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FAA To Pilots: Put Those Phones Away

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The FAA on Monday told airline pilots they should "evaluate their personal practices" regarding the use of devices such as phones and laptops while on duty. Also, the FAA said, operators need to create a "safety culture" that reinforces the importance of controlling cockpit distractions. The FAA released its guidance in an Information for Operators memo (PDF). The memo cited several recent incidents of distracted flying -- the crew that flew past their destination while working on their laptops, a pilot who was texting after pushing back from the gate, and an FAA inspector's report that a crew member's mobile phone started to ring during the takeoff roll. The NTSB has asked the FAA to tackle the distraction problem, and will hold a three-day forum on professionalism among pilots and air traffic controllers next month.

"NTSB's investigations into the midair collision over the Hudson River last August, the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in February 2009, and the October 2009 Northwest pilots' overflight of their intended airport provided the impetus for this forum because all of them clearly demonstrated the hazards to aviation safety when pilots and air traffic controllers depart from standard operating procedures and established best practices," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman.  "During the forum, we will gather information on the screening, selection and training of pilots and controllers and methods to reinforce professionalism and excellence." The forum will take place in Washington, D.C., May 18 to 20. "Every aviation professional needs to take the issue of distractions in the cockpit seriously," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt on Monday. "And when there are two or more professionals on the flight deck, they must hold each other to the highest safety standards. Allowing distractions is unacceptable."

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