back to article Plane crash blamed on in-flight SELFIES

The USA's National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB's) investigation into a 2014 light plane crash has come to the conclusion that the pilot may well have been distracted by selfie-taking passengers. The crash killed two people last May when a Cessna 150 came to grief in Colorado after “... the pilot experienced spatial …

  1. Alister Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Nice picture of a Pup...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thank you! I was trying to work out what it was, I thought a Camel originally, but then realised the tail was wrong.

      Strewth!

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Cheers, the tail is one of the few obvious differences between the Camel and the Pup, on a Camel the elevator surfaces are larger than the horizontal stabilizer, the other way round on the Pup.

        The length of the fuselage between the cockpit and tail is shorter on the Camel as well, but it's hard to spot without a side-by-side comparison.

        1. WonkoTheSane

          It's likely one of the 90% scale replicas doing the airshow circuit.

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            "It's likely one of the 90% scale replicas doing the airshow circuit."

            Mise en Scene by the El Reg Playmobil team.

          2. itzman

            one of the relicas?

            Rather a model I think. Its a very popular subject. Flies well unlike a camel which is hard to get balanced.

            1. Otto is a bear.

              And for non-aviators

              Our brave correspondents are referring to the Sopwith Camel and Pup aircraft built by the British in WW1 and used by many other countries including the US.

              Both have the advantage that taking selfies whilst flying one would not be possible, although double joined pilots might have a chance.

              1. wolfetone Silver badge

                Re: And for non-aviators

                If I recall correctly, Sopwith Camel's also helped sink the Bismark as they flew too slow for the Bismark's guns to hit.

                True story (if it's correct).

                1. Chris G Silver badge

                  Re: And for non-aviators

                  No, they were Fairey Swordfish Torpedo biplanes, I am not even sure if Sopwith was still going by then.

                2. Peter2 Silver badge

                  Re: And for non-aviators

                  Personally, I tend to identify a camel by the dihedral (and shape) of the lower wing, but I guess identifying the tailplane works. :)

                  It is a lovely picture though. Props to whomever found it. Hands up who knew that when Sopwith Aviation was forced out of business Tommy Sopwith sold the remaining assets to his test pilot, Mr Hawker who then went on to build aircraft such as the Hawker Hurricane, of WW2 fame?

                  "If I recall correctly, Sopwith Camel's also helped sink the Bismark as they flew too slow"

                  That was the swordfish, and it's a largely true story. The Germans expected that we'd be using high speed monoplanes instead of low speed biplanes and had their sights calibrated and crews trained to shoot at high performance aircraft. When obsolete biplanes came crawling by with an attack speed around a quarter of what was expected they were using way too much deflection to hit the aircraft and tended to miss quite badly.

                  1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

                    Re: And for non-aviators

                    Depends what you mean by largely true. Surely German intelligence was such that they knew exactly what aircraft were being flown off the Arc Royal? What was reported however is that the aircraft attacking the Bismark flew so low that it is likely weapons could not be depressed sufficiently at their effective ranges.

                    1. WolfFan Silver badge

                      Re: And for non-aviators

                      German intelligence knew about the Swordfish. They also knew that the Royal Navy was trying to replace them with faster, monoplane, aircraft. They underestimated the incompetence in Whitehall.

                  2. Alister Silver badge

                    Re: And for non-aviators

                    @Peter2

                    Personally, I tend to identify a camel by the dihedral (and shape) of the lower wing, but I guess identifying the tailplane works. :)

                    Yebbut, you can't see the dihedral in that photo. :)

                3. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: And for non-aviators

                  > If I recall correctly, Sopwith Camel's also helped sink the Bismark as they flew too slow for the Bismark's guns to hit.

                  That would be the Fairey Swordfish; an antiquated torpedo bomber that the Bismarck's guns could very much hit.

                  The only armour between them and the Bismarck was the engine and the pilot's magnificently waxed moustaches.

                  1. WolfFan Silver badge

                    Re: And for non-aviators

                    Slight correction (and IT content)

                    The 105mm anti-aircraft guns on Bismarck were aimed by a very sophisticated fire-control computer, the best in existence at the time. Someone set as the lower limit an airspeed of 150 knots. As the maximum speed of a Swordfish was 120 knots, guns aimed by the fire-control system could not hit a Swordfish except by accident. As the fire-control computer was a mechanical system, the defaults could not be reset in the field. This problem was fixed on the version fitted to Tirpitz, which was never attacked by Swordfish.

                    The 37mm and 20mm guns were aimed by eye. They could, and did, hit Swordfish.

                    The Swordfish was not antiquated. It was a mid-1930s aircraft, built to specifications issued by the Admiralty. (It is possible that the Admiralty was antiquated. And still is.) Numerous other biplanes flew combat operations in the Second World War, including Gloster Gladiator and Sea Gladiator (British) and Polikarpov I-15 (Russian) and assorted Fiat fighters (the CR42 was still in service until 1948, in Spain) and some Japanese machines. The Italian biplanes were flown by madmen. On one occasion, a CR42 intercepted a British bomber over Turin, had its guns jam during the attack, and then rammed the bomber.

                    And waxed moustaches was an RAF thing. Swordfish were Royal Navy. They had cutlasses instead.

                4. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

                  Re: And for non-aviators

                  Swordfish - full marks for identifying them as biplanes, but over than that…….

                5. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: And for non-aviators

                  The Sopwith Pup though does have a prime spot in naval aviation history; Squadron Commander EH Dunning landed his Pup on HMS Furious in Scapa Flow, the first aircraft to land on a moving ship in August 1917 (the first on a stationary ship was in 1911). He died 5 days later attempting a repeat performance.

                  Lovely shot of a fine aircraft.

      2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
        Coat

        Camel? Pup?

        If you look closely, I'm sure you'll find that there's a lot more different than just their tails. Heck! About everything is different! Except both are, usually, covered in a hide. But what this got to do with an plane crash? So far I only knew about flying pigs...

        scnr

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Airplane knowledge on the Reg, nice!

      1. BillG Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Darwin Award

        One for the Darwin awards...

      2. JamesTQuirk

        Yeah & wonder if theres a audio of, "I can see where I going to die from up here" ...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wonder

      Do you think for the big picture at his funeral they used one of his selfies? Stupidity rewards itself and unfortunately often others as well.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So wait

    "Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s distraction due to his cell phone use while maneuvering at low-altitude.”

    So there's no evidence that the pilot or any of the passengers were using cell phones but this is their conclusion? Bold.

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: So wait

      So there's no evidence that the pilot or any of the passengers were using cell phones but this is their conclusion? Bold.

      No, the bold guy wanted to pin it specifically on selfie sticks but they thought that that would look too much like blatant click bait

    2. Cliff

      Re: So wait

      Does sound a little speculative, although flashing during rotation at night could be very nasty. You may have no/reduced real horizon in the dark to trust, so rely on instruments. That means night vision, destroyed by bright flashes. The difference between climb and stall is a few degrees, and if you're too low to recover that stall you become just a lump of meat-filled metal falling from the sky. Nasty.

    3. Esskay
      Facepalm

      Re: So wait

      Yeah, I hate this vain selfie culture as much as the next person... but they're drawing a mighty long bow here, particularly when it's stated that they found no footage of the actual incident on the murder weap- sorry, camera.

    4. Credas Silver badge

      Re: So wait

      So there's no evidence that the pilot or any of the passengers were using cell phones but this is their conclusion? Bold.

      No, but if you read the report they did have recordings from the GoPro camera of several flights immediately preceding this one, and in each of them the pilot was recorded taking selfies and/or pissing about with his phone's keyboard, during taxi and when manoeuvring at low altitude. It isn't that big a stretch to conclude that if he did it on four occasions when there was a recording, then it's pretty likely that he was doing it on the next (and final) flight - particularly as the cause of the accident was put down to loss of spatial awareness.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So wait

        "It isn't that big a stretch to conclude that if he did it on four occasions when there was a recording, then it's pretty likely that he was doing it on the next (and final) flight"

        That's my point though. I understand "pretty likely" but the report said in no uncertain terms that he WAS distracted by his cell phone. Nothing "pretty likely" about it.

        1. Richard Ball

          Re: So wait

          What they're rightly concluding is that he was a crap pilot, and that that's presumably why he crashed.

        2. Credas Silver badge

          Re: So wait

          I understand "pretty likely" but the report said in no uncertain terms that he WAS distracted by his cell phone. Nothing "pretty likely" about it.

          The report doesn't say he was distracted. It cites "Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s distraction due to his cell phone use while maneuvering at low-altitude." as a probable cause.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So wait

            >>The report doesn't say he was distracted. It cites "Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s distraction due to his cell phone use while maneuvering at low-altitude." as a probable cause.

            The article says this sentence is part of the concluding statement, not a probable cause.

            If you've read the NTSB's report and this is a misrepresentation, it might be worth contacting the author of the article to sort things out.

            1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

              Re: So wait

              If someone wants to read it, here is the NTSB report, it's pretty brief and there is a link on that page to the full narrative. The report also mentions his logbook did not show he was current for night instrument flight with passengers.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: So wait

                Quote from the NTSB report:

                >>Based on the evidence of cell phone use during low-altitude maneuvering, including the flight immediately before the accident flight, it is likely that cell phone use during the accident flight distracted the pilot and contributed to the development of spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control.

                Looks like El Reg took some liberties.

                1. Mark 85 Silver badge

                  Re: So wait

                  If the cell phone was on... the light from the screen would be a distraction at night. Was it in his pocket? Out the window? If it were me piloting day or night and especially at night, the damn phone is turned off... flying a small plane in the dark is tough enough.

              2. cordwainer 1

                Re: So wait

                That's just the summary report - the Full Narrative is at

                http://www.ntsb.gov/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/brief2.aspx?ev_id=20140531X12318&ntsbno=CEN14FA265&akey=1

                and contains a great deal more detail. The NTSB's conclusions seem sound and logical.

            2. Credas Silver badge

              Re: So wait

              The article says this sentence is part of the concluding statement, not a probable cause.

              If you've read the NTSB's report and this is a misrepresentation, it might be worth contacting the author of the article to sort things out.

              Or I could just read what the NTSB has published, rather than an article summarising it.

        3. cordwainer 1

          Re: So wait

          No as quoted, the body of the NTSB report says: “it is likely that cell phone use during the accident flight distracted the pilot and contributed to the development of spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control.”

          The report does not present this as a certainty, nor does it state this caused the accident. It is merely noted as a contributing factor.

          NTSB reports are really very thorough - if you read the entire report, you can see in detail why they reached the conclusion it was likely and a contributing factor, though not necessarily causative.

          Whatever the reason(s), the pilot's spacial disorientation certainly did occur, as did the loss of control and stall.

          1. Vic

            Re: So wait

            as did the loss of control and stall.

            From the sound of it, he didn't just have a bit of a stall - the rate of descent implies an uncontrolled spin. Which, given the fact that he appeared to be part-way through a climbing turn when it happened is somewhat understandable.

            I was reading some FAA materials on spinning[1] a few weeks back - the upshot of one report was that, if you spin at 1200ft or less, it doesn't matter who you are; you're going to crash.

            Vic.

            [1] I was about to go on my first spin lesson. It was one of the most exciting things I've ever done :-)

    5. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: So wait

      It's a Cessna 150, so there will be a pilot and a maximum of 1 passenger. Sitting cosily shoulder to shoulder.

    6. Colin Miller

      Mobile evidence?

      Did none of the mobile phones survive enough to check their memory cards?

      I assume the manufacture can remove the on-board flash chip from a wrecked phone, and then extract all the data from it.

    7. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: So wait

      The pilot or *any* of his passenger*s* ? It was a two-seat Cessna. If there was more than one passenger, who was flying?

  3. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Death by misadventure then.

    The IGeneration may be more media aware, but obviously not apropriate time and place aware (in this case anyhow).

    I'm glad I'm still a Generation-X-er.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Death by misadventure then.

      Media aware? What does that mean, exactly? I would have thought that media aware would also include the ability to know when using 'new media' is a bad idea like when, say, flying.

      Personally, I think that the new generation are not so media aware or savvy - blatant take up and posting self pics on every sodding digital canvas isn't being media aware.

      More like media idiocy. But that isn't catchy. How about mediots? Mediatedia? Mools?

      1. Cliff

        Re: Death by misadventure then.

        Metarded.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Death by misadventure then.

          One of my glider instructors has had a tale like this for a while now. He's had atleast 2 students so addicted to their cellphones they would actually "drop the stick" on final to answer incoming messages! Even the argument: "Wait until you're not busy keeping us both alive" wasn't enough to persuade them...

          I fear today's youth. And I fear the day they will have to take care of me in my old day...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Death by misadventure then.

            Cellphone addiction is only going to get worse.

            soon there will be branches of CPA springing up all over the place. The only proviso is that meetings are held inside Faraday cages.

            If I was that glider Instructor I'd have reported the students and had their license revoked. Using a phone while driving is bad enough but while flying an aircraft with no Autopilot is just stupid.

            1. ravenviz Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Death by misadventure then.

              Maybe a Darwin Award award is due?

            2. Ilmarinen

              Re: Death by misadventure then.

              "had their license revoked"

              I think the clue is in the instructor bit - i.e. they were ab initio.

              Don't know where this story relates to, but in the UK there has been no mandatory glider licence, it's all delegated to the British Gliding Association and managed very safely under their rules (although the EU pondlife scum bureaucrats at EASA are now in the process of imposing licences on their unwilling victims)

            3. Chris G Silver badge

              Re: Death by misadventure then.

              So a truly 'Smart' phone in the (near) future will be one that flashes DARWIN on the screen before shutting down due to moronic use.

              Of course nobody will buy it though.

              Here on Ibiza which is rated as the Hedonism (read 'self centred twats') capital of Europe I would guess up to 50% of drivers are on their phone when I drive to work, driving home in the evening usually sees at least one moron driving at 30-40KPH on what passes for our motorway with a phone on their lap or the passenger seat and trying to tap out a message. They get very annoyed at the interruption when I overtake with the horn going.

              Don't get me wrong, I don't cars if they kill themselves but draw the line at them putting myself and others at risk.

              3 points on their licence and a 300€ fine is not enough to stop them but Darwin is.

            4. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Death by misadventure then.

              "If I was that glider Instructor I'd have reported the students and had their license revoked. Using a phone while driving is bad enough but while flying an aircraft with no Autopilot is just stupid."

              Most phases of flight require less attention than driving a car, and there is no significant risk for a pilot to take or make a phone call. NOT, however during the approach/landing phase of flight, where concentration (and both hands) are most certainly required. Student pilots don't have a licence, BTW.

          2. Stratman

            Re: Death by misadventure then.

            When they fly solo, one by one the stupid gene will continue to be removed.

        2. Dan Paul

          Re: Death by misadventure then.

          Mediacrity

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Death by misadventure then.

      Well, given the consequential incident it appears that this is a problem that will solve itself over time.

      Gotta love Darwin..

  4. Andy Non
    Coat

    Flash?

    So flash is more dangerous than thought?

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: Flash?

      So flash is more dangerous than thought?

      Gordon's alive?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Flash?

        FLASH! Aaaahhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhh!

  5. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    I nominate

    For this year's Darwin Award...

  6. Harry the Bastard
    Paris Hilton

    plenty of people can't even handle walking while fiddling with their phone

    the idea of a pilot using one in the cockpit beggars belief

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: plenty of people can't even handle walking while fiddling with their phone

      Nor can they handle it while fiddling with their naughty bits...

      Data w*nking like other forms of masturbation should be kept in the privacy of the home :-)

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge

        Re: plenty of people can't even handle walking while fiddling with their phone

        >Nor can they handle it while fiddling with their naughty bits...

        `naughty bits` ???? Are you not supposed to be at school ? I hope nobody will find out, primary school headmasters certainly won't take this light-handed.

    2. Andy Non

      Re: plenty of people can't even handle walking while fiddling with their phone

      The same can be said of car/vehicle drivers. I was nearly killed a few minutes ago walking up the road (no pavement) and literally had to dive into a hedge to avoid being hit with a speeding van. The driver never even saw me, he'd got something draped over the steering wheel, presumably a map and his head buried in it, while driving at around 60 MPH and paying no attention to the road.

      1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip
        Unhappy

        Re: plenty of people can't even handle walking while fiddling with their phone

        '...other forms of masturbation'

        How many other ways are there, have I been missing out on something all this time?

  7. RainForestGuppy

    Another hazard of flying....

    ...angry birds!!!

  8. Fihart

    Entertaining ourselves to death.

    Throw in the increase in road deaths, thought to be due to drivers distracted by incar gadgets and (even hands-free) mobile phones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Entertaining ourselves to death.

      Wikipedia lists 2013 as the lowest death rate ever so I really think a citation is needed for that comment.

      My speculation for the improvement would be better laid out roads, in car safety, a decline in the number of older people who didn't take rigorous tests in the first place and a reduced number of young drivers (can't afford car, still in Uni etc).

      2012 figures were a slight blip but this was probably due to the increase in cyclists which was also recorded.

      It's in Wikipedia, it must be true.

      1. Fihart

        Re: Entertaining ourselves to death.

        Reported slight increase in deaths was on BBC radio this morning notable because (as you said) trend has been downward. Thought gadgets may be a factor.

    2. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Entertaining ourselves to death.

      £60 fine and 3 points on my license made me stop such activities!

  9. ISYS

    When I was learning to fly (about twenty something years ago now) we were all told

    Aviate, Navigate, Communicate - In that order.

    You see it all the time now - people walking, shopping, driving etc completely focused on their phones and not on what is going on around them.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.

      And on our first solo we took a little camera and held it behind our head to get a selfie, the panel and the runway on finals photo. Everybody did it, and everybody encouraged everyone else to do it!

      1. Sporkinum

        Re: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.

        First solo, all we did was cut a small piece of cloth off the shirt worn while soloing.

        Also, shouldn't they say passenger, singular? 150 is a 2 seater.

        1. Vic

          Re: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.

          Also, shouldn't they say passenger, singular? 150 is a 2 seater.

          The inference I took from the NTSB report was that there had been a number of flights with different passengers.

          Vic.

  10. Otto is a bear.

    A candidate for a Darwin then

    Or maybe too banal.

  11. Tank boy
    Trollface

    No further proof needed.

    Gravity does in fact have a hold of us all.

  12. Christopher Lane
    Thumb Up

    Hats off...

    ...to the robustness of a GoPro which survived a plane wreck in my opinion.

    1. fixit_f

      Re: Hats off...

      That's nothing for Go Pro robustness - check THIS out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrxPuk0JefA

      1. Colin Miller

        Re: Hats off...

        Who broke the V-hold? One would assume that the mud it landed it cushioned the impact a bit.

    2. Davegoody

      Re: Hats off...

      Does not really say ANYTHING about the robustness (or otherwise) of the GoPro, only of the SD Card that held the footage........

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pilot not current to fly on instruments, conditions: night and low cloudbase. Camera flash could have contributed, but not necessarily.

  14. Tikimon Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Image date/time or call time compared to crash time?

    If anyone was taking pictures to cause the crash, they would find pictures with a file date and time matching the crash time within a minute or so. They specifically talked about shots taken on takeoff, but not on landing, where are the fatal shots of landing? Shots taken hours or days earlier mean NOTHING. They did not say the pilot was on a call at the time of the crash. So how can they blame it on the pilot using a phone?

    A month ago the missus and I had up to four devices running at once in a Cessna 170 (hired tour). It didn't interfere with the pilot at all, nor cause him to crash later that night. Hundreds of selfies are taken from private aircraft daily, but it's not raining airplanes.

    1. Vic

      Re: Image date/time or call time compared to crash time?

      A month ago the missus and I had up to four devices running at once in a Cessna 170 (hired tour). It didn't interfere with the pilot at all

      At night? In cloud?

      Vic.

    2. cordwainer 1
      FAIL

      Re: Image date/time or call time compared to crash time?

      You do understand there was no "landing"?

  15. Mark 85 Silver badge

    It's a good thing he crashed where he did then....

    There's nothing in the records about where the camera/cellphone was found. But, any distraction while flying is a bad thing which is why the FAA (and others) require a sterile cockpit during certain portions of the flight.

    The history says this guy was an accident waiting to happen, not night rated, history of cellphone use during take off and landing, etc. It's one thing to for a passenger to take a selfie. It's quite another to take one at night with the flash going off. If the pilot were doing this it's beyond incredibly stupid.

    I'm just glad his actions didn't take out anyone on the ground.

  16. Van

    Are there enough Cessna 150s to send all of the Narcissists up?

  17. A Ghost
    Mushroom

    Look Ma!

    No ha............rghhhhhhhhhhhh.........

  18. DanceMan

    Smart Phone

    Dumb User

  19. skeptical i
    Facepalm

    Wasn't that a "Far Side" cartoon?

    The film from the deceased's camera showing the pictures taken to be of an annoyed bear from increasingly close distance? Alas, I think some people hold a camera and the brain misinterprets it as a shield of invincibility.

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