Given all the hullabaloo regarding selfies in flight brought on by this incident, I thought I’d share my thoughts on a few things.
First, the actual flight that crashed had no record of the pilot taking pictures. That happened on the flight BEFORE the crash, meaning he went up, his pax took a bunch of flash pictures at night in bad weather (not smart), but managed to land safely. The NTSB is assuming the behavior on the previous flight happened on the incident flight as well. From the article,. what is evident is that the pilot took off in bad weather at night, became disoriented, stalled the aircraft, and hit the ground at a high rate and angle. The hubbub is a perfect storm of the NTSB engaging in raw speculation, a public conditioned for decades to fear airplanes, and a popular trend in social media.
Second, after some research (granted, not much) there is nothing in the Part 91 FARs prohibiting use of a camera in the cockpit, either by the pilot or passenger. It may be a bad idea in certain situations, but it’s one pursued at the pilot’s discretion, and that’s how it should be.
Aviators go through extensive training and live under the banhammer of the FAA to achieve one primary goal: The safety of the non-participating public from an activity that we do voluntarily. It is the duty of the pilot not to subject people or property to unnecessary risk. Every aviator makes that call on every flight, and the choice to do something or not do something based on risk are what we like to call personal minimums. For instance, if the airspace is crowded, the radio is busy, or I’m otherwise in a situation of high pilot workload, pulling out a camera is probably not a good idea, and in those situations, taking photos is below my personal minimums.
However, if I’m cruising in an empty sky, in contact with ATC, and at a high enough altitude, I think it’s OK to take a few shots. After all, it’s the only way I have to share what’s outside my window with all of you.