Distracted Pilots: When Common Roadway Distractions Take to the Air


The National Transportation Safety Board recently identified texting as a major cause of a commercial aircraft accident, and approved safety precautions for all pilots to refrain from using cell phones or other distracting instruments while in the air (and sometimes while preparing for flight). Among the details of this particular accident, the fingers of blame point to distracting text messages being a major cause of this crash. This case uncovered findings that showed the pilot sent 25 text messages and received close to 60 during his 12-hour shift, just enough to take his mind off the primary task at hand. Ironically, the pilot was commanding a helicopter carrying a medical crew and victim of an accident to a nearby hospital. Several factors contributed to his poor judgment in this accident.

We know that on the road distracted drivers have proven to be a problem, and with the advances in technology there are more and more demands for people to multi-task. That means more talking, calling, texting, watching movies, checking the GPS and more—all while in the driver’s seat of a car, motorcycle, plane or helicopter. Over time, operator errors have continued to rank high as a major cause of helicopter accidents. Errors such as the absences of providing a flight plan, checking the fuel gauge, and overweighting the cabin are among some of those errors. Add those situations to a pilot’s lack of judging a landing distance or maneuvering the aircraft into a wire entanglement area, and being a passenger on a small aircraft suddenly sounds less than enticing.

Helicopters are a unique type of aircraft, generally suited to carry smaller numbers of passengers and cargo. They, like many aircraft, rely on weather conditions, landing conditions and the weight of the aircraft from the crew, passengers and cargo on board to ensure a safe landing and in-air flight time. Because these machines are lighter and smaller, they can generally maneuver into areas that larger aircrafts cannot, and have the ability to carry passengers quickly, effortlessly and seemingly injury-free on tourist excursions and short-distance flights. But, because they are smaller, is there a probability for carelessness that might not occur in a larger craft? Do the pilots perform their jobs differently because they are transporting closer to home, or not carrying masses of passengers?

If you have been injured in a helicopter accident, or lost someone you loved as a result of pilot error or helicopter mishap, you may have a long road ahead in terms of seeking justice because of the number of entities that can become involved. When you engage the advice and counsel of your New York attorney who specializes in aircraft accidents, your chances at recovery are that much greater.

Distractions are not limited to on-road drivers anymore. We see more and more pilots, train conductors and ferry captains being distracted by the same elements that prove hazardous on the road. Knowing the rules and precautions can help you stay safer, on the road and in the air.