Texting In Flight

While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has long highlighted its safety concerns about texting while driving, the agency is turning its attention to texting while in flight.  NTSB made a series of recommendations last week covering the use of portable electronic devices aboard aircraft flown under Parts 135 (on-demand) and 91 Subpart K (fractional). 

The recommendations – including for an outright ban on “non-operational” use of PEDs for pilots while flying under 135 and 91K -- stemmed from its investigation of the Aug. 26, 2011 crash of an Air Methods Eurocopter AS350 B2 helicopter that was on an emergency medical services (EMS) mission.

That accident was the apparent results of fuel exhaustion and the pilot’s failure to properly enter autorotation after the engine flameout. But the safety board cites as a contributing factor the “pilot’s distracted attention due to personal texting during safety-critical ground and flight operations.”

Investigators discovered that the pilot texted while the helicopter was in flight, while the helicopter was being prepared for return to service and during a call with the company’s communication specialist to discuss a potential shortage of fuel. This, NTSB says, “was a self-induced distraction that took his attention away from his primary responsibility to ensure safe flight operations.” While NTSB did not find evidence that the pilot was texting at the time of the engine failure, his texting while airborne violated the company’s cell phone use policy.

Air Methods President Mike Allen says the company already begun instituting safety improvements as a result of the investigation. Although PED use in flight was already prohibited by company policy, Allen says, “since the accident, we have instituted a zero tolerance policy for use of cell phones during flight.”

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Mar 5, 2016

I wrote this in response to another 'texting' article, same thought applies.
I read your article regarding 'text' and ATC Communication with interest. I see its designed at this time for RVSM airspace. Texting helps keep the head down in a machine hurling through space in VMC. (I know below 18K). It will not take long before we are there to, doing the same thing at lower altitudes. And of course every drug runner, aircraft repo artist and illegal operator will have his/her transponder turned on, because the rules require that.
Additionally I was two aircraft ahead of TWA 800 many years ago. The usual procedure was a clearance to around FL180 and contact departure's next frequency. We would check in and ask for higher (most of us were ETOPS twins, with fuel issues). The usual routine was to wait a minute or two and then start nagging the controller for higher. Some pilots would start in right away. This night the controller voice snapped! We all knew by his 'voice inflections' that the man was severely stressed. And for several minutes not one pilot inquired about higher. I assumed he was supposed to take the handoff for TWA800. What emoji are you going to use for that. ;-)
Capt. Steve Barinka Jr.
Shingle Springs, CA

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