A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you
heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no
truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception
of "there are no old, bold pilots.")
Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner,
master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us
-- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you
may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be
something we might never have considered before, or something that
didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized
it for the practical test.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to
you through the Aero-News Network.
"Don't use cell phones in flight." I
know you've heard it before. Justification usually comes in the
form of Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) rules about cell
phone use, and how cell phones at altitude could access widely
spaced cell towers causing signal saturation or disruption, or some
That may all be true, but I'm here to tell you that regardless
of some FCC ruling or the risk of blanking out cell signals, there
are very real hazards in using a cell phone in flight.
Note: I've read that today's generation cell
phones by design won't work from a high angle above cell towers,
and won't synch with towers if traveling more than about 100 mph
precisely to eliminate supposed multiple-tower problems. I ask
readers with specific information about this to post a Discussion
items note letting us know…for curiosity's sake.
Hazards of In-Flight Cell Use
- Distraction. If you shouldn't be driving while
talking on the phone, think about the temptation to conduct
business by cell phone while flying an airplane…or if a
forgotten phone begins to ring while you're conducting an
engine-out, partial panel night instrument approach to
- Communications interruption. Sure, I did it. I
accidentally left my cell phone on in my jacket pocket, way in the
back seats of a six-place airplane while providing flight
instruction. I now know for a fact that a cell phone attempting to
synch up with towers puts out a signal that can create heavy static
on some comm frequencies, and even appeared to intermittently jam
the GPS receiver. Now that's something you don't want to have
happen as you're trying to approach and land.
FAR 91.21 tells us in flight
we can use "any…portable electronic device that the operator
of the aircraft has determined will not cause interference with the
navigation or communication system of the aircraft…."
Trouble is, you won't know for certain until you fly.
Aero-tip of the day: Put a step on your Before
Takeoff checklist that reads:
CREW/PASSENGER CELL PHONES, PAGERS AND OTHER
PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES-OFF.
Brief your passengers to turn these items off in their
coats and baggage before you load them onto the airplane.