Last updated: 04:27 PM ET, Sat September 05 2015

Airline Pilot Flying as Passenger Caught Texting During Takeoff

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | September 05, 2015

Airline Pilot Flying as Passenger Caught Texting During Takeoff

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

No one should be more acutely aware than an airline pilot of the importance of keeping electronic devices off or in “airplane mode” during critical moments of a flight, but as the Charlotte Observer reports, one such pilot — flying as a passenger — was caught on camera violating this rule.

Charlotte lawyer Chad Tillman was on an American Airlines flight traveling from the North Carolina city to Tampa in mid-August when he noticed the man texting on his cellphone during takeoff. Using his own phone, in airplane mode, he took a video of the pilot at this moment. Tillman told the Observer from his close vantage point, he could see that the pilot’s phone was not in airplane mode.

Soon after landing, Tillman dispatched a letter to AA CEO Doug Parker.

Quoted by the Observer, it read, in part, “I am sure he is a good pilot, but even a small lapse in judgment in his profession can get people killed, and it bothers me that he can so casually disregard FAA regulations in the public view,” Tillman wrote. “I fear what he may be doing in the cockpit that could jeopardize passenger safety.”

In response to the incident, American Airlines spokesperson Andrea Huguely did not identify the pilot or say which airline he works for, but did comment to the Observer, “I do know the other airline addressed the issue with the pilot.”

Huguely did not indicate if he was disciplined or not. She observed that Tillman did not address the potential danger as it was occurring. “If someone is concerned about what another passenger is doing, notify the flight attendant so they can address it when it happens,” Huguely said per the Observer.

Airplane mode allows electronic devices to be used during flight, but cellphones can still not be used to make calls and send texts during takeoff and flight, the Observer said, citing recently relaxed FAA rules.

“The concern is that anything that emits a signal may interfere with the avionic/electrical systems in the cockpit,” an FAA spokesperson told the Observer.

“I started thinking, ‘They’ve got these rules in place for a reason,’” Tillman said to the Observer. “… The pilots, more than anyone, should know those rules and obey them.”

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