Pilots are becoming social media stars from their very unique office view photos, How to do this safely & LEGALLY.
BY Aubrey Warrick
DISCLAIMER: The information provided below is strictly my opinion and interpretation and does not take place of any regulatory rule. It is at your own discretion, what you do with the knowledge provided.
Now that Collecting Copilots is off to a solid start, I have had requests for in-flight photos and videos. The aviation geek in me needs to make sure I stay within legal and safe limits of capturing our very unique and awe-inspiring habitat; the flight deck. First lets break down a few FAA regulations:
PART 91 FLIGHT RULES (GENERAL AVIATION | THIS IS WHAT I FLY UNDER)
There is 14 CFR 91.21 which forbids use of portable electronic devices (PED's) on either IFR flights or flights operated under an operating certificate BUT it exempts devices that have been determined not to interfere with systems by either the certificate holder or, in part 91, by the PIC. You are OK VFR and in IFR if you aren't using anything that causes interference. (Theres more to this, being a personal and legal statement, continue reading.)
PART 121 FLIGHT RULES (THESE ARE THE AIRLINE RULES)
However under 121 there is 121.542 which is much more strict and forbids any nonessential activity during critical phases of flight (i.e. Ground movement and flight below 10,000 feet). The latter is what seems to be cited when folks online discuss sterile cockpit.
In 2014, the FAA issued a Final Rule that restricts Part 121 (airline) pilots from operating any electronic devices for personal use during flight operations. The rules states that pilots are only allowed to use company-issued devices for tasks that are directly related to the operation of the flight, for safety-related purposes or for company communications. But this rule does not apply to Part 135 or Part 91 operations.
General aviation pilots are allowed to use cell phones and iPads during flight, for which most of us are grateful. After all, where would we be without ForeFlight? And how convenient is it to use our phone to call for a clearance instead of relying on an RCO? And, of course, it's nice to be able to capture a beautiful sunset on camera every now and then.
Quartz issued a really good article (you can access it here) and paired with the FAA to create a flow chart which makes for an easy visual aid to determine if how you are wanting to record is legal. Its all about HOW you prepare to snap photos or videos. Sorry 121 folks, this is where I break away from your very strict rules and speak to general aviation only.
Even when flying under part 91 rules, I exercise a sterile cockpit on take off and landing as part of my own personal demand. Recording a flight can deem useful in training and critiquing your cockpit flow, checklist use, and capturing some amazing footage to be edited later. If you use an FAA approved mount and a camera that does not interfere with your avionics, turn it on, set it and forget it. You may run out of battery if its a long cross country but DON'T FIDDLE WITH IT. You can play with your videos/photos safely on the ground later.
Keep in mind that being legal does not mean you're being safe. If you are in doubt about your actions, talk to the FAA.
AVIATION PHOTO TIPS
- Review the regulations for your area and for your type of flight being conducted
- Leave the "Selfies" on the ground, while aircraft is not in operation
- Photoshop can be more fun and safe to play with post legal recording
- invest in an FAA approved camera mount
- confirm your camera of choice does not interfere with avionics
- Be mindful of tail numbers. If its not your plane, then protect the owners identity
- Don't post your location in "real time". Again, protect yourself and whomever is flying with you
- Be prepared for lash-back or not getting that airline job because of what your social media divulges
- SAFETY FIRST. If the camera is going to distract you at any portion of your flight, just don't do it