Welcome Guest. Sign in or Signup

5 Answers

Cell Phone Use

Asked by: 2297 views ,
FAA Regulations, Student Pilot

I am a soloed student pilot, flying alone fairly often now. As the PIC, am I allowed to use my smartphone to take pictures inflight, provided I dont send or upload them?

Ace Any FAA Written Test!
Actual FAA Questions / Free Lifetime Updates
The best explanations in the business
Fast, efficient study.
Pass Your Checkride With Confidence!
FAA Practical Test prep that reflects actual checkrides.
Any checkride: Airplane, Helicopter, Glider, etc.
Written and maintained by actual pilot examiners and master CFIs.
The World's Most Trusted eLogbook
Be Organized, Current, Professional, and Safe.
Highly customizable - for student pilots through pros.
Free Transition Service for users of other eLogs.
Our sincere thanks to pilots such as yourself who support AskACFI while helping themselves by using the awesome PC, Mac, iPhone/iPad, and Android aviation apps of our sponsors.

5 Answers



  1. John D Collins on Sep 19, 2013

    You need to read and understand FAR 91.21 which requires the PIC to determine if the portable electronic equipment interferes with the navigation or communication equipment on the aircraft. When flying solo, you are the PIC.

    There isn’t a specific FAA prohibition on use of a cell phone in an aircraft, although the FCC does prohibit its use. However, when a smart phone is in Airplane mode (a setting on the phone), it does not transmit to the ground using the cellular system. I would recommend that you either turn your phone off or place it in Airplane mode prior to departure, if for no other reason than the cell phone will quickly drain the battery when airborne.

    I would also offer a totally separate piece of advice, use your solo time to meet the training requirements and avoid distractions such as using a camera. For most students, flying is fun, but unfocused solo flight can be a big waste of money and often doesn’t get you any closer to your objective of obtaining a pilot certificate. There will be plenty of time for pictures after you are a rated pilot.

    0 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes



  2. Mark Kolber on Sep 19, 2013

    You certainly may take photos from the plane in flight with a camera or smartphone subject to understanding the reason behind the FAR 91.21 requirement to ensure that electronic devices don’t affect your flight instruments (although not really that much of a practical concern VFR).

    But John points out a very practical consideration – not letting your photography tasks distract you from your flying tasks. There have been some unfortunate accidents, including fatalities, associated with pilots being distracted by photography and other non-flying tasks.

    That’s not to scare you away from in-flight photography. It’s a wonderful thing to share with friends and family. I do it all the time. But it should always be relegated to its proper place.

    Aviate, navigate, communicate.

    Photograph isn’t even in the list of important in-flight tasks.

    +2 Votes Thumb up 2 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes



  3. Matthew Menza on Sep 19, 2013

    My rule of thumb, when not on an IFR flight plan and requiring the higher fidelity navigation/airwork to stay in the IFR environment, I will actually use the phone in flight as necessary. If I’m IMC/IFR, phone off. VFR flying: your cell phone will not interfere with your pitot static system and I doubt it will interfere with anything else. I’ve been monitoring this for years and have noted no anomolies associated with anything cell related.

    I work extensively in the business of dealing with electromagnetic spectrum and I have had zero issues resulting from my cell phone or ipad or anything else in my bonanza or any other aircraft I’ve flown. In our bonanza, I will call my wife when I’m 15 minutes out in an area with good coverage from the airplane and again, never had any issues.

    Common sense always applies: placing anything metal or that produces energy of any sort next to your wet compass is certainly a below in headwork. Like Mr. Kolber said, aviate, navigate communicate. Additionally, exercise good common sense/judgement. If you are a low time pilot, I’d recommend not playing with extraneous devices. Dropping a cell on the cockpit floor and FODing your cockpit could also propose a hazard….all common sense. But, generally speaking, your cell in the cockpit is okay.

    0 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes



  4. Bob Watson on Sep 20, 2013

    As I understand it, the reason for the FCC rule against in-flight cell-phone use is to prevent interference with the ground stations. On the ground, the cell-phone signal doesn’t travel very far (for a variety of reasons). This lets many users share the same frequency because they are physically separated enough to prevent interference. An airborne (and rapidly moving) phone will hit many cells at once. Moving through (over) the cells rapidly will accelerate battery drain, as John pointed out, as the phone is constantly negotiating its connection with another cell.

    Back in the analog cell phone (AMPS) days, this was a very real problem. I don’t know how bad it is with the digital technologies in use today. My impression is that the problem with interference is not nearly as severe as it used to be. Interestingly, some new aviation headset models have cell phone interfaces so you can listen to music and make phone calls.

    I would add, that if you’re going to carry your phone with you in the plane, it wouldn’t hurt to have the phone numbers to ARTCC and your favorite control towers programmed in, just in case you need to make an important call (after your radio poops out).

    0 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes



  5. Sam Dawson on Sep 23, 2013

    I have had incidents where the cell phone in conjunction with another device caused issues with GPS. The last incident I can recall was about 8 years ago, so I don’t know if the technology has improved. Again, the problem was not the cell phone in and of itself, but the cell phone frequency can being altered by nearby devices or visa versa. There was a study in this area done about 10 years ago- i will try to find it. Maybe someone with more knowledge in that area can explain it.
    In addition the CL-65 had a caution in the manual that cell phones could cause the smoke detectors to activate.

    0 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes


Answer Question

Our sincere thanks to all who contribute constructively to this forum in answering flight training questions. If you are a flight instructor or represent a flight school / FBO offering flight instruction, you are welcome to include links to your site and related contact information as it pertains to offering local flight instruction in a specific geographic area. Additionally, direct links to FAA and related official government sources of information are welcome. However we thank you for your understanding that links to other sites or text that may be construed as explicit or implicit advertising of other business, sites, or goods/services are not permitted even if such links nominally are relevant to the question asked.