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.’

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