Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019 - 4

Photography courtesy of Rebecca Noblin

LESSONS LEARNED

The Perils Of Texting While Flying

Can It Be Done Safely? Should It Be Done At All?
BY PATRICIA LUEBKE
We all know about distracted driving. It's a phrase that most of
us have heard and refers to any activity that diverts attention
away from the primary task of driving. According to the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10 percent of fatal
crashes and 15 percent of injury crashes in 2015 were distractionaffected. And for teenagers it's worse: Driver distraction is
responsible for more than 58 percent of teen crashes.
Cellphone use, including texting, is a major factor in distracted
driving. Here's the thing about texting: Traffic safety experts
classify distractions into three main types-manual (where you
move your hands off the steering wheel), visual (where you

The NTSB has taken a hardline approach
stating, "Portable electronic devices that
do not directly support the task at hand
have no place in vehicles, planes, trains,
and vessels."
take your eyes off the road), and cognitive (where your mind
strays from the task of driving). And texting involves all three
distractions. In short, the US Department of Transportation
claims that text messaging while driving increases the risk of a
crash or near-crash by 23 times.

4

But that's in automobiles. Flying an aircraft is different
than driving a car, right? Not according to the National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Over the past decade
the NTSB has investigated the danger of using a portable
electronic device while operating all kinds of vehicles, including
aircraft and boats. One such incident involved pilots who
overflew their destination airport by 100 miles because they
were distracted by their laptops. The NTSB has taken a hardline approach stating, "Portable electronic devices that do not
directly support the task at hand have no place in vehicles,
planes, trains, and vessels."
That NTSB opinion leaves some room for interpretation.
What exactly does "support the task at hand" mean? Most
pilots would agree that texting about flight operations are
acceptable under certain situations. A pilot may text his or her
destination FBO to update the facility on arrival time, ground
transportation and hangar availability, fuel, and catering.
It also makes sense for a pilot to text his or her homebase with
updates on maintenance issues, the fuel plan, and so on. Since
the major OEMs have call centers with maintenance experts
on call to help crews, a pilot may be able to troubleshoot a
mechanical problem in flight. In that case, a text may be less
distracting than a phone call.
But then, there are the personal texts. One pilot stated that he
thinks it's Ok to text anything-business or personal-if he's
in a jet, 5,000 feet over North Dakota on a VFR day. Oh, and



Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019

Contents
Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019 - Contents
Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019 - 2
Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019 - 3
Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019 - 4
Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019 - 5
Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019 - 6
Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019 - 7
Premium on Safety - Issue 33, 2019 - 8
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