NTSB identifies problem of distracted flying: part one

As personal injury attorneys, we’re all too familiar with the dangers of distracted driving behaviors like talking on cell phones and text messaging. Now those dangers have taken to the air, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The board has ruled that texting may have played a role in a fatal 2011 helicopter crash.

In August 2011, a helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed into a farm field about a mile short of an airport. Four people died: the pilot, a patient being transported between hospitals, a flight nurse and a flight paramedic. A subsequent investigation showed that the helicopter was low on fuel, which illustrated a more serious problem.

The five members of the board unanimously agreed that the pilot was tired and distracted, causing him to skip preflight safety checks. Those checks would have revealed that the fuel tank was low. Furthermore, after he discovered the situation he and his plane were in, he decided to continue with the flight rather than landing early and refueling.

In response to this accident and their ruling, the board issued a safety alert for all pilots, cautioning them against texting and using electronic devices during operations, whether safety checks or active flight. While this is the first case in which the NTSB has identified texting as a problem for pilots, it does reaffirm their concerns about the dangers of texting during vehicle operation.

In our next post we’ll discuss the board’s ruling in more detail and how electronic devices are changing flight safety – both for better and for worse.

Source: KATC, “NTSB: Pilot’s texting contributed to copter crash,” April 9, 2013

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