In 2011, in United States, a medical helicopter crashed, running out of fuel, killing the pilot and the three people on board. Minutes before the crash, the pilot was having a conversation via texting, which is against the Federal Aviation Administration rules.
In this case, we can assume that the pilot was distracted by his conversation, and did not notice that the helicopter would not have enough fuel to reach its destination.
The pilot was told that fuel level was low in the helicopter since it has been used the night before for training, but then again, several messages were sent and received prior to the take-off, suggesting that the pilot was too distracted to check the fuel gauge.
Some people would think that since multitasking has become part of everyone`s reality, there is nothing wrong with texting and flying… but can we really text and fly a helicopter? Flying a helicopter requires a lot of concentration and as shown with the 2011 accident, it can be distracting enough to cause deaths…
Contrarily to popular belief, we can only shift our attention quickly, and not concentrate on two things at once, which can affect our focus.
In 2013, the FAA proposed a new rule:
The proposed rule would prohibit flight crew members in operations under part 121 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. This rule, which conforms FAA regulations with recent legislation, is intended to ensure that certain non-essential activities do not contribute to the challenge of task management on the flight deck or a loss of situational awareness due to attention to non-essential tasks.
However, above 10,000 feet, commercial pilots could still use their laptops and tablets. Does it make sense? Probably not, especially considering the Northwest incident in 2009 where the pilots were using their laptops and apparently lost track of time, which made them overshot their destination by 150 miles. Using personal laptop was also against the airline’s policies…
Tell us what you think: Several companies have regulation on cell phone usage in the cockpit, but are these regulations enforced? Do you think any usage of personal electronics devices should be prohibited in the cockpit?