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Facebook Flyers | You thought texting was bad!

Posted 1 years 52 days ago ago by RandyRowles     2 Comments

Author: Randy Rowles

A few months ago, I was conducting a commercial pilot practical test for an applicant in the South Florida area. At the beginning of the exam, the applicant held up his copy of the FAA practical test standards (PTS) next to his face and took a selfie with his phone. He then proceeded to request I “hold on a minute” so that he could post the picture on Facebook. At the time, I didn’t really mind as this moment was significant to him. Maybe it was his way of calming his nerves: no harm, no foul. 

The ground portion of the exam was going well as we proceeded into the performance planning portion of the scenario. We were a little over an hour into the exam, so I offered the applicant an opportunity for a short break. He accepted and proceeded to step outside. After a few minutes, I decided to walk to the FBO for a cup of coffee. As I walked outside, the applicant was holding his phone up with a selfie stick to conduct a live video on social media about the exam. To my surprise, he decided it was a good idea to turn the camera in my direction and introduce me into his video efforts. I waved in the direction of the camera and kept walking. To be clear, I was now getting annoyed by this activity.

Back in the room, the applicant continued doing well and completed the ground portion of the exam without issue. The applicant and I proceeded to the aircraft to begin the preflight inspection of the helicopter. Without hesitation, while holding a checklist in one hand and a phone in the other, the applicant proceeded to live-video himself as he began the preflight inspection. After he ended his video session, he proceeded to complete a thorough preflight inspection of the helicopter. It was at this point that I’d had enough. We shared a few words on the issue and I felt confident that I had made my point.

With the pre-takeoff checklist complete, it was time to go. Everything was going well until the applicant requested I hold the controls. After a positive exchange of the flight controls, he pulled out his phone again. With a quick swipe, he texted “I will be unable to live-stream the flight as the DPE won’t let me use my phone anymore.” At this point, I asked the applicant if he often live-streamed his flights. He answered, “Yes, I do it all the time. Sometimes I mount my phone on the inside of the helicopter window so my friends can watch me fly.” Needless to say, we were done!

I’m not sure if narcissism is the new norm, but it has no place in the execution of airman activities. Without question, this type of activity is unsafe, however a quick search of the internet will reveal it’s not too uncommon. In some cases instructor pilots, while in the company of their students, facilitate such activity. 

Attention to detail and focus on the task at hand is critical to sound aeronautical decision-making. Sharing your aviation interests with your friends and family is a good thing. However, engaging in social media while acting in the capacity of, or fulfilling the duties of, a certificated airman is just plain stupid!  

About Randy:  Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award.  Randy is currently  Director of Training at Epic Helicopters in Ft. Worth, Texas.


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  • helipilotadam 1 years 31 days ago
    Randy, I applaud your initial patience with this issue. To often I find that many people allow the cell phone and social media to distract themselves and others. Its a bad habit and if not corrected could cost someone or worse an innocent bystander a life! Again I applaud your undeniable patience for this applicant and having just a few words with them. Maybe just maybe this future pilot has learned a very valuable lesson. Thank you!
    • RandyRowles 1 years 29 days ago
      Thank you Adam! I must admit it was a challenge. My initial thought in this situation...'am I too out of touch with the new norm of social media?'. It was irritating, however once the behavior breached the aircraft environment, the applicants judgement was in question. The rotten fruit (outcome) one expects from a pilot that says "watch this" most likely falls from the same tree as that produced from a pilot that says "watch me"! Thanks for your comment.