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These are the rules about pilots taking pictures in the cockpit

Reuters/Eric Gaillard
This photo is allowed.
  • David Yanofsky
By David Yanofsky

Editor of code, visuals, and data

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

When, exactly, are pilots allowed to take pictures? The response to Quartz’s story about the pilots of Instagram has shown how poorly the rules governing usage of electronic devices in the cockpit are understood.

In the United States, different regulations apply to different kinds of flights. The Quartz story was about commercial airline flights, which are held to stricter standards than general aviation and charter flights. The rules don’t specifically ban photographs, but many devices used for such photos generally can’t be used on commercial flights.

After reviewing our piece, this is what the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had to say, confirming what Quartz reported:

FAA regulations prohibit commercial pilots from using a personal wireless communications device or laptop computer for personal use while at their duty station on the flight deck while the aircraft is being operated. A personal wireless device may only be used if it is directly related to operation of the aircraft, or for emergency, safety-related, or employment-related communications, in accordance with air carrier procedures.
In general, wireless devices include, but are not limited to, devices such as cell phones, smartphones, personal digital assistants, tablets, ereaders, some gaming systems, iPods and MP3 players, as well as netbooks and notebook computers. The rule does not affect the person occupying the jumpseat.
The FAA takes safety complaints seriously. Information about a possible violation should be reported to the FAA for investigation at 1-866-TELL-FAA or

Got it? Here’s a diagram we put together.

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