Airline pilots: Put down the cameras and fly the plane

Instagram photos collected by Quartz

Is our obsession with photographing everything we see making flying less safe?

Writing on Quartz, reporter David Yarnofsky has been monitoring Instagram pictures posted by (mostly airline) pilots and finds they are, indeed, quite pretty. It’s also quite illegal for pilots to be taking them, he says.

Takeoff and landing may be the most sensitive periods, but at no point while operating the plane are pilots in the US allowed to use phones, GoPro cameras, and other personal electronic devices. That doesn’t appear to be stopping some pilots.

Gary Baumgardner—@garybpilot on Instagram—posts photos of himself taken inside the cockpit. In one of them, above at left, he wrote, “About to land this plane but first, #lmtas,” shorthand for “let me take a selfie.” In another, the reflection in his sunglasses shows the tops of clouds and his hand holding what appears to be a phone.

“All of my pictures were taken on the ground (regardless of what the caption may have said) or either reposted as someone else’s picture,” Baumgardner wrote in an email. He has made his Instagram account private. Baumgardner is wearing an American Airlines lanyard in many of his photos. American didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Quartz attempted to contact all of the pilots whose photos are in this story, and most did not reply. Some deleted their accounts on Instagram, and others made them private.

An airline pilots’ union insists it’s not illegal to snap pictures at cruisting altitude, but Quartz says the FAA disagrees.

Especially since jets fly mostly by computers, what’s the big deal?

Bad things can happen when pilots aren’t paying attention.

(h/t: Mike Olson)