FAA to airline pilots: Turn cell phones off

Washington DC
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The US FAA has issued an alert to airlines following an inspector's report that a first officer's cell phone began ringing at a critical phase of a takeoff recently, an incident the agency says was "a potentially serious hazard".

According to the FAA air safety inspector who was riding along on an unnamed airline's flight from the jump seat, just prior to reaching V1, the speed after which pilots generally are committed to taking off rather than aborting on the runway, a rather loud "warbling" sound was "detected" by both crewmembers.

"It was later determined that the sound came from the first officer's cellular phone, which had been left in the ON position," the Safety Alerts For Operators (SAFO) note reads.

"As a result the ring tone caused a distraction between the crewmembers during the takeoff phase and could have led the to crew to initiate an unnecessary rejected takeoff," the letter continues.

Once on the ground, the crew revealed that their airline's general operations manual (GOM) did not address procedures prohibiting the crew, unlike the passengers, from having their cell phones on while at their "duty stations".

The GOM would appear to contradict federal regulations and FAA advisory circulars, which state that a cell phone "will not be authorized for use while the aircraft is being taxied for departure after leaving the gate". Further, one AC recommends that cell phones be turned off "and properly stowed to prepare the aircraft for takeoff as per the operator's procedures".

The FAA in the SAFO is recommending that the director of operations for airlines and air taxi operators "perform a review of their respective GOM to determine if appropriate procedures are in place to remind crewmembers to turn off their cellular phones in preparation for departure".

The agency says jump seat rider checklists should also state the prohibition.