Is it possible to bluff one's way to the flightdeck like in Catch Me If You Can?

Manfred
  • Is it possible to bluff one's way to the flightdeck like in Catch Me If You Can? Manfred

    I was watching some clips from Catch Me If You Can starring Leonardo DeCaprio as Frank Abagnale.

    I was wondering- If brought a ticket on an airline today, came dressed up like a pilot, would you, be able to sit in the cockpit? (assuming pilots are normally allowed to jumpseat in that jurisdiction) Say you come onboard the plane and present them a fake ID at the door. Is there anything to prevent this from happening, or are we still as vulnerable to this type of trick like in the movie?

  • A lot has changed since the Frank Abagnale / "Catch Me If You Can" days, and riding as a non-revenue passenger (particularly in the cockpit jump seat) is no longer not as simple as grabbing a passable captain's uniform, polishing your shoes up, and smooth-talking the flight crew.

    Someone seeking a ride in an airplane jump seat would still have to pass through airport security and prove their identity & authorization to occupy such a seat to the satisfaction of the crew operating the flight, which would likely include checking credentials that are at lease somewhat difficult to forge.

    So in short it's possible – if someone is particularly adept at social engineering, forgery, and has at least a working knowledge of airport & airline security procedures they might get away with it – but it's extremely unlikely, and as has been pointed out the consequences if and when you get caught are particularly unpleasant these days.

  • Absolutely not, if by “sit in the cockpit” you mean after the door is closed, during the flight, at least on scheduled airline flights in the United States.

    Airlines verify the identity and employment status of would-be jumpseat passengers not only through documents presented by the passenger, which might—as mentioned in another answer—be forged, stolen, or or out of date, but also through databases like the Cockpit Access Security System (CASS), operated by Rockwell Collins. CASS includes the names and photographs of crew members from each participating airline, and entries are deleted immediately if a crew member’s employment ends.

    (I appreciate others’ concern about disclosure of sensitive security information, but please note that everything in this answer is from public-domain sources, and I am not a “covered person” under the relevant regulations, 49 CFR 1520.)

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