A report by Bloomberg explains the pilot of an emergency medial helicopter flying over Missouri was sending and receiving text messages just before a 2011 accident. According to preliminary reports by the National Transportation Safety Board, the helicopter crashed in a field after running out of fuel.
The crash killed the pilot, a flight nurse, a paramedic and a patient who was being flown from one hospital to another. The pilot had sent and received 20 texts in flight, and another 13 were logged on his phone in the 71 minutes prior to the flight. The pilot, who also told a coworker he hadn’t slept well the night before the flight, failed to refuel the helicopter before taking off.
Although the crash is different from when a motorist takes his or her eyes off the road and causes an accident, which is commonly seen on the road, it’s still a classic example of dividing attention in a way that compromises safety.
The Colorado-based helicopter company, Air Methods, operates more than 300 air-medical bases in 48 states. According to reports, Air Methods has long prohibited the use of electronic devices by pilots, but has implemented a “zero tolerance policy” since the accident.
This use of electronic devices in the cockpit occasionally makes headlines, including a few years ago when a plane overshot the runway because the crew was on their personal laptops. But on the other hand, text messages have also been used to save lives, such as when an aircraft controller landed a small airplane that had lost electricity by texting the pilot. Pilots are allowed to use electronic devices – including laptops and iPads – when the plane is cruising.
[Photo credit: Flickr user Melina Manfrinatti]