is normally selected to ‘Low’ on long runways and ‘Medium’ on other occasion. ‘Maximum’ are rarely used.

A pilot has the option to use manual braking after landing if he wishes but autobraking is preferable.

Today, a non-pilot is generally prohibited from entering the cockpit (after Sep 11). The airline industry policy is that if you are not the crew of the plane, you are forbidden to touch any control switches in the cockpit.

Please see below for the rest of the YouTube videos on ‘Kids in the Cockpit’ to understand the rationale behind this.

Kid in the Cockpit Part 1

Kid in the Cockpit Part 2

Kid in the Cockpit Part 3

Kid in the Cockpit Part 4

Kid in the Cockpit Part 5


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