Cell Phones On The Flight Deck
Carriers have long requested that passengers turn off their cell phones and electronic devices for certain phases of flight to avoid causing interference with flight deck instrumentation, but a recent incident shows that not all carriers have made the same request of their pilots. A Safety Alert for Operations (PDF) issued early this month by the FAA notes that an aviation safety inspector conducting an en route inspection for an unnamed carrier experienced an event that was categorized as extremely dangerous. The event was caused by a pilot's cell phone. According to the alert, the First Officer's ring tone "caused a distraction between the crewmembers during the takeoff phase and could have led the crew to initiate an unnecessary rejected takeoff." The inspector later confirmed that the crew had spoken correctly when they said their General Operations Manual did not prohibit them from leaving their cell phones "on" while performing on station. Digging deeper, the inspector found that the carrier's checklists did not include turning off cell phones as part of crewmember preparations for departure. While that may seemingly allow pilots some wiggle room, the FAA's policies, as outlined in a current Advisory Circular, spell things out more clearly.
Advisory Circular 91-21 details that cell phones are not authorized for use after departure from the gate and that "the unit will be turned off and properly stowed to prepare the aircraft for takeoff as per the operator's procedures." The five-page circular was drafted to guide operators seeking compliance with CFR Part 91.21, which, in part, prohibits the operation of personal electronic devices aboard civil aircraft operating under instrument flight rules, but does allow for approval of certain devices.