Flying or driving; texting is bad
Texting while driving has become a well-known cause of untold crashes and hundreds of deaths. Now, for the first time, a fatal aviation crash has been linked to texting by a pilot.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, distraction by electronic devices contributed to a series of bad decisions by a pilot of a helicopter that crashed on Aug. 26, 2011 in Mosby, Mo. The pilot of the medical transport helicopter, a patient, a nurse and a paramedic died.
The board found that the pilot had sent and received multiple texts when he should have been conducting pre-flight checks, and had failed to realize that the helicopter was low on fuel. In flight, the pilot sent and received more texts and failed to recognize the low-fuel status. Eventually, the helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed less than a mile from its destination. FAA regulations require aircraft to have at least 20 minutes' worth of reserve fuel aboard at all times.
The finding adds aircraft to the list of vehicles involved in fatal crashes at least partially due to operators distracted by electronic devices. That list includes cars, trucks, buses, trains and ships.
No airline fatalities have been ascribed to such distraction. But in 2010, pilots of a former Northwest Airlines flight overflew their destination airport by 100 miles while working on laptops.
The FAA must hold pilots and their employers accountable for using personal electronic devices while the pilots are on duty.