This website uses cookies. By using and further navigating this website, you accept this.
Did you know that FlightAware flight tracking is supported by advertising?
You can help us keep FlightAware free by allowing ads from We work hard to keep our advertising relevant and unobtrusive to create a great experience. It's quick and easy to whitelist ads on FlightAware or please consider our premium accounts.
Back to Squawk list
  • 63

Pilot as passenger jailed for using GPS on plane

A 73-year-old man arrested after he repeatedly ignored a flight crew’s demands to stop using his Global Positioning System. The man told court he was a pilot and routinely used his GPS when flying. That didn’t excuse Ego from complying with flight crew instructions, said Judge Lee Anne Martin. ( More...

Sort type: [Top] [Newest]

The issue is NOT that electronics will interfere with the aircraft avionics or flight systems. If you think they are that likely to be affected by wireless signals then you are totally out to lunch. The systems are NOT sensitive to random (and very weak) RF signals from cell phones, and a GPS instrument is NOT a transmitter.... it's a receiver! If they were sensitive to consumer electronics then they (consumer electronics) would NEVER be allowed as carry on. End of story.

Now, if the argument is that he didn't follow crew orders, then that's a completely different story. But please, leave the "consumer electronics are going to affect flight systems" argument out of the picture.
Root User 0
The article actually mentions the GPS charge was stayed, it was refusing to put a seatbelt on that got him into the brig.
jim russell 0
pretty soon you won't be able to scratch your $alls..
I don't know why some make such a big deal about electronics on planes. If they actually had the ability to compromise the operations of an aircraft, they wouldn't even be allowed through security.
Daniel Baker 0
Really the issue was disobeying a crew member.
DJMilo101 0
He had blatant disregard for the crew members who were constantly telling him to be seated and turn off the device. He should be charged.
@ Av8nut - The rules are there for a reason. While most emphasis is placed on interference of aircraft electronics and navigation, there are other reasons, that devices and small items need to be placed away until a crew member instructs otherwise.

I am sure all pilots and crew members will agree that the first and last 12,000 feet of a flight are called "sterile cockpit" for a reason. This is when things usually go wrong and accidents are more likely to occur.

I don't know about you, but I'd hate to be hit in the head by a flying GPS unit at 15+ G's, because someone wouldn't turn it off and store it securely. ;)

The fact of the matter is, he disregarded a crew members instruction, and must be held accountable. I think jail time was a bit harsh, considering his age, but that is a whole other argument.
15+ G's Joel? ... nice research.
Your more likely to be killed exiting the runway, and that would be a flying phone for everyone one the plane. Sterile cockpit is the rule, but the exception is quite different. And the crash exiting the runway was caused be the FO checking his email not monitoring ground. :-)

Fly High, travel smart, pay less.
that would be on the plane ...sorry
and by the FO, dang wheres the spel chec
Chris Bryant 0
"The man told court he was a pilot and routinely used his GPS when flying."
That's fine when you're PIC of your Part 91 flight. But when you're in the back of the bus on a Part 135 flight, you do what the crew tells you to.
I think I was better passenger before I learned to Fly.
Maybe he routinely used it as a passenger, and no one ever noticed.
TTail 0
allow one person pilot or not, to use his electronics when he or she is not suppose to?? then everyone is going to want to do it. when are people going to learn?? like it or not the aircrew is in charge, and if you dont do what they tell you to, you will be talking to the police on the other end. MHO
Isaak Berry 0
I use my phone 24/7 on the airplane. i get service randomly in the air and i exploit it for text messages. it does nothing to the airplane. how annoying. just let the damn guy go.
alex schwan 0
one electronic device on a plane is not going to hurt the radio signals!
gunman1 0
Chris, it was an airline flight, nnot a part 135 charter.
gunman1 0
I've never understood the reason for having electronics off, or not being able to use an aviation gps but I do understand the legality of the crews orders. It's easy, comply or go to jail..
Yazoo 0
One of my lines with regard to the FAA is..."That's not how we did it on the DC-3!" The issue is not if various electronic devices will effect the navigation equipment. I'd agree that most won't. The issue is if each and every individual device would. Each device by brand and model would have to essentially be TSO'd as verified safe. Even your headset is supposed to be TSO.
As to the phone and texting. Yes, it might work. But the cell phone providers don't want your phone that is normally only using 2 or 3 towers, to be able to reach 100's at FL350.
Last, the charge is failure to obey the instructions of the flight crew. Not for using a GPS.
pilithigh 0
There are security issues as well. You don't want the terrorists to know exactly where they are. Yeah, sometimes a passenger can look out the window and identify a major city but you don't want to make it easy on them.
Chris Bryant 0
Oops. Thanks for catching that gunman1. Part 121, obviously. My bad.
The FARs were always my weak point. :(

Yazoo - If I remember correctly, only headsets that are hardwired in to the panel have to be TSO'd. If you look in Sporty's or another aviation catalog, most headsets do not say they are TSO'd, and the ones that are tend to cost a LOT more.
markaz 0
Let's be real. The only way that guy gets into the hots is if he were being an obstinate jerk. He's one of those people who dare anyone to tell them what to do. 13 or 73, you follow rules. I'm just wondering why he would refuse to turn the GPS off or be seated and buckle his belt. He wasn't being asked to stick a fork in his eye. Just a disgruntled aging man who has to something to prove to himself.
Yazoo 0
Chris - TSO headsets do not have to be hard wired. Mine is not. I don't actually know exactly when you might have to use a TSO'd headset. FAR 91.609 covers flight and cockpit voice recorders (CVR). The CVR system does have to meet TSO standards. The headset may or may not be considered part of the CVR system. My company determines that it is, therefore, my headset must met TSO. A CVR system is required for more then 10 passengers or more than 6 if the aircraft required 2 pilots. If you don't fall into one of those areas then I doubt you are required to have a TSO'd headset. I on the other hand, have to spend the extra bucks.
Electronic devices can affect the avionics in airliners. I have a friend who flies for a legacy carrier and they had to do a go around because the instruments went squirly when a passenger turned on his laptop during descent. Just like cell phones in hospitals. I have lost heart monitor signals when someone used cells within six feet of a patient on telemetry. Granted, not all electronic equipment has an effect, but do you really want to take that chance?

Besides, it's against regs and, as was mentioned, if an exception is made for one it has to be made for all.
Glenn Roberts 0
When airplanes are tested, every piece of electronic equipment is turned on and each aircraft system is checked for proper operation. The passenger devices are not a part of the airplane so they never get tested. It would be cost prohibitive to test each and every airplane with every possible combination of personal electronic devices turned on in the back of the airplane. One or two devices on in the back would PROBABLY not cause a problem, but we don't know for certain. That is why they must be off for departure and arrival when a navigation error could easily have an adverse effect on safety. While just a few devices would PROBABLY have no effect, 137 on at the same time COULD have a large effect. Since we can't make a PA that says "10 of you may use your devices and everyone else must keep theirs off," everyone must turn them off. Cell phones are powerful transmitters and 137 of them on at the same time in a metal tube COULD be a problem. GPS receivers would PROBABLY not be a problem, but again, it was never tested when the aircraft was certified and therefore it must be off. The rules for flying on airplanes are very simple - pay your money and comply with instructions and we take you to your chosen destination. It is really very simple. If someone will not comply with simple safety rules then they really should not be on an airliner. If he is a pilot, then he can fly himself to his destination in HIS OWN airplane and not put others at risk. I'm not sorry they made an example of his case.
Mark Banjak 0
All passengers must comply with flight crew instructions, providing they are reasonable requests.
I knew a parent once that was required by a flight crew to incorrectly secure a baby seat. Since this was a safety issue for the man's child, he protested, the situation was tense. I would not sacrifice my child's safety or my own to please an idiot flight attendant. (The man was a senior airline pilot who was well versed in the use of his child's own safety seat.) I don't remember how the situation ended.
However, if a flight attendant asked me to do anything else, regardless of how stupid I thought it was, I would comply. I was always disappointed when I had to put away my GPS, but I always complied. I have always been allowed to take it out once we reached 10,000 feet.
The man also did not speak any English, only french, and he lived on an island in the Indian Ocean; he may have had no understanding of what the flight crew was asking.
I was flying an TWA MD-80 over Arizona when ATC told me to turn right 20 degrees. I asked why and he said we were approximately 10 miles North of course and approaching a hot restricted area. The navigation showed us on course centerline. I made an announcement that we were experiencing some navigational errors and if anyone was using a cell phone or electronics to turn them off. Within a few seconds the instruments showed us where ATC said we were, North of course. It made a believer out of me.
Gary morigeau 0
Mark, what airline allowed you to use your gps above 10,000 ft? I have asked several times and was told not to use my gps anytime.
delphiniumeve 0
'Scuse me guys...but I flew back less than 2 weeks ago on USAir. I was looking at the allowed product list again. It does state in their list of 'allowed' materials that GPS use is allowed. If it were me, I would have whipped that written blurb up to explain my behavior. I mean, it is confounding me. Most phones now are also de facto GPS units. How one can be okay and not another makes little sense. Also of note was the new instruction that leaving a cell phone in 'airplane mode' is no longer acceptable...they must be turned off. It essentially means if you have downloaded a movie to watch, you are now SOL. Once again, that was only verbal...the written content in their 'magazine' has different instructions. Multiuse devices are no longer useful under the current guidelines. Very frustrating and travel frequency is increasing and so, therefore, is my frustration.
Chris Bryant 0
Thanks for the education Yazoo. It's a good day when I learn something.
Mark Banjak 0
My guess on the MD-80 example was a problem with the Inertial Guidance. I don't know particulars on this system but I know many of these systems get reset using ground and satellite based systems periodically, much less often than today. It was probably a coincidence that the situation solved itself after the announcement. Inertial Guidance systems use mechanical items that wear and I assume the integration drift will get worse between maintenance intervals. Today's Flight management system's combine navigation data from different sources including GPS, INS and often radio-navigation. Any discrepancies in the system are logged. The GPS updates almost constantly now. Increasingly "bulletproof".
Going back to the topic, the main reason I feel that electronics should not be used by passengers on any aircraft below 10,000 ft is attention. This is the time that quick action may be required. Put down your books, magazines; reacquaint yourself with the aircraft you are on, locate your nearest exits, pay attention to flight crew instructions. The most dangerous place for an aircraft is on the ground.
Chris Bryant 0
I've used my GPS on several flights. It's not an issue. And the phone can be turned on to play games, listen to music, etc., it just needs to be in "airplane mode." And I just tried this with my phone (Driod X). Turned on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Satellite. Turned on Airplane Mode and it shuts off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so you could still use it as a GPS in flight, but I can't use the Wi-Fi to access the internet during flight.
markaz 0
So subsequent posts are describing methods of playing by the rules. On topic, this guy had his own set of rules and got what he deserved. Oh woe is him.
delphiniumeve 0
Like I said Chris, my flights the week of 15 Apr are the first time I have heard in the announcement the new instruction. They clearly stated that 'You cannot leave your phone in airplane mode. It must be turned off.' It was so odd that it really stuck in my mind since it was the first time I had heard it stated in exactly that manner. My next flight is scheduled for Sunday. I actually am more of a digital photography geek and with a potential Space Shuttle flight that day due to the scrub, well, I am wanting to potentially take advantage of my toys.
Mark Banjak 0
I don't remember specifically which airline it was last time. Regardless, the policies on this change constantly from airline to airline. In August 2009 Southwest started allowing them while in October 2009 American Airlines stopped allowing them. I don't fly much since I got my new RV and when I do I don't have any interest in turning on a GPS.
Currently, as of today APR-29-2011 in the Southwest Magazine "Spirit", they specifically allow GPS devices above 10,000 ft. Since this policy can change anytime, I would locate this information in the magazine before powering up and be prepared to show the magazine to a flight attendant.
preacher1 0
Right wrong or indifferent, regardless of who allows what, I got to agree with Ttail, the flight crew is in charge and live with it or walk. Once off the plane it's a problem with the authorities and not the airlines.Flight cew in charge and sterile cockpits rules are there for a reason and are part of flying. Deal with it. MHO
oh well... they think hes gonna do something bad with it. i dont get why he wanted to use his OWN gps during a flight, but whatever.
Ian Murray 0
I will probably get the wrath of regular posters but, why does anybody want to use GPS on an aeroplane? You buy your airline ticket so you know were you are going to end up, most people will have an idea of how long the flight is so they should be able to subtract flight time elapsed from the duration of flight. With certain carriers and aircraft a moving route map is screened for passenger entertainment. For me it is a case of sit back enjoy your drink and obey the cabin/flight deck crew.
juan ortega 0
if you are a pilot you know that your cellphone interferes with your radios by making a buzzing sound. At least in GA, Rj100, A330, A340 and A380. You wont crash and die, but it is annoying as hell.
seahawker01 0
Regardless of how we (airline crew) feel about rules/policies we have to follow and enforce them. We can loose our job/career/certificates by neglecting those rules. So even though an old man with a gps probably does not pose a risk to the flight I am not going to take the chance for him. We have a hard enough job and most of us are just trying to make a living by doing what we are told. Please don't make it harder then it needs to be by arguing with us.
I think this is such crap, let the old guy watch the bleeping GPS.
Lance De Foa 0
- I'm a private pilot. On commercial flights I like to use my moving map GPS to log the flight.
- Some GPS antennas are "active" and could actually produce some interference, although those designed to sit within 1 m of cockpit radios and roof mounted antennas without interference probably don't interfere.
- Anything with a transmitter could interfere, even when using GHz frequencies (GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, wireless mice & keyboards) not MHz (VOR & Com & GS) or KHz (ADF & AM band radio).
- Even non-transmitting devices like a laptop or the old "WalkMan" can produce electromagnetic radiation which can interfere. Lots of tuners use a "regeneration" circuit to improve signal to noise ratios, and that can act as a transmitter of interference.
- That some airlines ask that all cells be turned off, not just set to airplane mode, is likely because lots of pax don't know how to select airplane mode but do know where the off switch is on their cell phone.
- Finally, the "GPS" in many cell phones, doesn't use the GPS constellation of satellites but triangulate position from cell towers and wi-fi, which requires transmitting a ping so they can triangulate the replies. So, not all supposed "GPS" devices are passive GPS signal receivers (and some of those use active antennas).


Don't have an account? Register now (free) for customized features, flight alerts, and more!