A commercial pilot has been suspended for taking a selfie while flying a plane

Some people just can’t stop.
Some people just can’t stop.
Image: Reuters/Toru Hanai
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Japan Airlines says it has suspended one of its pilots for taking a selfie while flying. It suspend the pilot for violating regulations that require pilots to remain vigilant, according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg is reporting that the photograph was taken on June 7 during a flight from northern Japan to Osaka when one of the pilots took a bathroom break. Also in the photograph was a flight attendant—19 years his junior—seated in the co-pilot’s chair. The plane was above 10,000 feet—the level where the most stringent rules on cockpit activities are relaxed.

It is unclear how Japan Airlines became aware of the photograph. It did not immediately respond to Quartz’s requests for comment. (Update, June 15: In an emailed statement, the airline told Quartz that the incident was reported by a member of the cabin crew and that this is the first time a pilot at Japan Airlines has been suspended for using a personal electronic device in the cockpit)

The rules governing the use of personal electronic devices in cockpits vary around the world. In the US, commercial pilots are never allowed to use an electronic device in the cockpit for non-business, non-emergency reasons. Most jurisdictions prohibit even the smallest of distracting activities during critical phases of flight, which include taxi, takeoff, and landing.

Despite this, a Quartz investigation in 2014 revealed that the flouting these rules by pilots was widespread, with pilots posting their in-flight pictures—selfies included—to Instagram.

According to industry safety experts interviewed by Quartz, there has never been a commercial airline accident blamed on personal electronic device by a pilot, but a number of incidents have occurred involving other aviators. The US government assigned selfie-taking as partially to blame for a crash near Denver, Colorado that killed two people including the amateur pilot. In Florida, a student pilot has alleged in a lawsuit that his instructor was using his iPhone to video chat before their helicopter crashed.