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FAA Says No More Minesweeper Or Solitaire In Cockpit

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the keep-your-eyes-on-the-skies dept.

Transportation 342

If you like to pass the time playing minesweeper, or checking your Facebook updates while piloting a 900,000-pound aircraft 400 mph, you won't like the latest FAA decision. The agency has asked airlines to create policies to minimize cockpit distractions, including pilots' use of personal electronic devices. "There is no room for distraction when your job is to get people safely to their destinations," said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. "The traveling public expects professional pilots to focus on flying and on safety at all times."

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Minesweeper (5, Funny)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016822)

Should that have been caught when going through security at the airport? I mean, at a minimum, we're talking 10 bombs here...

Re:Minesweeper (3, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017428)

Yeah, the pilots should go back to bangin' the steward/ess from First Class...

MFS (4, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016862)

Does the ban apply to Microsoft Flight Simulator?

Re:MFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017340)

Does the ban apply to Microsoft Flight Simulator?

No, just the FAA certified version of X-Plane.

http://www.x-plane.com/

Re:MFS (3, Funny)

LunarEffect (1309467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017364)

Excuse me memeing, but...

Yo dawg, we heard you like flying so we put a cockpit in your cockpit so you can fly while you fly! :D

They need something to do (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32016876)

"focus on flying and on safety at all times" is staring at a big blue sky of nothing for hours on end. That will put anyone to sleep. Let them keep their minds doing something, who really cares what they do.

Re:They need something to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32016934)

Thats easy, they'll do what they already do.... surf pr0n

Re:They need something to do (4, Informative)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017332)

no, that's the SEC

Autopilot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32016970)

Perhaps the FAA is unaware of this new fangled autopilot technology. Heck, some of the larger planes will even land themselves.

Re:They need something to do (1)

Message (303377) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016974)

I care. I don't want them just staring at the big blue sky, I also want them focused on all of those blinky lights and widgets. Autopilots aren't infallible.

Re:They need something to do (4, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017114)

Not only have autopilots worked incredibly well in the past, with a high success rate, but the idea is to keep Pilots awake by letting them exercise their mind while in flight.

Staring at the same blinky lights and widgets all day is going to be about the same as staring at the same blank blue sky.

A game of solitaire and Minesweeper shouldn't be that big an issue. Its like 10 minutes. If there was a catastrophic failure in that time there are systems in place to warn the pilots, like buzzers and alarms and warning sounds.

When was the last time we had an airliner NOT get people safely to its destination based solely on a Pilot being distracted?

Re:They need something to do (4, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017266)

When was the last time we had an airliner NOT get people safely to its destination based solely on a Pilot being distracted?

Well, ultimately they did arrive safely, but there were those guys who overshot an entire city last year [cnn.com] because they weren't paying attention.

That might have something to do with trying to crack down on the number of possible distractions in the cockpit. I mean, getting immersed in some piece of software and not realizing you're a half hour late in your descent and that you've overshot by 150 miles or so -- that's not the kind of thing passengers want happening.

Re:They need something to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017570)

I'd say that that is the extreme case. It wasn't just a distraction, but a completely new focus. If I recall correctly, they were watching a movie and apparently had their radio off or at least in a state they couldn't hear it. To me, that was the main issue, not that a movie was going on, but that they placed themselves in a state that they could not react to a necessary alert.

Re:They need something to do (2, Interesting)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017218)

So long as one of the pilots is actively engaged in monitoring, why can't the other do something less intensive? The work load is only high enough to really warrant 2 pilots when they are close to the ground (under about 18,000 feet, so during takeoff, climb, late decent and landing). During cruise, I'd rather have them not focus, so they can remain rested for when their attention is really needed. When you have pilots who fly for 8 hours over a 12 hour day with no lunch and nothing more than a bathroom break, playing mine sweeper is the least of my worries. So by this rational, are they going to ban eating in the cockpit as well? What about going to the bath room? Like anything, there will be abusers, but for the vast majority of cases, distractions may actually promote safety by letting pilots get some much needed mental rest (so long as only one pilot is distracted at a time)...

Re:They need something to do (5, Funny)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017308)

Pilot: "I spy, with my little eye, something white and fluffy."

Copilot: "A cloud. Ok, my turn. I spy, with my little eye, something white and fluffy."

Pilot: "Another cloud. Alright, I spy..."

Re:They need something to do (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017622)

Bravo, sir. I wish I had mod points today.

Re:They need something to do (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017342)

In addition to the other points above, there are nearly always at least two, and in larger planes often more people, in the cockpit certified to fly the plane. On a 6 hour transcontinental flight, I'd like to think that they're switching off on the "watching blinky lights and widgets" duty. I know how well I can pay attention to blinky lights and widgets for 6 straight hours, and lemme tell ya... it's not all that well. I've been known to zone out watching a three minute install progress bar.

Re:They need something to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017444)

I care. I don't want them just staring at the big blue sky, I also want them focused on all of those blinky lights and widgets. Autopilots aren't infallible.

Ha! I initially read this as "Autopilots aren't inflatable."
Haven't you seen Airplane?!

Re:They need something to do (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016978)

That will put anyone to sleep.

Not so much. If someone is bored to sleep by this, they have no business piloting jumbo jets. If they do start to get drowsy, let the copilot take the controls for a few minutes (that's what they're for) and splash some water on your face.

Re:They need something to do (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017024)

My thoughts exactly. After take-off they turn on the autopilot and there's not much to do until landing. It would put anybody to sleep, which isn't good if something should suddenly happen. Maybe they should alter the rules so that at least one of the pilot / co-pilot has to be paying attention at all times, or at least ease the ban for very long flights.

Re:They need something to do (2, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017282)

The B-2 crews get to switch off with one sitting in a lawn chair behind the seats napping or listening to music, why are the commercial flights any different?

Re:They need something to do (4, Interesting)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017310)

My thoughts exactly. After take-off they turn on the autopilot and there's not much to do until landing. It would put anybody to sleep, which isn't good if something should suddenly happen. Maybe they should alter the rules so that at least one of the pilot / co-pilot has to be paying attention at all times, or at least ease the ban for very long flights.

As I wrote/asked in another reply... where are the people dying from these supposed distracted pilots? I've yet to hear about them.

I have not seen a need for this law. The reason I'm replying to you specifically is that your approach has an implicit degree of acceptance to there being a need; can you give me evidence of this need? I just want to see some form of proof that we need this law/rule/ban in any shape or form.

Re:They need something to do (2, Insightful)

Da_Biz (267075) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017496)

I just want to see some form of proof that we need this law/rule/ban in any shape or form.

Before planes, let's start with a form of transportation that A) kills far more people than flying and B) has demonstrated clear and present dangers related to distration.

Please join me in banning ALL forms of distraction in your automobile, including talk radio, music, the bobble hula-girl you've got on your dash and, above all, naughty children.

Re:They need something to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017650)

As I wrote/asked in another reply... where are the people dying from these supposed distracted pilots? I've yet to hear about them.

There were those pilots that overshot their destination by an hour because they were in a mandatory training session that they had to do on the airplane because the company would not schedule any other paid time for them to do it.

Re:They need something to do (1)

codegen (103601) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017680)

In modern aircraft they don't even wait for takeoff. The autopilot even handles the takeoff now.

Re:They need something to do (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017026)

While our plane doesn't go nearly as fast (~120mph at cruise), we've still had plenty of moments of acute boredom. Try flying through airspace with next to no traffic on a clear day. Even without cruise control, flying straight and level with no turbulence takes almost no concentration. One time, we were the only plane flying through that center's territory at the time, so the only radio communication was when we first arrived into the airspace, and when we were handed off into the next. Add in two pilots, and an autopilot into that situation, and there's no way that it could possibly be healthy for both of them to be spending full time doing flight related tasks (There's simply nothing to do).

Re:They need something to do (5, Interesting)

raddan (519638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017132)

My thoughts exactly. If the FAA is going to ban things that keep pilots awake, they need to offer an alternative. Maybe 900,000 lb aircraft should come with games built-in? Something that turns itself off during critical moments. Seriously, did they do a study before they made this ruling?

I have a lot more faith that a seasoned pilot playing minesweeper knows what he's doing than I do in some lawsuit-averse bureaucrat. That pilot is fully aware that errors will result in not just the deaths of everyone on board, but of himself too.

Re:They need something to do (2, Informative)

Kpau (621891) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017154)

The problem with this ruling is that it doesn't address what those two pilots were doing --- trying to figure out the latest "point-headed boss FUD corporate BS" that was being hoisted on them. They weren't "playing Minesweeper" they were doing company work... kind of like the long-haul truckers expected to spend ridiculous times driving and yet still do all the corporate BS so they do it while driving.

Re:They need something to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017484)

Orrrrrrr They both dozed off, and upon waking up (being the only two who would ever possibly know what just happened) they conspired a story that makes it sound like they weren't at fault and simply victims in the situation.

Re:They need something to do (3, Interesting)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017224)

"focus on flying and on safety at all times" is staring at a big blue sky of nothing for hours on end. That will put anyone to sleep. Let them keep their minds doing something, who really cares what they do.

What you wrote relates to something I was thinking about this... I realize they must pay attention and that lives are at stake... and I understand the purpose of what they are trying to do here. But what I don't see is any evidence that we have distracted pilots resulting in death to travelers...

I have yet to hear of a single incident where some distracted pilot crashed and killed people. And so I am forced to ask if this ban/rule ACTUALLY makes any sense. In theory it seems good; but if nobody is actually dying from distracted pilots, wtf? Really.

Re:They need something to do (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017510)

I have yet to hear of a single incident where some distracted pilot crashed and killed people. And so I am forced to ask if this ban/rule ACTUALLY makes any sense. In theory it seems good; but if nobody is actually dying from distracted pilots, wtf? Really.

Sometimes you regulate before people die.

In this case, the alarmingly distracted pilots last year who way overshot their destination point out how a distracted pilot could cause some serious problems -- up to and including death on a big scale.

As I recall, they couldn't even be hailed because they simply weren't paying attention -- " During that time, air traffic controllers and the airline's dispatchers made numerous efforts to contact the plane by radio and through text messaging devices." [cnn.com] If you're so distracted you can't be reached by radio in the cockpit, something needs to be remedied.

I understand the pilots need to keep their brain engaged on something so they don't doze off, but they can't get so engaged as to lose track of what they're doing.

Re:They need something to do (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017560)

but if nobody is actually dying from distracted pilots, wtf? Really.

Another respondent has already mentioned a commercial flight that overshot its destination not so long ago; maybe the idea is to prevent cases where pilots keep snoozing until their plane runs out of petrol. That might spoil your day if you were on such a flight.

Re:They need something to do (1)

m0i (192134) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017618)

No deaths, but from TFA
Last October the pilots of Northwest 188 over-flew their destination by 150 miles because they were using their laptop computers for personal activities and lost situational awareness.
which is quite serious IMHO

Re:They need something to do (1)

drbrooks (669763) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017234)

Don't forget the legitimate things that they can do during these long flights. Like studing the latest changes to the regulations, the latest company policies, etc. Most of these things are now available in digital form, so now what are they supposed to do? Print them out and scatter the pages throughout the cockpit?

Re:They need something to do (1)

CaptKeen (92992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017358)

Don't forget the legitimate things that they can do during these long flights. Like studing the latest changes to the regulations, the latest company policies, etc. Most of these things are now available in digital form, so now what are they supposed to do? Print them out and scatter the pages throughout the cockpit?

This, I think, was the problem that has generated this rule change. Two pilots for Northwest (now Delta) were discussing the changes in policy around scheduling and flight regulations. One of the pilots had brought out the laptop to go over the new system with the other; they had the auto-pilot on. They then proceeded to overshoot their destination and missed numerous calls from the control towers and the flight crew because they were too engrossed in studying the new applications / changes to the rules. The flight finally got turned around when a flight attendant knocked on the door to get their attention and asked 'Weren't we supposed to land 5 minutes ago'? The pilots then turned the plane AROUND and flew back X miles (like 150?) to land.

Re:They need something to do (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017712)

Print them out and scatter the pages throughout the cockpit?

One thing that struck me while waiting (and waiting...) to board a long-delayed flight last week was how confined is the space that many pilots have to work in (though presumably with more legroom than us mugs have in cattle-class). That alone would (I assume) make the cockpit a stuffy place that would probably send me to sleep.

Re:They need something to do (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017298)

Yeah, looking down at your little screen instead of out there where there might be passing birds that fly into your engines is really something i want them to have permission to do....instead they should just suck it up as they are paid enormous amounts of money to do absolutely nothing for the length of the trip...i think it should speak for itself....

Re:They need something to do (3, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017688)

Yeah, looking down at your little screen instead of out there where there might be passing birds that fly into your engines

Yeah, I've often worried about all those birds at 36,000 feet while in the cruise portion of my flights....

Training (1)

quercus.aeternam (1174283) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017334)

Why don't they do flight simulations? They could practice flying a plane, while flying a plane!

I'm all for letting pilots practice emergency scenarios - or even routine scenarios. They might even re-route the regular flight controls to the simulator as long as switching back control is fast and clear.

Re:They need something to do (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017362)

They can clean their handguns.

Re:They need something to do (5, Funny)

somejeff (825047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017462)

Cap't Crunch: "I spy... with my little eye.... something that iiiiissss... square."
Co-Cap't Palm Pilot: "Is it the APU Generator 1 Bus Tie Isolation Button?"

Re:They need something to do (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017502)

On planes with fly-by-wire, they should use HUD and the [disconnected] controls to operate a flight simulator. Let 'em practice landing when they have nothing else to do. If some wind speed sensors were mounted around the runways you could send that data to the system (along with weather information) as well.

Here's an example (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017656)

Stare at this picture for 9 hours: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14584559@N03/4502059275/ [flickr.com]

Every hour or so, say "position report"

Congratulations, you have experienced what a pilot encounters for the majority of a transatlantic flight. If you're ambitious, you can even fake some cockpit announcements.

Talk and Fly (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32016884)

Can we please ban them for talking to the traffic control centre too? Just like we're banning cellphone use in cars?

Thanks.

Far Side (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016892)

Reminds me of the classic showing two pilots asking aloud "say...what's a mountain goat doing way up here in a cloud bank?". We could add (before this ruling) "sweet! I just beat your high score on Minesweeper.".

Re:Far Side (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017366)

    Kind of reminds me of the coloring book scene in Air America. :)

Who is surprised by this? (2, Insightful)

Message (303377) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016902)

With the ban on texting and cell phone use with out a handsfree device for public transportation and the trucking industry, who finds this surprising? I'm only surprised that this wasn't already banned.

Re:Who is surprised by this? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017176)

I'm fairly sure it was already banned in concept, just like text messaging for motor vehicles.

    You are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle while distracted. Reading and sending texts is a distraction. No new laws were required, the existing laws simply needed to be applied.

    The same applied to aircraft, known as the Sterile Cockpit rule. It explicitly stated activities under 10k feet, but other rules apply, and any pilot would know that they are in control of their aircraft and must maintain the safety and security of their aircraft.

Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
PART 91--GENERAL OPERATING AND FLIGHT RULES
  91.13 Careless or reckless operation.

(a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

(b) Aircraft operations other than for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft, other than for the purpose of air navigation, on any part of the surface of an airport used by aircraft for air commerce (including areas used by those aircraft for receiving or discharging persons or cargo), in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

    So, if the flight crew are playing with their laptops, and not listening to ATC, nor paying attention to their flight, they are in violation. There's no need for extra rules, other than to make it abundantly clear that they are suppose to be flying the plane.

Boredom (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016912)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't modern airliners basically fly themselves once they're at cruising altitude? What are these pilots supposed to do, stare at the unchanging instruments for hours until their eyes glaze over and they pass out? Checking every gauge on the instrument panel every 5 seconds for 8 hours during a transoceanic flight might sound exciting to most of us, but I bet it isn't as great as it's cracked up to be.

Re:Boredom (2, Funny)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016962)

The pilot's job is the feed the dog. The dog's job is to stop the pilot from touching the controls.

Re:Boredom (2, Insightful)

Arcaeris (311424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017006)

You are correct. The plane largely takes care of itself, except for emergency situations. These new rules will create a lot of very bored pilots.

We're already quite a step up from the days of porn magazines littering passenger aircraft cockpits. Now you can't even have digital porn either.

Re:Boredom (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017036)

On the bright side, it saves the airlines the cost of cleaning the sticky mess off of the controls after every flight.

Re:Boredom (1)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017040)

Yup. It's like being a long distance truck driver, except without the steering wheel and rest stop hookers. Not to mention that mechanical failures are harder to tend with when you can't just pull over to the side of the road.

Re:Boredom (4, Insightful)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017086)

Exactly. This idea is superficially appealing, but doesn't recognize the reality of what a lot of modern piloting is like. It reeks of being an overreaction to the recent -- but extremely rare -- incident of pilots being so caught up in a distraction that they overshot their destination. This was an isolated incident of irresponsible -- and PAIRED -- pilots, who turned off many of the countermeasures that are supposed to prevent such a disconnect.

I am not a pilot, but realistically, I would think that pilots need to keep their minds engaged, even if it's not something related to flying the aircraft itself. It seems more harmful to *force* them to be bored, increasing the probability of e.g. falling asleep or "zoning out".

I can't accept that this was a reasoned decision by intelligent, safety-oriented professionals, rather than a directive from politicians above.

Counter-intuitive results (3, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017168)

How many of us have been berated for doodling while listening to a lecture in class? It's something that's oft criticized, and yet recent evidence has shown that doodling helps us pay attention by managing boredom [time.com] . This counter-intuitive result makes it clear that what's really going on isn't always obvious.

I'm not going so far as to say that dickering on a netbook is a good idea when flying a commercial aircraft, but I will say that we should do some kind of study of the real effects of such "distractions" on real-world metrics like accident history, etc. We may well find that "distractions" result in better-qualified pilots remaining on the job rather than moving on elsewhere, and a subsequently reduced accident rate, even if individual pilot performance is somewhat reduced.

While phrases like "900,000 pound aircraft at 400 MPH" sound dramatic, the truth is that the aircraft are almost universally on auto-pilot, are flying somewhere above 30,000 feet, and are being monitored by RADAR at all times, so that any close calls cause planes to be diverted. And a "close call" is anything under 3 MILES of horizontal separation, and 1000 feet of vertical separation, so we aren't talking about a situation where you would even SEE the other aircraft without knowing exactly what direction to look for it.

Statistically speaking, it's safer to fly on a commercial airliner than it is to VISIT a family member in a hospital!

Re:Boredom (2, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017528)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't modern airliners basically fly themselves once they're at cruising altitude?

Well, if by that, you mean the pilots don't need to flap their arms like wings, yes, correct.

I never did the ATP thing, but talked to a lot of instructors, etc. A friend of mine did the ATP thing for awhile, but I never asked him much about it. In practice, you spend most of your time balancing and prioritizing four tasks in addition to flying the plane.

1) There is no such thing as a flawless plane. Something is always acting up. That's why you have triple/quad redundancy on everything. Every flight you get to write up a report for the mechanics ranging from "paint scuffed on wall behind coffee maker" all the way up to "excessive smoke from engine #2". Also you get the joyous task of baby sitting all currently unfixed problems. Is, in fact, the fridge temperature steadily 3 degree too high, or is it increasing, decreasing, what? Exactly how much cabin air leakage is acceptable? So, side job #1, aircraft nurse.

2) Your bosses, ATC and HQ, love status updates. Basically your two bosses like to say hi. Often. They just wonder where you are, hows it going, whats new dude, why aren't you working harder, etc. Often HQ will ask you to do non-pilot tasks while you're flying; dude could you go over that new laptop driven timesheet application with your coworker in your immense spare time? Over water you talk somewhat more often just in case you fall out of the sky. Over land, you'll get constantly rerouted by ATC. ATC likes you to switch frequencies all the time. So job #2 get bossed around.

3) Fight the power. Believe it or not, weather changes. Those thunderstorms move all over, avoid them. Icing levels? Always changing. Winds shift. Wind shear.. shears. Meanwhile, your plane at your load of fuel and cargo is most efficient at this temperature when flying at 350 knots indicated and flight level 350, but ATC wants you to temporarily reroute to a different alt and speed. And you'll have to bug them to adjust back, and figure out a plan to make up for lost time. Meanwhile the boss wants you to arrive on time, ATC be damned, and also burn less of that expensive fuel, and while you're taking requests, how about magically making all the turbulence go away. That's what I mean by "fight the power" its you, maybe with a copilot buddy, against the whole freaking world. Once in a while, you get a smooth blue sky flight in empty skies and everything is on time and nothing unplanned happens, but only once in a while...

4) Customer service. The passenger in seat 54 is an arrogant jack*ss do I have permission to throw him out the escape hatch? Passenger 23 is irate because last time he flew, the other airline lost his baggage and wants to know what you're going to do about that. Passenger 87 says his lunch is no good and wants a refund. Usually the attendants take care of most of this, unless its escalated, in which case you step in the middle of a bad situation. Kind of like a cop at a domestic disturbance call.

Not a lot to do on many flights... (4, Insightful)

PatHMV (701344) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016916)

Look, for most flights, there's just not a lot to do in between take-off and landing. What are the pilot and co-pilot supposed to do on long flights, where the auto-pilot is doing everything for several long hours, just sit there and stare into space? I'd rather they be keeping their minds awake and alert by playing a video game than getting bored and dozing off. What's next, will they ban reading and talking to each other in flight, too? I'm all for regulations about what they can and can't do just before, during, and after take-off and landing, but this categorical ban seems like good politics but bad policy.

Re:Not a lot to do on many flights... (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017230)

you would rather they be doing something to keep them occupied because you understand the risks of a bored pilot. General public doesn't. These rules are to satisfy them. A lot of them are probably wondering why this hasn't been taken care of already.

I tagged this "aww" (1, Redundant)

chocapix (1595613) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016924)

I tagged this "aww".

Cockpit Boredom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32016966)

10 - 12 hrs in a cockpit of an airbus or boeing plane - that for all practical purposes flies itself once at the cruising altitude can kill people with boredom. I agree that pilots cant fall asleep - but without any distractions, including games, I think the pilots will go crazy.....

I think pilots should be allowed to work with their laptops etc., but maybe have a camera in the cockpit to make sure they dont fall asleep, and mandate that headphones should be on. This would prevent stuff like pilots overflying airports.

But give the pilots a break - flying, day in and day out - is not fun!!!

Re:Cockpit Boredom (1)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017078)

This isn't realy about 10 to 12 hour flights. This is the FAA telling American pilots to not over shoot Minnesota again.
"Put the fucking game boy down and fly the plane"
not so much to ask.
nobody said your job would be fun.

Re:Cockpit Boredom (1)

Kleppy (1671116) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017356)

I always wondered who kept getting my ass handed to me in PokeMon Diamond (for DS) and the Pilots giggled as I walked past them and off the plane.

I'm always bored as hell sitting on a plane. No movie, no food and the fat guy next to me taking up two seats who smalls awful. I need something to do, I can only imagine how boring and mundane that must be in the cockpit. At least find a way to get the flight stick to work with MechWarrior 3 for them!

Re:Cockpit Boredom (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017130)

They managed before. They should be able to manage it still.

Re:Cockpit Boredom (1)

jimthehorsegod (1210220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017706)

But give the pilots a wage - flying, day in and day out - is not fun!!!

Seems a much more reasonable suggestion. No, it's not fun - but it is being a pilot, and that's what they do. Frankly I'm not sure they'd enjoy my job (I'm not sure I do) buy, y'know, c'est la vie...

Checking your facebook status? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016982)

Over what network connection? Use of devices that transmit on an airplane is forbidden by FAA regulations. Surfing the web is out of the question; they have to rely on the porn they have cached on their hard drive.

Re:Checking your facebook status? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017194)

Re:Checking your facebook status? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017256)

This isn't exactly true. According to part 91.21 [faa.gov] of the federal aviation regulations, governing the use of portable electronic devices, these devices are forbidden on aircraft being operated by an air carrier or any aircraft under IFR. However, there are a few specific devices which are explicitly allowed, as well as a blanket exception for any PED the aircraft operator has determined will not cause interference with navigation or communications systems on that aircraft. This means that the airline or pilot is allowed to permit the use of any particular device they choose.

And they should, after all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32016990)

they're being paid close to minimum wage.

Remember Capt. Sully retired due to pay cuts.

Do you trust your life in the hands of a pilot working for $10/hr. Yes, I know min wage is $7.15, but in the good old days a pilot could support a wife and a mistress, and sometimes child support as well.

Check Facebook? (1)

areusche (1297613) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016994)

How in the world are pilots supposed to check facebook while flying? I can never get a signal while up in the air.

Re:Check Facebook? (2, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017126)

They use one of those Pringles can antennae, except instead of a Pringles can they use the fuselage of the aircraft. It's not difficult, the trick is attaching your laptop to the outer metal skin of the airplane. You can do it yourself, you just need to take a power drill or something of that nature on to the plane...don't worry, just explain to the security guys what it's for, they'll be okay with it.

Possible Strike? (1)

Demodian (658895) | more than 4 years ago | (#32016998)

Will having to do their jobs be yet another reason for the pilots' union to strike? They have enough to worry about flying the plane safely. Dealing with their on-line profiles or playing computer games is not a responsible thing to do while in the plane cockpit.

Re:Possible Strike? (1)

boneclinkz (1284458) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017108)

They get paid about as much as a McDonalds restaurant manager.

Re:Possible Strike? (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017186)

They get paid about as much as a McDonalds restaurant manager.

Or much less. In many cases the person who cleans your plane after a flight is paid considerably more than the person who just flew your plane to its destination. I kid you not.

Posting while Flying (1)

0101000001001010 (466440) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017050)

I cannot wait for the first comment along the following lines:

"Yep, flying a jumbo at 20000 feet right now.

Posted from my iPad."

Re:Posting while Flying (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017262)

I got one from my cousin (who flies for a Major), "41000 mach .88 Posted from my Blackberry" texted to me once

So the FAA doesn't read about these things first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017074)

Hinton Train Collision [wikipedia.org]

One possible interpretation of that train disaster is "Boring work environments make people fall asleep while working after disabling safety mechanisms as necessary to let them do so". Since, with autopilot engaged, there are no mechanisms that require the pilot to be awake, the pilots can fall asleep without anyone noticing...

Smart. Real smart.

Yeah me too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017082)

I rather have a sleeping pilot than a distracted one. Remember folks, the bigger the organization the least likely it is they make decisions for the common good, unless that somehow collides with the big picture.

Really!! (1)

DWRECK18 (1796294) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017112)

Ok I am going to go with GOOD! Honestly I would rather have them paying attention to what they are doing. They chose the job of flying planes and regardless of whether or not theres autopilot I want them paying attention. The have a copilot so if they need to take a break to get some coffee or hit the head they can. But really they shouldn't be occupying themselves with facebook or anything of the sort. I want to be SAFE...maybe this could be a reason for some of the crashes where people say well "its unexplained" as of right now.

I predict really long toilet breaks... (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017148)

They'll be getting that minesweeper time on their iphone while dropping some "air mail" in brown packages.

they should ban auto-pilot also (1)

a2wflc (705508) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017152)

Otherwise pilots will end up falling asleep or finding something to do with the flight attendants that will most likely be more dangerous than playing minesweeper. They aren't supposed to be doing those either, but if I'm going to break the rules it won't be by playing minesweeper.

"focus on flying and safety" does not require staring at warning lights until they start blinking. It requires keeping your mind alert and being physical able to react when the lights blink and the alarm sounds.

Next thing you know we won't be able to... (1)

Orga (1720130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017164)

play minesweeper or solitaire while compiling the code for the autopilots. Next stop.. no bugs in software!

Integration of games into flight control systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017166)

There are plenty of high resolution displays in modern aircraft why not just repurpose some of them for playing video games during the cruise phase of a long flight.

If the plane starts to crash the plane would automatically pause the game and present a dialouge to the pilot "The plane is crashing, please do something about it or you'll die without ever having finished your game"

translated for international slashdot visitors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017182)

If you like to pass the time playing minesweeper, or checking your Facebook updates while piloting a 408000 kg aircraft 644 km/h, you won't like the latest FAA decision. The agency has asked airlines to create policies to minimize cockpit distractions, including pilots' use of personal electronic devices. "There is no room for distraction when your job is to get people safely to their destinations," said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. "The traveling public expects professional pilots to focus on flying and on safety at all times."

temporary fix (1)

archangel9 (1499897) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017202)

This will be a completely moot point when SKYNET becomes self aware.

Oh my God.. (1)

arcanumas (646807) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017208)

The *last* thing we need is bored pilots: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hh_shsRfXqk [youtube.com] (monty python video)

Re:Oh my God.. (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017442)

Full attribution, while it's the Monty Python troupe, it's actually from John Cleese's How to Irritate People.

On a positive note (1)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017220)

At least they haven't banned pilots from joining the mile high club....

You Mean The 410 Club (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017426)

described Flight 3701 [wikipedia.org] :

The two pilots were exploiting the performance of the empty CRJ-200 on the ferry flight. The pilots decided to test the limits of the CRJ, and join the "410 Club," referring to pilots who pushed CRJs to their maximum approved altitude of Flight Level 410 (41,000 feet).

The incident started when the pilots performed several non-standard maneuvers at 15,000 feet, including a pitch-up at 2.3g (23 m/s) that induced a stall warning. They set the autopilot to climb at 500 ft/min to FL410. This exceeded the manufacturer's recommended climb rate at altitudes above FL380. In the attempt to reach FL410, the plane was pulled up at over 1.2g, and the angle of attack became excessive to maintain climb rate in the thinner upper atmosphere. After reaching FL410, the plane was cruising at 150 knots (280 km/h), barely above stall speed, and had over-stressed the engines.

The anti-stall devices activated while they were at altitude, but the pilots overrode the automatic nose-down that would increase speed to prevent stall. After four overrides, both engines experienced flameout and shut down. The plane then stalled, and the pilots recovered from the stall at FL380 while still having no engines. At that altitude, there were six airports within reach for a forced landing. This led the pilots to pitch nose down in an attempt to restart the engines, which requires a dive sharp enough to attain the required 300 kt for a windmill restart to make the blades in the turbines windmill at 10% N2. The captain did not take the necessary steps to ensure that the first officer achieved the 300-knot or greater airspeed required for the windmill engine restart procedure and then did not demonstrate command authority by taking control of the airplane and accelerating it to at least 300 knots.

However, the turbine blades expanded contacting the honeycomb labyrinth seals allowing the metal to scrape on each other when the engine overheated with zero core rotation. When the engine is shutdown at altitude, the core begins to cool and the stator, including the static Interstage Static Seal (ISS), contracts at a faster rate than the adjacent rotating parts in both the radial and axial direction because of its faster thermal time constant. The relative rate of cooling of the stator and rotor results in an alignment of the rotating seal knife-edges aft of the normal operating groove in the static seal. If the clearances are tight enough and the relative cooling rates are right, contact can occur between the static and rotating seal elements. The resulting stiction can temporarily prevent the rotor from turning when only the force of ram air is applied to the core. Air turbine starter (ATS) torque has been shown adequate to overcome this stiction.NTSB Accident Information Brief Update for October 29, 2004 Thus, when the engine cooled, the assembly did not match anymore and the blades could not rotate freely. The crew ended the descent when they had reached 230 kt but neither engine core (N2) ever indicated any rotation during the entire descent. Since they were too high for an APU start, the ram air turbine (known as an "Air Driven Generator" on Bombardier products) was deployed to power the aircraft, and the crew donned oxygen masks as the cabin slowly depressurized due to loss of pressurization air from the engines.

The crew glided for several minutes. The crew then tried to restart engines using the APU at 13,000 ft. This was again unsuccessful. They then declared to Air Traffic Control (ATC) that they had a single engine flameout. At this point they had four diversion airports available to them. After continuing unsuccessfully to attempt to restart both the left engine (two times) and the right engine (two times) for over 14 minutes, while utilizing the emergency restart procedure, much altitude was lost. Despite their four auxiliary power unit-assisted engine restart attempts, the pilots were unable to restart the engines because their cores had locked. Without core rotation, recovery from the double engine failure was not possible. It was after these unsuccessful attempts that they declared to ATC that they had in fact lost both engines.

Unable to reach the assigned diversion airport, Jefferson City Memorial Airport, they crashed six minutes later outside Jefferson City, Missouri, behind a row of houses (the 600 block of Hutton Lane — two-and-a-half miles short of the airport), and the plane caught fire. Both pilots were killed. There was some damage to houses and a garage, but no one on the ground was hurt.

Yours In Edmonton,
Nick Haflinger

Re:You Mean The 410 Club (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017504)

No, the Mile High Club [wikipedia.org]

I support this ban (1)

Fdisk81 (833349) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017296)

Nintendo DSs are still cool though, right?

Typical Government Over-Regulation. (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017314)

Obviously, the free market could've fixed this problem better. The planes that are piloted by minesweeper-playing pilots would crash, leading to less people flying that particular airline.

I mean, you'd have to have a few thousand deaths or so first, but you do have to break a few eggs to make an omelet

Re:Typical Government Over-Regulation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017672)

yes. that's right. Because before now, since it's been perfectly OK to play minesweeper, we've seen all these crashes, this regulation is just absolutely necessary to keep everybody safe.

How do you even get up in the morning? I guess you must wait until your government tells you it's all safe outside.

Shiny (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017328)

All work and no play makes Jack a dull pilot

Enforcment (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017370)

They can pass any laws they want, but who enforces them?
I might be wrong here, but at least for the majority of flights are the pilots the highest ranking people on the plane? and I doubt that a stewardess will go so far as to report a pilot.

Textbook example of unintended consequences? (1)

gblues (90260) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017412)

This is obviously coming along with the increased focus on removing distractions from driving (cell phones, texting, DVDs, etc). The problem is that flying a plane has almost nothing in common with driving a car, beyond some rudimentary instrumentation similarities and the overall goal of getting from point A to point B. The skies are not crowded like a freeway--a pilot doesn't have to worry about the plane next to him cutting him off on the way to LAX, because there is no plane next to him--flight paths are planned well in advance. The pilot only has to worry about situations that can't be handled by auto pilot, like mechanical failure or turbulence.

So, in other words, the FAA is saying, "We want you to give your full attention to flying, but you can't do anything to keep yourself awake." I don't care how much sleep you get, a 17+ hour trans-Atlantic flight with nothing to do but check your instrumentation is going to bore you to sleep. In trying to improve flight safety, this is going to have the opposite effect.

We could pay pilots more than fast food workers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32017440)

Seriously, most pilots start at a disgustingly low salary and stay there. There's a disproportionate amount of them that receive government assistance, such as food stamps. Starting at 17k/year in some companies, they make less than an assistant manager at Jack in the Box.

Yeah, I want that guy flying my aircraft even more depressed about his job.

Yea for deregulation!

Let me be the first to say... (1)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017500)

...metric, please.

It's SO boring! (5, Insightful)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017558)

I am currently doing flight training to a commercial pilot level. One of the things I do as a skills practice is fly on MS Flight Simulator using the VATSIM (Virtual Air Traffic Simulation) network - http://www.vatsim.net/ [vatsim.net] - and I routinely fly transoceanic flights. We fly with real airline callsigns, following real aircraft routes and timetables. The instrumentation and controls are (for the most part) the same as the real thing. The Flight Management Computers in the simulated planes are exactly the same as the real thing. If you have good equipment, the hands-on controls are almost the same. It's a fun way to pass the time and keep skills up to date...BUT:

It's so boring! Here is an example of what I look at for 9 hours without touching anything: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14584559@N03/4502059275/ [flickr.com]

When you've got 9+ hours of looking at nothing, and you only have to make radio contact once an hour (North Atlantic Track position reports) there is actually nothing to do. At most, you scan the instruments every couple minutes. Even on the flight sim, I usually resort to what we call "In-flight Movies" which is essentially pull up Hulu and watch something until we next have to change the aircraft controls, which is usually when leaving land or making landfall on the other side.

You have a cruising altitude which is held by a computer, and a heading which follows a little line on your on-board GPS, and a speed which is usually also controlled by a computer(or if not, it's setting a lever to a certain position and leaving it there). There is literally NOTHING for the pilot to do if they can't have some sort of distraction. Some real-world pilots I have flown with read a newspaper or magazine, some play with a Game Boy, DS, PSP, etc Some get up and walk through the passenger cabin just like a "How are you, how's it going?" sort of thing. Almost like a chef in a restaurant would come out to the dining area and ask how people's food is.

On top of the endless boredom, they don't get paid nearly enough. Pilots have one of the lowest returns on their education costs of any profession. Throw in the fact that their skills are there to protect hundreds of lives at a time, and you'd think they would be well-paid.

Making regulations that prohibit them from minor distractions in the course of this endless boredom will most likely lead to highly detrimental results. I would not be surprised to see that there were more incidents with pilots falling asleep than previously as these regulations begin to take effect.

Very disappointing, FAA. Maybe you could instead start regulating things that jack up travel prices, waste fuel, and cause extreme delays, like airlines selling more flights in and out of airports than the runways can physically accommodate in a given amount of time. Or like the stupid TSA requirements that we are subjected to as passengers on commercial airlines.

The airlines are failing, and it's their own damn fault. Unnecessary regulation like this is a waste of taxpayers' time and money, and pushes prospective customers and employees away from the industry.

The pilot's life is at risk, too (1)

xmarkd400x (1120317) | more than 4 years ago | (#32017662)

If the plane crashes, the pilot dies too. If the Pilot feels like doing something that isn't going to jeapordize the flight by reading a book or playing a game that s/he can put down, fine by me.

I'd rather have a pilot whose mind is sharpened by a game than dulled by cloud watching.
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