I just received the latest issue of the AvFlash newsletter which summarizes the articles on the AvWeb home page. Once again I find myself saying “What were these people thinking?”. The article that generated my comment was titled: Airline Crews in Trouble over YouTube Videos.  Just the title generates all sorts of ‘wonderful’ mental pictures. One involves the commuter pilot and flight attendant caught not long ago running around the woods sans-clothes .[Link removed]   No, this was a new example of less than stellar judgment.

It turns out that a crewmember or a jumpseater, the article was unsure,  video taped a takeoff of a passenger flight from the cockpit. Unlike several people I know I have only flown for one airline in my career but I am not aware of any professional flying organization that does not have some sort of sterile cockpit rule.  Even the average private pilot who receives training from a conscientious CFI will be instructed on the need to eliminate all unnecessary distractions in the cockpit while in the vicinity of an airport. My airline’s rule dictates a sterile cockpit below 10,000′ agl and I know of others which specify 18,000′.

You may be able to rationalize away the sterile cockpit violation as not causing a distraction. After all, today’s video recorders are virtually silent and palm-sized. However, you are still left as the article mentions with the restriction on the use of electronic devices below 10,000′. Do electronic devices interfere with the ‘communication and navigation equipment on board the aircraft’ as the mantra says? That’s hard to say. In my experiences, yes they occasionally do. I have had erratic navigation indications that were traced to a DVD player being used in the front of  the passenger cabin. The erratic needles settled down when the player was turned off and returned when it was turned on. Why, I don’t know, maybe the planets were aligned at just the right angle. That happened several years ago, but it was something that I personally experienced. Does it happen with the newer electronics and our newer airplanes? It is possible, I imagine, that a malfunctioning electronic device could introduce a radiated signal into an airplane and several models of aircraft in service now are controlled by computers sending electronic signals from the cockpit to the flight controls. I have not heard of any actual cases of electronic interference lately. It’s doubtful that the electronic equipment effected anything in this case, but that is not relevant, the rule prohibits their use. Just because there is no traffic at an intersection doesn’t mean that you don’t have to stop at the red light.

And that takes us to the judgment involved with then posting the video on YouTube to show the world that you have, in fact, violated multiple FAA and company regulations. The article says that the video has been removed from YouTube, but does not say who posted it or removed it. The person who uploaded the video could have been one of the crew members or it could have been a jumpseat occupant doing it without the knowledge of the crew. Either way, someone’s job is probably on the line. As usual, the matter is under investigation.

It’s getting harder and harder to make a descent living in the aviation arena. More layoffs are on the way, airlines are cutting salaries in half to stay afloat and there are bound to be more consolidations on the horizon, both major and commuter. Don’t put the job that you have in jeopardy by doing something dumb. Play by the rules and use the judgment that got you the job in the first place. There is enough job pressure in this economic environment without adding more people looking over your shoulder because too many individuals did dumb things and forced a company or the FAA to ‘take appropriate action.’

Or is this just Darwin’s Theory in action? A natural weeding out of the weakest of the species.

NOTE: added 10/10
I just ran across this CNET article concerning electronic interference in airplanes. The comments bring up some good points.