Shutting off devices during flight

I have a question.

On the last 12 or so most recent commercial flights that I have enjoyed, I have never been stopped taking photos during takeoff and landing. I did read the rules for photography in the back seat pocket regarding crew and equipment. There was nothing under the electronic devices definitions about cameras. I am not only an aviation enthusiast, but an amateur photographer and no one has stopped me at all during a commercial flight. I sit in my seat like a good passenger and snap quietly with no flash. On my flight back from Oshkosh, I was yelled at. Long after the flight attendants belted themselves in for takeoff, one got up and yelled rudely “Maam, Maam, Maam!!! You can’t take pictures, please turn off the camera.” I took the cam down and turned it off, and replied, Oh, I’m sorry, I thought cameras were allowed. She replied, “They are not allowed during takeoff or landing but everything else is ok. All electronic devices. Turn it off.” (she could have been a little more subtle so as to not upset other passengers). I said okay, but no one has ever said anything before, I’m sorry. (which were all the same airline.)

Although I respect FAA rules if they exist and will indeed honor what any crew member asks of me during flight, does anyone here know if a Canon digital camera has it’s power turned on, will it affect communcations in the cockpit?

For what it’s worth, NJA requires pilot to turn off PED’s prior to departure. On the XL their Blackberries cause terrible interference on the headsets (all makes and models of headseats do this, so it’s the a/c not the headseats). My Treo does not do this.

So in reading 91.21 paragraph (b) 5 and (c), unless the operator has determined that your make a model doesn’t cause interference - allowing to use may be in violation of the letter of the law

That’s not to say is does or doesn’t or that the FA handled it well, but it is what it is. Why did they not say anything before, I don’t know, maybe the FA didn’t care or maybe they tested digital cameras.

Butterfly, were you on American? I’ve heard tales that AA’s flight attendants are sometimes really nasty about pictures. Also, in general, they have a reputation for nastiness.

Thank you Leardvr. Even if it is a rule, I’m really curious if the camera actually interferes with communications and if so, how. Two of the exceptions listed in your rule are electric shavers and voice recorders. If those two items are allowed, aren’t they items with on/off buttons or batteries just like the camera? Yes, Damiross, it was AA.

I checked the definition of electronic devices listed in AA’s inflight magazine and cameras were not listed in the list of things to turn off, so I assumed it was ok. If my plain digital camera running on 4 AA batteries was turned on during takeoff/landing for several past flights, and it had an effect on communications, I would think that someone would have told me by now that I was endangering my own flight. Almost all of them were on AA too. Many photos during cruising altitude can be boring - they’re much more fun and interesting during takeoff and landing lol. I’m very respectful to not take photos of airline equipment or crew (since that was listed in the inflight magazine) other than the planes themselves. And I know I’m not the only one who takes pictures of planes. Thanks for your input.

The way the rule is written, a device is guilty until proven innocent. So, while most devices do not cause any interference, they are still not permitted to be used because no-one has gone through the certification tests to prove it. I once had an FAA approved portable aviation GPS on a commercial flight and they made me turn it off. I showed them the certification stamp, but it was clearly more thinking than they wanted to do.

The digital cell phones now, and most of the equipment do not interfere with the aircraft equipment at all…like the previous poster stated, guilty until proven innocent. Have you been in a hospital lately…all the docs and nurses using cell phones when all the signs tell you to turn them off…One day in the next 20 years they will figure it out.

I recall watching the outflow valves drive shut when I keyed my handheld radio near the engineers panel in an old jumbo…my cell phone doesnt do that today.


I wouldn’t blanketly say this just from my own experiences.

My Nextel cell phone plays havac with my Comms when it loses and picks up cell service. Cell phone is clear in the back seat, yet, I hear it throughout the headset as it connects and disconnects from cell towers. It makes a moderately loud tick ticking noise as it phones home to towers or loses connection.

That’s not to say it’s the same with commercial airplanes as distance may be one’s friend, (I.E. someone in row 22 seat F may not affect cockpit coms) but digital phones can cause interference depending on make and model of that phone (Don’t know if type of service makes any difference, but I have Nextel).

Ironically enough, before retiring from the feds, I had an anologue cell phone and that behaved wonderfully so much so I had service full time lower then 5000 feet. Only when I was overflying a congested area where there were too many cell towers did I have problem with connectivety. And that phone did not cause any interference with my coms.

Neither phone that I used in my GA plane caused any interference with my Nav equipment though so for me, it was more an interference for communications then navigation.

Needless to say, from my own experiences, I make that extra effort to ensure the power switch is in the off position and tray tables are in their upright and locked positions. :smiley:


I agree, but for the most part, its about proximity to the equipment…seat 33g will not interfere with cockpit equipment using the digital technology we use today…but, until they pay the moeny for the tests…we shut them off.

The old analog phones used a lot more power to transmit, than the new digital ones do…give them a few years, they will catch up.

Asking a flight attendant about faa approval is like asking them not to put coffee grounds down the sink…why bother…Sorry, my tech background is showing up now.


Heh heh, thread drifting a little on my part, but I sure hope they never come up with the funds.

In the close confines of a regional jet, I fully appreciate the cell phone free territory :smiley:


I mostly fly NWA and they have never had a problem with me using my Garmin V to track progress, speed, location, altitude, etc. This includes cruising as well as take-off, landing, and taxiing. However, I recently flew AA, and the flight attendant one 1 of my 4 AA flights freaked on me for using it during cruising.

I cannot believe that a passive GPS receiver can at all influence flight instruments or comms since most airplanes are outfitted with them anyway. But since the crew makes the rules, I obliged and turned it off for her. I tried to get a clarification from their site, but didn’t find one. NWA specifically mentions GPS as an OK device, and I like that they made that distinction. it’s neat to be able to know what towns you’re flying over, how long till landing, etc.

EDIT: NWA Flight Operations Book approves use under rule 120.8.5 if you ever wanted to know.

American Airlines is just so…Un-American…

All electronic devices are to be turned off for takeoff and landing. Is a camera an electronic device? Yes.

As an aviation enthusiast (sp?), if I see someone taping the take-off/landing, I don’t really mind and I don’t say anything (most of the time). However, if I see a passenger taping crew members or the inside of the cabin, I tell them to turn it off because since 9/11 it is illegal to tape flight attendants without their consent.

I never photograph equipment (other than distant shot of a pretty plane) or airline personnel. I was only photographing a pretty sunrise with part of the tail or engine in the shot, and I was in the very back row of a 757 and still got yelled at. I didn’t mind complying because I’d rather have a safe takeoff than a good photo, but I guess my point was she could have been polite about it (we were just beginning to taxi). I did it on every flight so I thought it was ok and she was the first to ever get mad, much less ask politely. :confused:

i have never had a problem with cell phone in the cockpit. When i was getting my ppl my instructor would answer his phone while we were in the practice area. But i do always turn off all phones for IFR Flights.

Truth be known, I don’t think the FAA has a problem with cell phones being used in GA planes as it’s the PIC’s call.

Where the problem lies from what I understand is the FCC having a problem with phones being used from the air.


Only if it’s a digital camera. A film camera, depending on features, is not an electronic device, and cabin staff would have a difficult time telling me to put away a camera at any point in a flight!

Yep, the fact that multiple cell towers can receive an airborne signal with equal strength simultaneously tends to confuse the cell system’s computers.

Not quite sure I agree with this.

If it has a battery, it’s an electronic device by definition. Most film cameras have a battery to my knowlege.

It may be as innocent as a calculator, but it’s an electronic device by virtual of it running by battery.


Which is why we have horse races Allen!

How about if it runs off a solar cell rather than a battery? (Even a virtual one!) :wink:

A flashlight is powered by a battery, does that mean it meets your definition of an electronic device?

I figure to play with Google, as you bring a valid point. :smiley:

Does a flashlight meet … n&ct=title

Dunno myself, as electrical engineering is not my baliwick :open_mouth:

Can’t answer about solar cells, but I thought they were batteries, just “recharged” by the sun then conventional means.