There has been a lot of press about driving and using cellphones, but now it appears there may be some evidence that using cell phones and flying may contribute to accidents as well. On November 30th 2011 a pilot flying a Cessna 185 died in a crash 12 miles from the Fort St. John airport in Canada. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board aviation investigation report describes the flight of the aircraft and included in its report information about the use of the pilot's cell phone for texting and voice communications for some 28 minutes during the flight. The pilot received a text message on his cell phone to which he texted a response, followed by a series of 5 cell phone conversations lasting some 28 minutes. The interesting part of this is the graph showing altitude deviations which occurred while these conversations were taking place.
Flight Into DarknessTo be sure this flight was ending in darkness despite the fact that the operation of this aircraft was supposed to be day vfr flight only. In addition, the pilot had accumulated 7.1 hours of flight time immediately preceding the accident, had a Commercial Pilot's Certificate and apparently also had an Instrument Rating. The company which owned the aircraft was restricted to day vfr flights, so no night training had been provided for the pilot. The pilot had not flown during the preceding 30 days, but was current and met all of the applicable regulations at the time of the accident.
CFIT - Controlled Flight Into TerrainIt was determined that for some unknown reason the pilot descended over sparsely settled terrain at night too low or was unaware of the surrounding terrain and crashed 2400 feet above sea level. There was some speculation that spatial disorientation may have contributed to the accident.
Findings As To RiskThe Canadian Transportation Safety Board issued the following findings as to risk:
Findings as to risk Pilots who engage in non–essential text and voice cell phone communications while conducting flight operations may be distracted from flying the aircraft, placing crew and passengers at risk. When cockpit or data recordings are not available to an investigation, this may preclude the identification and communication of safety deficiencies to advance transportation safety.