The Transportation Safety Board believes a pilot’s cell phone use could be partially to blame for a fatal 2011 plane crash near the airport in Fort St. John, B.C. The TSB report noted that the pilot spent approximately 28 minutes on his phone on what was only a 65 minute flight from Peace River, Alta., to Fort St. John, B.C.
“The aircraft had experienced several large altitude deviations while the pilot was using his cellphone,” the report stated. In fact, the Cessna 185 E dipped from a low of 3,500 feet to a high of 4,600 feet three times during the flight, which could correspond with 3 text messages the pilot received during the flight.
“This distraction was prevalent throughout the flight and in conjunction with the night conditions encountered, may have contributed to the (crash),” the report stated.
The last of these messages was received 11 minutes before the fatal crash.
The Dangers of Texting and Flying
According to the TSB report, “There have been no comprehensive studies regarding the use of cellphones as a distraction in an aviation context. The phenomenon has, however, been extensively studied in the automotive sector.”
The TSB recommends that pilots avoid using cellphones during flight unless there is an emergency.
“Pilots who engage in non-essential text and voice cell phone communications while conduction flight operations may be distracted from flying the aircraft, placing crew and passengers at risk,” the report concluded.
Other Factors that could have contributed to the Crash
The TSB noted several other factors which could have affected the pilot’s performance, including:
- Time Crunch: The pilot was operating on day visual flight rules (Canada) and was required to be back to the Fort St. John airport before nightfall.
- Situational Awareness: The TSB report states that the pilot may have lost situational awareness, also referred to as the black-hole effect. This occurs during a visual approach when the only visual stimuli are lights on or near the airport. Without visual references, the pilot’s depth perception may have been off.
The report said there was no indication of an aircraft system malfunction or that the pilot was unwell.
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Pilot’s cellphone use may have been partial cause of fatal 2011 plane crash in B.C.