Saturday, December 13, 2014

Should pilots filter their Instagramming habits? (With Video)

There's a growing trend on Instagram: Pilots taking and posting photos, captured from their unusual vantage point inside the cockpit. And hundreds, sometimes thousands of people have been flocking to their accounts, waiting for the next round of stunning images.

Though the images may be beautiful, taking the photos while piloting a commercial aircraft is against U.S. and European aviation rules.

David Yanofsky, a reporter for Quartz, a digital business news publication, conducted a six-month investigation into the trend.

"There's no rules specifically against taking a photograph," he said. "What there are rules on are the type of device that you can use. And using a device that has wireless capabilities is, in fact, always forbidden in a cockpit by FAA rules unless there's an emergency and the captain says that that is necessary."

According to Yanofsky, pilots are taking these photos at critical periods of flight, like takeoffs and landings.

"During those times there's an even heightened sense of awareness that needs to be taking place in the cockpit," he said. "And during those times, pilots can't even drink a cup of coffee, let alone talk to the flight attendant. And there have been some photographs that I've seen that appear to be taken during those times."

Some of the photos have captions and a time stamp, so it's easy to tell when and where they're taken. And while there are critical periods of flight, there are also cruising altitudes when pilots can use the bathroom, eat or even say, complete a crossword puzzle.

"If they're taking a break, they're not at their duty station," Yanofsky said. "And the FAA rules specifically mentions the duty station when taking the picture. You don't want someone to get sucked into a device and be focused on that more than flying the airplane, where that might not be the same case with printed material."

Yanofsky said he has spoken with the FAA, which said it's never taken action against a pilot for using a personal electronic device while in the cockpit. Neither have the airlines he contacted.

"The aviation community has reacted somewhat negatively to this story because it is a part of their community that they treasure," he said. "As such, they've started blocking me on various social media, so it's hard for me to determine how this has all changed."

Story and video:

The pilots of Instagram: beautiful views from the cockpit, violating rules of the air 
'About to land, but #selfie first': Instagram-addicted pilots defy cockpit rules 

The temptation of flying high in social media inspires dozens of cockpit crewmembers to shoot and post stunning aerial views and selfies, while on duty. They do so despite it being against the rules, and even at critical moments of takeoff and landing.

Instagram has been monitored for six months by Quartz reporters, who surfed the social network for pictures with hashtags like #pilotlife, #pilotsview or #cockpitview. They found hundreds of examples.

Some of the sky-high images have garnered hundreds of likes and followers.

Social media popularity, however, comes at a price of violating safety rules, adopted in the US and in Europe. These bar airline pilots from using electronic devices for personal reasons while on duty in the cockpit.

There’s also an even stricter requirement of a so-called "sterile cockpit" – a ban on doing anything unrelated to operating the plane - while the aircraft is in the process of takeoff or landing at altitudes below 10,000 ft (3,000 m).

Landing photos are however in abundance online.

“About to land this plane but first, #lmtas [let me take a selfie],” read caption to a photo posted by Gary Baumgardner, @garybpilot on Instagram.

However later, responding to a request by Quartz, he wrote that all of his pictures were taken on the ground. Like many other pilots contacted by the online media source he chose to delete his account.

Some US pilots addressed the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), when it was considering the rules on the use of electronic devices in the cockpit, and said that gadgets were actually only contributing to flight safety, as they helped the crew cope with boredom and consequently loss of concentration.

The FAA remained unconvinced and banned all use of electronic devices by pilots in the cockpit in February 2014.

Story, video and photos:

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