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Pilots have organized a ferocious, at times threatening, response to Quartz’s story about Instagrams in the sky

Quartz’s investigation of commercial airline pilots taking photos and videos of their flights provoked a furious response from the aviation community. Hundreds of pilots and their fans have been harassing the reporter who wrote the story with vitriolic comments and, at times, threats of violence. ( More...

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Peter Steitz 11
Gotta comment on the ruthless, profane, unjustifiable comments by the pilots who were outraged by this article. I never read so many MF's and I'd like to throw you off a building? What? When you post like that you just show your immaturity. Do I want to have you as a pilot of my flight, or have to fly with you? You know the answer. This is our culture of young, 20 somethings who will stand hidden behind a social network and say such things. I weep.
preacher1 3
I am glad I am now retired, but am proud I didn't have to leave that type legacy behind. Besides the man that flew my right all these years and took my place as Director, I hired 5 young guys last years that had a work ethic and plenty of common sense/courtesy. Very refreshing to know they are still out there if we'll look for it. Kinda strange, higher time guys gave us funny looks when we didn't pick them.
I agree with you mr stietz..there are logical,respectable and intelligent ways to comment or reply to an article,author,blog or news outlet without death threats,really nasty language or four letter words..that is extremely immature my years with an airline (not a pilot) i never saw a pilot using a cell phone or whatever in the cockpit during a flight..the i pads had not yet been issued to pilots,so they still had the old large briefcase flight bags with paperwork in them,but even with the issuance of that technology for pilots,airlines have mandates as to what and how they are to be any case,a pilot whether its a commercial one or just a private owner,knows their responsibility is to fly an airplane safely and follow faa guides and mandates..
preacher1 14
Senseless as the FAR is, downright stupid to some, and as reckless as Quartz may have been to bring this out, it must be noted that if it is on instagram, it is in the public domain for all to see. Pilots, of all people, should be aware of the FAR's and their impact on the job, right or wrong and not post everything out there for the world to see; stuff that can be traced back to them. If anything happens as a result of it, it is their own fault, not Quartz or their reporter.
smoki 1
You'd think that after Anthony Weiner, one of those once trusted public servant officials of our federal government (a Congressman), unwittingly flashed his genitalia for the world to view, people would have learned by now that you can't expect anything you put on the Internet to remain out of the public domain for long given all the hacksters and enterprising electronic snoopers and poopers that are out there. The Internet is a sieve with more holes in it than Swiss cheese, which has led most recently to the cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment for daring to make a film fictionalizing the demise of North Korea's little Hitler and Stalin packaged in the punk, Kim Jung Un.
paul trubits 7
Don't some legacy carriers already have cameras in the cockpit so you can watch the takeoff and landing? Just put cameras in all the aircraft and be done with it. Fancy restaurants have open kitchens. Drugstores have cameras at the pharmacy counter. Anyone been to Vegas? Let everyone watch the marvel of flight. Just keep the sound off.
Peter Steitz 2
Paul the difference is the pilots we're talking about are hand holding and videoing the cockpit when they aren't supposed to.
btweston 18
Wow... Say what you will about people taking pictures, but this sort of tribalism is disturbing.
Jhon Lewis 5
I think it should be similar to eating in the cockpit, where one pilot can use a electronic device at cruise while the other moniters, and if anything goes wrong the pilot not flying must turn towards the cockpit and fix the problem. GoPros should be allowed for the most part, as long as they aren't directly in your face or blocking anything important. That is what I think should happen.
Rusty Brown 5
As a commercial pilot myself with a job as a accident investigator for commercial trucks the go pro has been a wonderful tool. If we investigate an accident and the driver has had any recording device in the truck it is then used as a tool to find out what went wrong. A go pro or other video recording device is put in place before movement of the commercial motor vehicle and is legal so long as the driver does not get distracted by that device, ie watching playback or moving the location while in motion. I am sure that a aviation NTSB investigator would also look at any electronic equipment that was in use or in the cockpit. Not only would it help but it would capture the beauty of flight that we all enjoy.
preacher1 3
That may very well be, but as senseless as it is, the FAR reads to the effect that a member of the flight crew can't use a wireless device in the cockpit, even if the wireless portion is turned off. Now, how they know that these pics are not taken with a digital camera or from somebody in a jump seat, idk.
Jose Suro 1
That's because digital cameras record all their parameters in text inside the digital picture file (EXIF).
nar1403 -1
...because some of the views from go pros are next to the pilot looking across the control panel. Unless the person holding it is sat on the map holder, its likely to be mounted to something which accoriding to airworthiness rules in a alteration or modification. Likely none of these have been approved in any such way!
nar1403 2
agreed...if it was part of a monitoring function (and therefore controlled) it would be a benefit. It may go someway to preventing the accidents during landing that we are still struggling with

Industry data shows that between 3% and 4% of approaches are unstable — meaning there are roughly 1,000 unstable approaches every day — but pilots abort landing and execute go-arounds in only 3% of unstable approaches! Those statistics are concerning because 65% of commercial aviation accidents in 2011 occurred during the approach and landing phase of flight. The data also shows that 83% of those accidents could have been prevented had the pilots executed a missed-approach.

Maybe a camera might change behaviours cos current efforts are not working!
preacher1 2
I doubt it and as far as 1000 unstable approaches daily; not sure of your data source and if we have that many unstable approaches or just a little bit of hotdogging and the PF saying "Hey, watch this".
nar1403 -1

its a serious issue!
joel wiley 1
Thanks for posting your source. It's food for thought. It would be interesting to see the numbers from which he derives his stats. At the end of the article is the following. I think it odd expression of surprise in the statement:

Winter says a study conducted by students shows that 35% of 520 runway excursions between 1995 and 2010 followed a stable approach. The excursions were caused by factors like runway contamination and landing outside the touchdown zone.

“We were somewhat surprised to see that... a stabilised approach doesn’t guarantee you have a safe landing,” Winter tells attendees. “Even though the approach is stabilised... its still necessary for the flight crew to fly the aircraft all the way through the landing.”
Peter Steitz 3
121 pilots have fought for years against having a camera in the cockpit because it was meant by the FAA to record THEM, not down the runway. We've had flight data recorders and voice recorders for a long time. Pilots are under the gun all the time. All their transmissions and radar tracks and altitudes are recorded by ATC. Having said that, a Gopro suction cupped to a window is not original equipment. If you want to do something in the cockpit and an incident happens---you're screwed.
nar1403 0
Are these the same pilots that contribute to industry data that shows between 3% and 4% of approaches are unstable — meaning there are roughly 1,000 unstable approaches every day — but pilots abort landing and execute go-arounds in only 3% of unstable approaches! Those statistics are concerning because 65% of commercial aviation accidents in 2011 occurred during the approach and landing phase of flight. The data also shows that 83% of those accidents could have been prevented had the pilots executed a missed-approach.

Maybe a camera might change behaviours cos current efforts are not working - it should be recording them as behaviours are at the heart of accident.
Leo PM 0
Municipal bus drivers, who are responsible for 50 passengers inside their buses have a camera in the cabin. The pilots, who are responsible for lives of up too 800 passengers (in A380) do not want to be "spied"? What world are we living now??? It is not up to them, it is up to us - the passengers!!!
dbreslin 4
The day "passengers" try to force pilots to comply with a camera snitch without protection for pilots is the day pilots will walk off the job. Then there won't be any passengers. There is a reason pilots protect themselves against electronic cockpit intrusion.
First it's because they have all they need to monitor what they need to monitor now (FOQA);

Second, because it's because passengers who find lawyers who sue airlines find ways to take highly personal cockpit recordings of pilots dying to the newspapers causing untold extremely emotional damage to the wives and kis of cockpit crew members who may cry out to their loved ones in an agonizing call before they die (If their wishes for privacy had been heeded in the past perhaps that would not be an issue - but it is);

Third, a very tiny minority of pilots have managed to cause rules that quash common sense - like a go-pro in the cockpit for example, when there need not be such a rule - and thus pilots fight against reactionary rules from the FAA that are more likely over-reactions to incidents involving the tiny minority.

Pilot unions have fought and won the argument against cameras in cockpits for those reasons. They win because no one can guarantee the privacy for families, no one can guarantee the data be used purely for accident investigation and not leak to a ravenous, irresponsible media, and no one can prove they are needed in light of DFDR's and CVR's already installed and currently in use...
Peter Steitz 1
Good post.
preacher1 1
Cameras are not on the bus driver alone; the are on the pax so he will know what is happening behind him. The cockpit is like any other workplace. Nobody can work effectively with someone looking over their shoulder. That's just human nature and is why the Pilot's union has succeeded in keeping them out so far and limited the CVR to the last 2 hours. Right or wrong, that's how it is.
Leo PM 1
Nobody will look over his shoulder. Cameras are evaluated only after something happens and randomly for quality assurance.
preacher1 1
Maybe so, but the fear is different in the airline industry, whether real or imagined.
preacher1 1
And, you can go back up to Peter Steitz's comment above here for the rest of the story.
joel wiley 1
The world we live in is somewhat more complex than George Orwell outlined in his book "1984" written in 1948. The concern over surreptitious surveillance in your public and private lives is justifiable given the plethora of examples of intrusion. Absent the ability to respond to the covert, the pilots are resisting the overt attempt to surveillance every second.
STLPilot2 10
I guess what bothers me about the whole thing is Quartz's assumptions that the pictures were taken at critical times and that they were transmitted to Instagram during that critical time. It's more likely that the pictures were posted when the pilots were on the ground. This seems to be nothing but an attempt at sensationalism designed to draw attention to his worthless journalism. As is usual in today's media, there is little concern for presenting accurate facts with a view to reveal all of the facts. This is not an investigation, rather a witch hunt and should be dealt with accordingly.
Philip Clifton 10
I don't disagree with your assessment of the article as sensationalist, but I didn't think that Quartz was implying that the photos were transmitted while in-flight. The basis of their argument seems to be that the photos were taken with a cell phone of GoPro, which they then argue constitutes a prohibited device in the cockpit. I'm frankly not familiar with the precise FARs governing this, and so I can't really comment on the validity of the argument that this is illegal.

But speaking from a practical standpoint, I find it ridiculous to protest the photos based on the type of device they were taken with. By the logic of the PED argument, it would be perfectly fine to take a photo with a regular digital camera, but not with a cell phone - as if one of those items constitutes a larger distraction then the other.

At the end of the day, it's still a sensationalist article that tries really hard to make cockpit photos sound like a huge scandalous danger to the flying public.
preacher1 5
Well, your assumption from the practical standpoint is correct as I read the FAR's. Whether uploaded on the ground or not, they cannot be taken with a wireless device, even if the wireless portion is turned off. This would be a difference between a gopro and digital camera. That said, how does quartz know that they weren't taken with a camera and then posted later?
I'm not a pilot and please correct me if I'm wrong on this. Is it possible the pilots have an iPad for flight maps and such, which would also have the Instagram app on it, thus using the iPad for flight tasks and snapping a few pics? Again I don't know the rules but even if they did, the use of an iPad in flight might be illegal as well?
ToddBaldwin3 4
My understanding of the FAA's interpretation of the rules is that as long as the iPad is being used as and Electronic Flight Bag, it's acceptable, but the moment it's used to take a picture, or any other non flight related task, it becomes a personal electronic device.
joel wiley 5
Which is about as sensible as the DEA's policy on growing the red ornamental poppy Papaver somniferum- it is legal as long as you don't know they are the source of opium.
preacher1 2
I am fully retired now and not totally sure, as we had just started using them as I was leaving(and I can say they were nice) but I'm thinking they had to be company issued/FAA approved for cockpit use and as such, would only have approved apps on it.
It's pretty simple, don't try to find loopholes in the rules. You're there to fly the airplane, the iPad is approved as an EFB. Use it for what it's approved for in flight. Any other use, do it on the ground!!!
btweston 9
Sure. It was a stupid article. But threatening to kill over it? Sorry. No.
s2v8377 6
I agree with you 110%!!!

I am so tired of media outlets trying to destroy hard working professionals lives. Everything seems to be a big deal these days even when it's clearly not.
siriusloon -3
Unless that media outlet is Faux News?
Ricky Scott -2
Using a Derogitory about a news outlet makes your statement seem to be posted by an Imature Teen than an adult. Fox news is a just as valid as MSNBC, CNN, CBS, ABC etc.
ken young -1
Dude, no politics....Got it?
joel wiley 2
You are limiting us to just discussing religion?
bentwing60 1
ken young 0
Aviation will do. Thanks
Dave Mathes 1
Leo PM 6
Where all you people get so much anger and hate from? Is your life so misarable, that you all are so blood-hungry? You react on an article like muslims on Mohamed cartoons (forgetting about the free speech values of our society). What is wrong with you guy??? Are we in the middle ages? Shame on you!
Dean Kennedy 2
I'm a licensed professional (not a pilot) and I would file this collective reaction as improper in appearance, if not improper in fact (at least in certain individual cases).
paul trubits 6
What is there next story? Cops talking on cell phones driving down the road?
BaronG58 2
Don't forget...Cops talk on their radio and have a computer mounted on dash...might need to go after these also. 8:)
Ulf Berg 2
The next story is: Do not enter any street anywhere in the world. Why? Someone might be envious of You. Its the new Swedish Syndrome. Spread all over the world by internet (Facebook and Instagram)in a split second. No matter what You write or post
You are always out on a limb for someone.
btweston 0
I bet they'll spell "their" correctly...
paul trubits 1
btweston: sorry about that!
preacher1 1
In places here, they talking about killing people and the spelling cop comes out in him. LOL
kbreither 4
The entire pilot community should be ashamed of itself. No matter what was in the story, the reporter should not be harassed and threatened in this manner. It leads you to wonder what is going through the pilots mind when he decides to throw a passenger off the plane because he/she is uncomfortable with them on the plane.
The entire response by the pilots puts a black mark on their "professionalism".
ken young 0
The reporter was being a jerk. he deserved it.
I'm sick and tired of these PC "gotcha" so called "journalists" posting crap just to gain "click bonuses" from their employers.
joel wiley 3
The Quartz article certainly appears to have hit a nerve. The author's pointing up what the FAA acknowledges is their interpretation of this being a rule violation seems to be glossed over. His use of personally identifiable information people included in their posts of the pics has offended a number of commenters. Since such information was voluntarily displayed (won't go into the question of the advisability of doing so) in a public environment (the Internet), his inclusion in the article is covered by the fair use doctrine.

Why the groundswell to bury the article and shut the reporter up? Perhaps a discussion of the validity and merits of the strictures of the FAA rules would be a more productive venture.
The 'rule' is complete insane nonsense which any real actual pilot already knows.
joel wiley 5
“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law”
As a passenger, it gives me serious pause to read the scurrilous and reprehensible (look it up in the dictionary, pilots) harassment of the reporter who wrote the pilots "selfie" article. If these are the people responsible for our well-being and safety during flight, I would suggest the airlines do a better job at psychological screening of their applicants and working pilots.
I'm not affiliated with any company or organization, so my opinion is my own, and I'm now wondering why the responding pilots didn't simply ignore or reply in kind? Really no need
If this reporter is so far "off-base," why is the reaction so knee-jerk harsh, angry, and childish?
Bryce Larson 6
Because their jobs might be on the line with the FAA (Were not happy till your not happy) bureaucracy. The whole over regulation removes any humanistic side to it. They want drones. Just remember Sully Sullenberger. That's who you want when things go bad. Real People.
preacher1 3
Well said; there is probably some over reaction but by the same toke, I don't know of any pilots coming to work today or tomorrow that aren't planning on coming home when their duty is up.
Peter Steitz 2
True preacher. It is always said the pilots are in the front and usually die first. Does anybody think they don't want to come back in one piece? (except in some high profile cases.)
bentwing60 1
Haven't had a run in with a regulatory Federali have you there Miss vocabulary? Since you question our sanity, might I expect you to take the train to Hawaii? It might surprise you to know that there are still some men in the world who are not gay, believe in conservatism, take care of bidness and try to avoid the confrontations of the rest of the mad mad world that continually questions our existence! Don't let me know which seat you are in.
preacher1 0
She might take you up on that train. Her type probably thinks there is a bridge across there, if she even knows for sure where its at.
bentwing60 -2
James Carlson 0
If you don't want to see off-topic rants about Fox News on this site, don't follow-up an on-topic (even if possibly misguided) posting with an overtly political off-topic response.

And, please, don't make thinly-veiled threats. They just make everything worse.

I agree with you about the FAA rules and the fears they cause among pilots. That's understandable, and another respondent above answered that issue in a civil tone.
Leo PM 1
you are very right!
Rod Williams 2
And to think I had the heat put on me for doing the same thing while driving a train. Like the pilots, I knew when it was safe to 'be distracted'. And don't anybody for one second think that I'm comparing my skills to that of a commercial pilot.
pdixonj 6

It's not the level of skill you have that sets you apart from others, it's the responsibility you have to protect the lives of others that's important..and both train operators and pilots are equal in that respect. Most people believe they know when it's safe to be distracted, however safety rules are put in place to keep people from becoming "complacent" in that knowledge.
Rod Williams 1
There's a time and place. That particular fool chose the wrong time and the wrong place. A smart operator would have been concentrating on the job at hand not sending texts to his photographer friends trackside.
Leo PM 2
I wonder what the airline executive will say to a pilot who would not let a passenger on board because he just does not like the guy... I guess his next employer will be Timbuktu-Air.
ken young 1
The executive would no way of knowing the difference.
Regarding matters of safety, the Captain has absolute authority over his aircraft
nar1403 2
Lets face facts... this is one of many behaviours that has been going for years and now it has been exposed people are getting all out of shape over it. It will likely take an accident to wake us all up....go pros ARE used at critical stages of flight - you tube happily says so! so, question is, who approved the modification to the aircraft (as they are mounted to something (and you can argue all you like, its a modification)), and what happens when that camera falls off and ends up under a rudder pedal? Not going to happen?..then goggle RAF A330 incident! The backlash is amazing... thought we lived in the 21st century!
preacher1 1
Well, it didn't end up under a rudder pedal but sure jammed up the sidestick.
nar1403 0
Yes, the point being was that control issues happen, not necessarily rudder issues. And its interesting how the aircraft itself recovered and the crew didn't know what was happening.
preacher1 1
That's some of that Airbus smarty pants flying. 447 didn't recover though. I don't know if that recovery comes in there automatically if the drop is a certain amount or what.
Peachbush 2
Anyone who uses language like that found in the linl to the article is simply not a professional. If this represents the pilot community at large, they should be ashamed.
ken young 1
Oh please......"GASP....You used a bad word!!!!!!?"
Pa Thomas 2
Pilots can be douchebags on the internet like tons of other groups.Who Knew?
Karl Schneider -3
Yes, a lot of them are "conservative" bigots, I've noticed that for...oh, 49 years.
M.F. LaBoo 1
And Bent Reiver's FB page is now offline, which is entirely appropriate since he had no dog in the fight to begin with.
saif almagbry 1
by me
As a GA pilot when I am flying with friends I encourage them to take pics with whatever device they have. If I want to take pics with a camera or phone I just let them hold the yoke for straight and level.It's not that hard!!! gopro camera's for video use are great teaching tools if mounted in or outside the plane. As some commercial pilots do. I understand sterile cockpit rules when doing checklists and 10 minutes before takeoff and 15 before landing. A much much greater danger is using cellphones in the car. many more people are hurt or killed by this use than will ever be by use in aircraft.
dee9bee 1
I'm not certain this article (this second one, about the harassment) is legit. In my forty years of flying, I've run into very, very few pilots who cussed like drunken sailors.
pdixonj 3
It only takes a "few" to cause things to get "very" out-of-hand.
Quartz would have had a fit if he could have seen a movie I made while flying an F102. I was flying in formation with the stick between my knees in a starboard turn, and you could see my shadow, on my lead's fuselage, holding the camera (Super 8mm) while Long Island was in the background. Them were the days.
Peter Steitz 1
I flew the Deuce also. Key West NAS, 1967-9. We had AF issued Nikons to take pics of all our active air intercepts. I know what you mean.
Paul Ahkolik 1
I watched the video of the alleged journalist from Quartz being interviewed on national television. It's funny how seemingly nobody in the media has made mention that his eyeblink and vocal patterns were indicative of someone of someone lying his "donkey" off.
Ralph Wigzell 1
Personally I think he went overboard in dealing with something he is not remotely qualified to deal with. He is a wannabe journalist looking for stories to make him (in)famous. The FAA should be pursuing those issues if they feel that safety was compromised.In any event the prohibition of the use of electronic devices by cockpit crew above 10,000 feet was only in force after April 14 this year.
Ron Burgundy 0
Not surprised. I hope he & Quartz get sued. Like I said before, yank this guy off the air!
ADXbear 0
Just Another reporter looking to pray on the ignorance of the traveling public to licit an knee jerk response and outcry to the FAA to stop the daily airline crashes caused by these irresponsible people on the flight deck... Gezzz....the problem in so many areas of our lives today is that its this is true... Knee jerk reactions before the real facts are known or understood, Guilty before a trial...

As a Licensed Airline flight dispatcher, many of us commute to work and have FAA authority to fly on the flight deck, with the captains approval, we could be taking these photos and videos as well.. Heck FAA inspectors and mechanics could too.. just because you see coming from the flight deck, doesn't mean its the pilots doing it!
Scott Murphy 0
Whether you believe or not, the reporter may have had more than safety
issues for crafting this piece. Inadvertent, or even intentional pics
of images that certain people don't want the general public to see,
(outside the cockpit),might raise questions about anomalies in the sky.
Laura Shaver -3
Would prefer not to fly with pilots that have such anger problems. does not seem conducive to safe flight. Might need to start a no flight list of pilots.
Peter Steitz 0
I remember an RJ that clipped the wall while going into the gate. The FO was on his cell phone and not watching the right wing. I had an FO who would forget to turn off his cell and while on final his phone would begin to receive calls. Many things in the cockpit--even magazines and newspapers (yeah right) are prohibited. I can eat my sandwich but can't look at Flight magazine? Electronic devices need FAA approval. Your company also has regulations for what you can have and use in the cockpit.
Alex Wilson 0
Walt Heideman -2
I sincerely hope that any pilot who tries to No-Fly-List the author of that article loses his license. You expect Nazi-like behavior from the TSA at the airport, but not from the pilots.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

btweston 7
You just threatened to kill someone over the internet.


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