The recent FAA rule on cockpit use of personal electronic devices applies only to Part 121 carriers, although the NTSB would like to see the rule extended to cover Part 135 and Part 91K operators. AIN recently surveyed readers for insight into the distractions that challenge them and received 112 responses to our four questions. Nearly 70 percent of respondents told us cockpit and/or cabin distractions are definitely an issue. Surprisingly, only 39 percent of the same group identified electronics as the problem. The other 61 percent said people, not iPads or phones, are their big problem. Half of the operators told us their flight departments already have some kind of written company policy to deal with distractions.
Our readers did not disappoint us when we asked for specifics. One respondent told us people on the ramp are a huge distraction, “especially when we’re receiving a clearance or are trying to input FMS data that requires the highest level of teamwork.” Quite a few said that there would be no distraction issue if crews simply abided by their own SOPs for a sterile cockpit below 10,000 feet. Another said they are most distracted by “people playing around with iPhones, laptops and video games.” One pilot commented, “As Wi-Fi started to spread to business airplanes, I found crewmembers more likely to engage in its use for nonoperational matters.” Another pilot said, “I thought it was annoying when another pilot brought a book or newspaper into the cockpit. Now with iPhones, iPads and the Internet there is a never-ending stream of distractions…company and personal e-mails, expense reports and even games of Angry Birds.” Finally, one said, “We’re usually distracted by a passenger poking one of us on the shoulder with a question like ‘Why are we flying past the airport?’, which always seems to come just as we’re finalizing the approach checklist…and all while the seatbelt sign is on.”