Cellphone Use Cited In Fatal Crash

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Texting talking on a cellphone while flying is being cited in the fatal crash of an aerial survey aircraft in Canada in November of 2011. The Transportation Safety Board stopped short of blaming the crash of the Cessna 185 on the pilot's extensive cellphone use while on the short flight from Peace River, Alberta, to Fort St. John, British Columbia, but it did mention it as a potential contributing factor. "While it did not appear the pilot was actively engaged in cellphone communications during the last 11 minutes of the flight, this distraction was prevalent throughout the flight and in conjunction with the night conditions encountered may have contributed to the CFIT event," the board said. The report said the pilot may have been a victim of "black hole effect" in which the limited visual cues available during a night VFR flight in a remote area can affect depth perception. The aircraft descended gradually and under positive control until it hit a tree about eight miles short of the Fort St. John Airport.

Investigators matched cellphone records against GPS data to plot the pilot's phone use against his performance and found he flew much less precisely when on the phone. While he was texting and talking the aircraft's altitude varied by as much as 1,000 feet. The pilot spent 28 minutes on five separate phone calls during the flight, received three text messages and replied to two of those. The board is recommending that non-emergency use of cellphones be banned during flights.