Distracted by taking ‘selfies’?
Illegal use of handheld mobile phones whilst driving has figured prominently in UK press coverage of road accidents recently, but from the US National Transportation Safety Board comes a report in which a cell phone may have been a factor in the fatal crash of a Cessna 150 in May 2014.
The aircraft had taken off from Watkins, Colorado on the local night flight in IFR conditions with seven miles visibility and overcast cloud at 300ft agl. Radar returns showed that the C150 flew once around the traffic pattern, and landed six minutes later, then took off again, reached an altitude of 740ft, made a left turn, which tightened as it descended about 1,900fpm and crashed into a field, killing both occupants.
A Gopro onboard recording device was found near the wreckage and the files recovered contained inflight recordings made the previous day, and of the sixminute flight, but the accident flight was not recorded. The Gopro recordings revealed that the pilot and various passengers had been taking ‘selfies’ with their mobile phones and, during the night flight, using the camera’s flash function during the takeoff roll, initial climb, and flight in the circuit.
The NTSB concluded: ‘Post-accident examination of the airplane did not reveal any pre-impact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Based on the wreckage distribution, which was consistent with a high-speed impact, and the degraded visual reference conditions, it is likely that the pilot experienced spatial disorientation and lost control of the airplane… consistent with an aerodynamic stall and subsequent spin into terrain. Based on the evidence of cell phone use during low-altitude manoeuvring, including the flight immediately before the accident flight, it is likely that cell phone use during the accident flight distracted the pilot and contributed to the development of spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control. A review of the pilot’s logbooks did not show that he met the currency requirements for flight in instrument meteorological conditions or night flight with passengers.’