Pilots are required to maintain a professional look at all times, including a clean uniform and groomed appearance.
Facial hair has seen a big boom in recent years, with more and more men sporting the full beard look. But can pilots have beards?
We find out if a pilot is allowed to have a beard, and we answer some of the most important questions about facial hair in aviation.
Can A Pilot Have A Beard?
Most airlines ask their pilots to shave off their facial hair before taking flight. This is because it can interfere with the oxygen mask and other equipment during emergencies.
However, with beards being much more popular, some airlines have started to relax their rules and allowed their pilots to sport facial hair.
In the past, many airlines prohibited their pilots from wearing any facial hair. They believed that a beard could cause problems for the cabin crew in case of an emergency.
Airlines require passengers and crew to wear an oxygen mask when the cabin pressure drops.
If a pilot wears too thick facial hair, then an oxygen mask can’t sight tight enough to provide air. This could cause the pilot not to receive enough air which can lead to him passing out.
A pilot or co-pilot losing consciousness would pose a significant safety risk, especially in an emergency.
There are some variations to the rule that pilots are usually clean-shaven, and this depends very much on the airline.
Some airlines do allow their pilots to wear a beard up to a certain length, while others don’t permit beards at all.
Some non-American airlines allow beards with a much longer length, and others don’t have any beard restrictions at all.
If You Are A Pilot And You Want To Grow Facial Hair
If you are already an airline pilot, and you want to grow some facial hair, then the best thing to do is to check the rules of your airline.
Do they allow facial hair, and are there any particular restrictions? It might also be worthwhile checking with your HR department on these questions.
The best option for pilots who want to grow facial hair is a mustache.
A mustache doesn’t interfere with an oxygen mask. Most airlines that don’t allow facial hair have an integrated clause that allows facial hair above the upper lip.
Growing a beard does take some time, but as you are likely not allowed to grow a full beard, a mustache should be fairly quick.
You will also need to keep your beard trimmed regularly, as your airline will have some strict rules in place on what facial hair can look like.
Also, you need to look professional when you are on duty, so keeping your beard neat is essential.
Do You Need To Remove Your Beard To Get A Pilot’s License?
It is possible to get a pilot’s license without removing your beard. Getting a PPL is not related to facial hair or body art.
However, most people choose to remove their beards before applying for a pilot’s license because they are looking for employment with an airline.
There are no regulations in place that state that a person with a beard cannot obtain a private pilot license.
It’s possible for a bearded pilot to also have a commercial pilot license.
The main concern around beards is when a pilot works for an airline. Most airlines have strict regulations in place for facial hair.
This often means that the pilot has to shave to ensure it adheres to the airline’s code of conduct.
Outside of airlines, there aren’t that many strict grooming regulations in place for pilots.
Will Airlines Allow Bearded Pilots In The Future?
The current generation of airline pilots has covered tattoos and piercings, so why not a beard?
Tattoos do not have such a significant impact on the aircraft’s safety, as a possible failure to wear an oxygen mask could have.
This is the reason why most airlines still struggle to review their old regulations and allow more bearded crew on board.
However, there has been an important study with bearded pilots by the Simon Fraser University.
The researchers tested whether pilots with beards were able to put on their oxygen masks as well as a clean-shaven pilot.
They had three different facial hair lengths, ranging from 0.5 cm up to 40 cm.
They found no adverse effects due to the beard, so pilots with a long beard could breathe just as well as pilots with minimal facial hair.
This study has led Air Canada to review its rules around beards, and it now permits pilots to sport neatly trimmed facial hair with a length of 1.25 cm.
Beard growth is normal for men, and it appears to affect the pilot’s ability to fly at first. However, most airlines still do not allow their pilots to wear a beard.
This may change in the future, with additional research and studies which prove that flying with a beard is just as safe as without.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Can A Pilot’s Beard Be?
This depends on the airline. Some airlines don’t allow pilots to have beards at all. Some airlines, such as Air Canada, do allow their pilots to have facial hair up to 12.5 mm.
However, the beard must be neatly trimmed and it needs to look professional.
Can Pilots Wear Tattoos?
Pilots can wear tattoos, but only if they are covered appropriately by their uniforms. Most airlines don’t allow tattoos when they are visible.
This is because the pilot is a representative of the airline and needs to look professional at all times. Tattoos may be perceived as offensive by passengers and should be covered up.
Can Pilots Wear Piercings?
Pilots may be able to wear piercings. However, the piercing needs to be covered properly by the pilot’s uniform.
If the piercing is visible through the uniform, then it will be considered inappropriate.
Female pilots and crew are allowed to wear only certain types of piercings, such as earrings.