Texting & Flying: Pilot distraction & the myth of multi-tasking.

On August 26, 2011, at about 6:41 pm CDT, a Eurocopter AS350 B2 helicopter operated by Air Methods on an EMS mission crashed following a loss of engine power as a result of fuel exhaustion a mile from an airport in Mosby, Missouri. The pilot, flight nurse, flight paramedic and patient were killed, and the helicopter was substantially damaged.


An examination of cell phone records showed that the pilot had made and received multiple personal calls and text messages throughout the afternoon while the helicopter was being inspected and prepared for flight, during the flight to the first hospital, while he was on the helipad at the hospital making mission-critical decisions about continuing or delaying the flight due to the fuel situation, and during the accident flight.

While there was no evidence that the pilot was using his cell phone when the flameout occurred, the NTSB said that the texting and calls, including those that occurred before and between flights, were a source of distraction that likely contributed to errors and poor decision-making.

Read NTSB Report here.

“This investigation highlighted what is a growing concern across transportation, distraction and the myth of multi-tasking,”

National Transport Safety Board Chairman, Deborah Hersman:


Distraction: “A thing that prevents someone from concentrating on something else.”

Research shows that when multitasking, people perform tasks more slowly and make more mistakes.

One theory of divided attention conceived by Kahneman, explains that there is a single pool of attentional resources that is divided among multiple tasks. 

You can’t give more than one thing at a time your FULL attention. If you’re engaged in a safety critical action, don’t get distracted.


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