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Selfies by Pilot May Have Played a Role in Deadly Plane Crash, Says NTSB

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, a pilot’s propensity to take selfies while operating an aircraft likely played a part in causing the small plane crash that killed him and his passenger in Colorado last year. The government agency issued its full probable cause report this week, saying that evidence shows that distracted piloting may have been a key factor in the fatal aviation accident.

The Cessna 150 crashed just four minutes after taking off on May 31, 2014. The pilot was Amritpal Singh. NTSB investigators said they discovered a GoPro camera among the wreckage. The camera had stored various recordings of the pilot and different passengers taking selfies with their cell phones. Camera flash function was used in certain instances during take off periods up through to flight times. Even though none of the videos found on the GoPro were taken during the flight that killed Singh and his passenger, investigators say that the pilot may have been taking selfies that night, too. They believe that this distracted him, resulting in spatial disorientation and loss of control.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations bar commercial pilots from using personal wireless communication devices or laptops for personal use while on the flight deck during aircraft operation. Pilots, however, are allowed to use cameras during the flight, just not cell phone cameras.

Investigators did not find any plane malfunctions or defects during its probe of the fatal crash. The NTSB said that Singh’s logbooks don’t indicate that he was trained in using instruments in the event of a stall or that he had the qualifications to fly with passengers at night.

Distracted Driving
It’s already been established that distracted driving on the road can be a dangerous activity. It should therefore not come as a surprise that distracted piloting in the air may prove deadly, too. Yet, despite the now known dangers, many motor vehicle drivers still talk and text while operating their autos. Aviation regulators have also begun to realize that pilots distracting themselves with their personal devices while flying planes are not uncommon.

Digital news outlet Quartz recently posted its findings of an in-depth probe into pilots who post in-light photos on Instagram. Even though pilot use of any electronic device including cell phones and GoPro cameras is against U.S. regulations, Quartz discovered numerous videos and photos taken in cockpits midflight, including pictures shot during takeoff and landing when pilots are not allowed to do anything unrelated to operating a plane (including personal laptop use, taking pictures, small talk, drinking, and eating). In 2009, pilots of one Northwest Airlines flight flew past their destination by 150 miles because they lost situational awareness while using laptops for personal business.

Distracted piloting is negligent aircraft operation and can be grounds for a Massachusetts airplane crash lawsuit. Airplane crashes are often fatal. Just a few moments of not paying attention can prove catastrophic for the pilot, flight crew, and passengers.

Our Boston injury lawyers represent victims and their families in recovering personal injury and wrongful death compensation. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today.

Selfies Likely Caused Colorado Plane Crash, NTSB Says, ABC News, February 3, 2015
FAA Calls on Airlines to Limit Cockpit Distractions, Distraction.gov, April 26, 2010

The pilots of Instagram: beautiful views from the cockpit, violating rules of the air, Quartz, December 12, 2014

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