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Distracted Piloting: Texting Contributed To Helicopter Crash

Craig McClellan

Car drivers aren't the only distracted operators causing accidents. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board released the results of its investigation of a 2011 helicopter crash that killed four people in Missouri: The medical helicopter accident was caused by pilot fatigue, improper training and texting while flying.

As CNN points out, "[The helicopter pilot's] actions could re-write the rules on when pilots can send private messages or make personal phone calls." They believe the pilot was flying with only one hand while sending text messages. He also sent text messages when he was checking his helicopter for safety issues before the flight. Because of those text messages, he failed to notice that the helicopter did not have enough fuel.

The helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed, killing the pilot, two medical personnel and one patient.

The NTSB, which is unable to create regulations but frequently makes recommendations, has asked the FAA to prohibit the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices that are not necessary for flight while a pilot is in flight or performing safety operations. The FAA currently has a rule to prohibit conversations during take-off and landings, but there are no specific rules regarding pilot cell phone use while in the air.

Because of technology, we are more connected than ever before. Yet, there are times when being connected can cause significant harm. In this case, four people were killed because a pilot was more interested in a conversation with a woman than he was in keeping his passengers safe.

Source: CNN, " Pilot Texting A Factor In Deadly Copter Crash," Mike M. Ahlers, Apr. 10, 2013

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