Mobile Phones Might Not Interfere With Planes, But They Sure Can Interfere With Pilots

from the okay,-perhaps-pilots-should-be-barred-from-texting dept

You know how we're not supposed to have our mobile phones on in the air? Right. There may not be very good reasons for that any more from a technology point of view (there used to be concerns about the impact on cell towers, but that can be solved today with picocells on the planes themselves). But, that still doesn't mean that pilots should be texting while they fly. Is it better or worse than texting while driving? In an age where autopilots do most of the work on landing, perhaps it wouldn't seem like a huge deal, but a Jetstar pilot landing a 220-seat Airbus A320 in Singapore had to abort the landing after realizing he forgot to lower the landing gear, because he was too busy responding to text messages. For whatever reason, the pilots shut off the autopilot, but then got distracted with text messages.
Somewhere between 2500 feet and 2000 feet, the captain's mobile phone started beeping with incoming text messages, and the captain twice did not respond to the co-pilot's requests.

The co-pilot looked over and saw the captain "preoccupied with his mobile phone", investigators said. The captain told investigators he was trying to unlock the phone to turn it off, after having forgotten to do so before take-off.

At 1000 feet, the co-pilot scanned the instruments and felt "something was not quite right" but could not spot what it was.
There followed a series of errors, with the pilot and the co-pilot not communicating with each other -- the pilot trying to drop the wheels as the co-pilot prepared to abort the landing -- and then both pilots becoming confused about their actual altitude. Oh, and then there was the fact that the flaps were set incorrectly.

I'm not necessarily one to bemoan the way people get obsessed with text messaging these days, but I generally think that if you're flying a commercial airplane, and taking it in for landing... it shouldn't be that hard to know that it's a good idea to not worry about your phone for five minutes.

Filed Under: errors, mobile phones, text messaging


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2012 @ 7:46pm

    Re: What would be the height of irony...

    Not likely.

    There's only a little more than half minute from "able to see the plane from the ground" to the actual landing. Unless your plane were on a special flight, how long would take someone on the ground to notice the landing gear is not down, and then recognize the flight number, and find out the phone number of a pilot up there (the longest part - identify how's there and find out the phone number), and able to text the message out?

    It should have be faster if someone on the ground text to control tower about a plane about to land not showing the landing gear. Even tweeting it with the airport name should somehow get a chance to alert the control tower, me think.

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