Pilots should not use cellphones and other distracting devices during critical flight operations, federal accident investigators announced in a safety alert this month. The safety alert follows a recent finding by the National Transportation Safety Board that a medical helicopter pilot contributed to the death of four people by sending text messages while flying a helicopter. Texting is a well-known cause of motor vehicle accidents involving distracted driving. But this helicopter crash marks the first time texting contributed to a fatal aircraft accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board unanimously agreed recently that the 2011 helicopter crash was caused by a distracted and tired pilot who skipped pre-flight safety checks, according to a new article in USA Today. The pilot sent 25 text messages and received 60 during the course of his 12-hour shift, including 20 messages in the hour and 41 minutes before the crash. Most of the messages were with an off-duty female co-worker with whom the pilot was planning to have dinner that night.
“This investigation highlights what is a growing concern across transportation—distraction and the myth of multi-tasking,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board in a NTSB press release. “When operating heavy machinery, whether a personal vehicle or an emergency medical services helicopter, the focus must be on the task at hand: safety transportation.”
The federal government is now developing rules limiting pilots use of personal wire communication devices. In January 2013, the Federal Register released a notice of proposed rule-making that would “prohibit flight crew members in operations … from using a personal wireless communications device or laptop computer for personal use while at their duty station on the flight deck while the aircraft is being operated.”
A law passed by Congress in 2012 directed the adoption of regulations while a plan is in operation. Current rules prohibit airline pilots from engaging in distracting activities during takeoffs, landings and other critical operations.
Strong legislation is needed to reduce these tragedies, and when accidents do occur, compensation is in order. Contact the office of David Resnick & Associates, P.C., if you have been hurt by someone’s careless use of cell phones or wireless communication devices.
- FAA: Fact Sheet – Cell Phones, Wi-Fi and Portable Electronics on Airplanes
- Federal Register: Prohibition on Personal Use of Electronic Devices on the Flight Deck
- USA Today: NTSB: Pilot’s Texting Contributed to Copter Crash