Investigators Say Selfies Contributed to Cessna 150 Crash

NTSB cites use of cell phone as causal factor.

A National Transportation Safety Board report on a Cessna 150 crash in Watkins, Colorado, last May is raising eyebrows for partially blaming the fatal accident on the pilot's use of his cell phone to take selfies mid-flight.

The 29-year-old pilot at the controls of the Cessna, who was not Instrument or night current, took off on a VFR night flight into instrument meteorological conditions with 6 miles of visibility and an overcast layer at 500 feet agl. The Cessna reached an altitude of 740 feet agl before making a sharp turn, descending at 1,900 feet per minute and crashing into a field near Front Range Airport, killing the pilot and his passenger.

A GoPro video camera was recovered in the wreckage. According to investigators, the accident flight itself was not recorded, but the camera contained footage of an earlier flight made by the pilot in which he remained in the pattern and landed just six minutes after takeoff. NTSB investigators say video evidence of that earlier flight showed that the pilot and passenger were "taking self-photographs with their cell phones and, during the night flight, using the camera's flash function during the takeoff roll, initial climb, and flight in the traffic pattern."

The NTSB listed the official probable cause as:

"The pilot's loss of control and subsequent aerodynamic stall due to spatial disorientation in night instrument meteorological conditions. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's distraction due to his cell phone use while maneuvering at low-altitude."

No IFR flight plan had been filed. Although the pilot held an Instrument rating, he was not Instrument current, nor was he current to carry passengers at night. There is no evidence the pilot or passenger was using a cell phone camera when the crash occurred.

Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.