Great pics, but shouldn’t you be flying the plane? (Photo: Quartz/Instagram)
Many pilots never get used to the stunning airborne views of the wild blue yonder. But now, regulators are worrying that pilots are doing more than just admiring the view: that they’re taking and posting photos when they really should be flying the plane.
Quartz did an in-depth investigation into pilots who become famous on Instagram for posting photos of the skies. That would be in apparent violation of American and European rules that ban taking pictures — or using cellphones, GoPro cameras, and virtually any other electronic device — while the plane is in flight.
In its report, Quartz monitored hundreds of Instagram accounts over six months and posted a collection of photos and videos taken by people who were undoubtedly in the cockpit midflight. It even found pilots snapping pics during the ”sterile cockpit” moments of takeoff and landing — when U.S. and European rules bar pilots from saying or doing anything that isn’t directly related to the plane’s operation. That means no eating, no drinking, no idle chatter, and definitely no picture snapping.
In its investigation, Quartz found pilots taking pictures during crucial moments like takeoff and landing. (Photo: Quartz/Instagram)
The U.S. bans pilots from taking pictures at any stage of the flight. Federal air regulations expressly ban pilots from using non-flight-related “wireless communication device(s).” That rule applies to phones (even if they’re in airplane mode, the FAA told Quartz), GoPros (which also have wireless capability), tablets, and laptops.
Quartz contacted some of the pilots it busted posting pictures. Some of them responded by deleting their Instagram accounts or making them private. One pilot emailed Quartz to claim that all pictures on his Instagram account were taken on the ground. That’s despite the fact that one photo appears to show clouds reflecting off his sunglasses and another pic is captioned: “About to land this plane but first, #lmtas,” which stands for “Let me take a selfie.”
Some pilots say if you had to look at this for six straight hours you’d take pics, too: either because you’re struck by the beauty or because you’re bored. (Photo: Quartz/Instagram)
But before you go judging the picture-taking pilots, the case against them isn’t exactly 100 percent clear-cut. For one thing, off-duty pilots and crew members sitting in the cockpit’s jump seat are allowed to use electronic devices. Some of the pics could have been taken by them.
And Quartz points out the rules don’t apply to planes with no passengers, and it’s impossible to determine if those pics were taken with paying passengers on board.
Some pilots are calling for the rules to be loosened, saying pilots need something to entertain them during long-haul flights when plane operations are mostly automated. But former airline pilot and licensed therapist Tom Bunn — who counsels people with a fear of flying — disagrees. “Being on the lookout for a good picture instead of taking care of business is, even when not snapping a picture, a diversion of attention,” he tells Yahoo Travel.” “Photography … is not what a pilot is there for or is getting paid for.”