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Thread started 15 Mar 2013 (Friday) 19:30
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Taking Photos on Planes: On the No-Fly List?

 
rick_reno
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Mar 15, 2013 19:30 |  #1

Couple of photos and a video at the link...

http://www.independent​traveler.com …planes-on-the-no-fly-list (external link)


Ever since I took my first flight more than 30 years ago, I have been an unrepentant window seat flier. For me, flying is all about the view. The world looks remarkably different from above in countless ways; things that look ugly and industrial from the ground can display unexpected beauty from the air, and things that look beautiful from the ground can look menacing and foreboding from above.

And you can find strange resonances in between the two; compare this teardrop-shaped train depot to this snow-covered, teardrop-shaped ridge. I have found taking aerial photographs from commercial flights to be a rich, rewarding and very easy photographic practice.

On the more obsessed side of the practice are planespotters, folks who haunt airports and back porches to nab photos of aircraft of every type and every vintage worldwide. Planespotters have their own message boards, Web sites, Meetup groups and more; it is a dedicated and widespread community. Whether you are taking photos from or of aircraft, the photographic rewards can be significant; give me the variety of a view out the window over the convenience of an aisle seat any day.

Cameras Off During Takeoff and Landing
Over the years, even as digital cameras pushed film cameras almost entirely out of the picture, I faced no resistance to my onboard photo-taking until a recent US Airways flight back from Seattle, on which my family had bulkhead seats in the first row of coach -- perfect for photos, given the location ahead of the wings and the jet exhaust. Unfortunately, the attendant in first class showed a curious vigilance toward making sure my camera was turned off during both takeoff and landing, something I have never experienced.

Technically, I understand how a camera comes under the umbrella of "anything with an on/off switch" in current use on airplanes -- and it is worth noting that newer GPS-enabled cameras offer another reason that they might get lumped in with phones, tablets and computers in having to be shut off -- but I had never really thought of a camera in the same group as a cell phone or computer.

Anyway, I complied and missed a few potentially excellent photos. On my next flight with US Airways a month later, though, I took a heap of photos without comment from anyone. My seat was near the middle of the plane this time, so it's possible I was simply not noticed during takeoff and landing -- but I think you will find this is one of those policies that will vary in enforcement from flight to flight, and even flight attendant to flight attendant. We have to live with that sometimes.

Poll: Do You Enjoy Taking Photos on Planes?

Kicked Off a United Flight for Taking a Picture of His Seat
Fortunately, my seat on the plane was never in jeopardy -- unlike that of mega-frequent flier Matthew Klint, who has 950,000 miles on United Airlines but was kicked off a flight for taking a picture of the tray table and TV screen in his first-class seat from Newark to Istanbul last month. You can read his detailed account of the event here; after you get over the flight attendant and pilot's behavior toward Klint, the main policy issue is that that United does not want you to take any photos or video while onboard United planes, except for those of "personal events."

Where can you find this policy? Not anywhere on the United Web site policy sections, as best I can tell after quite a bit of searching (if you find it, please let me know).

In fact, as Klint discovered, the place it can be found is in the back pages of Hemispheres magazine -- that's right, the in-flight publication stuffed into the greasy, bacteria-laden seatback pocket in front of you. Check it out here, on page 131 of the March 2013 Hemispheres issue.

The somewhat stunning fact is that a policy that the airline takes seriously enough to kick people off the plane can be found only in the in-flight magazine; it is not in the airline's Contract of Carriage, or anywhere on its Web site.

It makes sense to me that an airline does not want people taking extensive photos of the interior of the aircraft -- in our security-obsessed society, the argument can be made that such photos could be used to create a plan to damage the aircraft -- but man, is this ever a losing battle. If people want to get photos of an exit door, there is pretty much no stopping them; they book a flight, pay for the exit row, take out their cell phone mid-flight and snap a few pictures. Having a policy in the back of Hemispheres magazine isn't going to stop a real terrorist (or anyone, really; who has read that passage?!?). It is almost absurd even to have it in there. Terrorist: "Oops, this magazine says I can't take any pictures. Oh, well, plan aborted; I guess I'll just watch the in-flight movie." The airlines don't have to make it easy for terrorists, but they way they are handling this whole issue is just silly.

United got in touch with Klint, and although Klint reports it did not offer an apology or any compensation, the carrier did say it's doing an internal investigation. In the meantime, do all airlines have a similar policy? What about the FAA and TSA?

19 Tips for Better Travel Photos

Policies
United's Contract of Carriage does not mention photography at all, and searches on the Web sites (and online in-flight magazines, just to be sure) of a number of other airlines produced pretty much no mention whatsoever of taking photos in the air. Calls to several carriers offered the following:

JetBlue: According to a customer service representative at JetBlue, there is no specific policy, because cell phones are allowed to be in used in-flight. Depending on the carry-on you have, you may or may not be allowed to bring camera equipment onboard (this with respect to professional photography equipment). The airline does ask that you leave the photo and video taking to your personal use (like taking a shot of your kids sitting on the plane, for example).

US Airways: US Airways' policy governs which items you bring onboard. Some media type camera equipment is not permitted. If you're looking to take snapshots with a personal camera or phone, you are restricted from taking photos and videos of other passengers without their permission.

American: American Airlines doesn't allow professional photography equipment onboard. The use of cell phones is permitted when announced by a flight attendant. The cabin crew will also announce before flight what their policy may or may not be; usually you can use your phone for photos and videos for personal purposes.

Delta: Photos and videos are permitted for personal use only, and cabin crew will announce before take-off what their policy is for that particular flight. (Have any Delta regulars ever heard such an announcement? None of us here at IT can recall ever hearing photography mentioned in any way, on any flight, ever!)

Southwest: In-flight photography and video are permitted unless otherwise noted on the plane or stated by flight attendants. If you are using a cell phone to take these pictures or videos, you need to adhere to the cell phone policy, which is that you can't use it until passengers are instructed by crew that it is okay to turn them on.

As best as I can tell, only United seems to have a very specific, printed policy regarding taking simple photos while onboard an aircraft. The FAA and TSA have no regulations on in-flight and airport photography, beyond the rules for security checkpoints, where you may take photos so long as you do not interfere with the security process.

"The TSA does not regulate photography in airports or on aircraft, other than at security checkpoints," Department of Homeland Security representative Besse Guevara said. Beyond the checkpoints, the agencies defer to the airlines to enforce their specific photography and camera usage policies. So when in doubt, check the safety card on your specific aircraft; there will usually be some graphical information about which different devices can be used in flight and when.

The Best Travel Photos You Don't Take

Private Property
All of this said, in the end a plane is the private property of the airline, and if it doesn't want you to take photos on the aircraft, then you can't take photos on the aircraft. The same goes for all privately owned property, such as a museum, or a building, or your home, or your car. If you ask guests on your property not to take photos of your property, they must abide. Additionally, some government-owned buildings restrict photography as well; the only time you truly have a right to take photos is in public spaces.

And as mentioned above, an important consideration in the age of digital cameras is that most modern cameras are battery-driven, and as such are classified a "portable electronic device." This means you can't use them below 10,000 feet -- unless no one tells you otherwise, I suppose.

Even if you have a hand-cranked film camera, there is the potential that aircraft crew can ban use of the item due to the potential for it to become loose in turbulence and create a hazard. In the end, if they want you to stow the camera, at least below cruising altitude, you are probably going to have to do so.

Just the Tip of the Iceberg
As it turns out, aerial photography is coming under fire from more than just United flight attendants these days. Many planespotters have reported anecdotal evidence of airports cracking down on their beloved hobby, often for poorly or incompletely explained reasons. Real estate photographers have been on notice for some time that aerial photography for any commercial use is closed -- and rapid advances in drone aircraft have created even more uncertainty of late.

The state of New Hampshire recently proposed banning all forms of aerial photography. This seems intended to limit drone photography, but in fact includes language that says "any device that is not supported by the ground," which sure would seem to mean commercial airplanes. This could have very broad implications for anyone with a camera in the air -- even something like this Dad's video of his daughter's first flight in his plane would be banned if the language remains as written:

For more than 30 years, I have been photographing from the windows of airplanes without concern or comment; then, four days into 2013, I was told to stow my camera for the first time. In the 90 days since, the issue has nearly exploded; it seems that this topic will only become more fraught and complex as time and technology advance.

Go Anyway,
Ed Hewitt
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Features Editor
IndependentTraveler.co​m




  
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DetlevCM
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Mar 16, 2013 16:31 |  #2

Good grief...

Lufthansa has been very nice to me - on a rather empty flight I even got up and shot an image from the other side of the aircraft without comment. (In fact I once got a comment that I must have gotten some nice shots and went through some of the previews.)
If you read the "carry on" conditions for Lufthansa - at least in the past - a "small camera" was in addition to the 6kg (8kg with laptop) allowed (not sure if 5D MK II + 24-70 counts as small :)).

To be honest, I can understand the request for not taking photos during take off and landing - despite there not being a real technical reason for it on a (non-wireless technology enabled) camera.
Banning photos in flight out of the window is really just being rude to customers because you can.
Asking people not to photograph other on the aircraft I can understand though - unless you know the individual.


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WRXJIM
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Mar 16, 2013 17:33 |  #3

It is dependent on the specific Flight Attendants... Some just cant be bothered fighting anymore. (if a FAA inspector is on the flight a Flight Attendant can be fined $10,000 for failing to enforce a FAA regulation. Just a FYI. They arent doing it to "just be rude" ??? Sure some can ask nicer than others I guess. But still Its like saying a Cop just wanted to be rude when he told you that you cant "J walk" Law is Law. Its supposed to be black and white, regardless of its apparent sillyness)

I flew over 200,000 miles last year. Here is my advice.

Keep it off until the captain says "we are number two (or whatever) for takeoff, inflight crew please take your seats". If there are any still mulling around in the back that have to come forward give it a few seconds for them to pass you then go for your life. :)

You wont find any info on a Airline website because it isnt an Airline Rule. It is a FAA regulation which actually makes it law and a arrestable crime if you fail to comply. I LOVE how they (FAA and Homeland Security throw this onto each airline which is totally untrue. They (airlines) enforce it for the FAA, and its NEVER a Airline employee chasing you down in a airport. Its a TSA clown, so they are deliberately being vague. (typical US Gov agency. The less details that can be found the easier it is for them to "make stuff up" to suit them when needed :/ )

Yes, mundane and pointless, and will most likely be changed sometime in the next couple of years, but they have their reasons for more than the blanket "interferes with aircraft systems" claim.

Here is it straight from a FAA inspectors mouth after sitting next to one for many hours recently. (The discussion came up when we were both asked to turn off our Bose noise cancelling headphones. LOL) Wifi devices allow communication with others on the plane and it makes it much easier to co-ordinate things amongst a would be threat. There are many many more reasons that you wouldnt want the ability of communication of any sort from people on a plane. By having "all" electronic devices off it limits the possible threat. As little of a threat we may "think" there may be these days.

Either way, once the plane starts its takeoff roll, all the crew is in their seats, and providing you arent sitting right in front of one go for it. But waving one around is only asking for trouble. That goes for all electronics. Electronic books, ipods etc... Dont wave it around and they cant ask you to turn it off ;)


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Luxornv
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Mar 17, 2013 21:02 |  #4

I understand some electronics may interfere with equipment in the aircraft. However, some of these restrictions are pointless and done in the name of "safety." After the September 11th attacks, panicked people asked for someone to do something. The pointless regulations from the government are the answer.


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Jon
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Mar 18, 2013 09:41 |  #5

The electronics thing predates 9/11 though. It started because most portable electronic devices did radiate a certain amount of RF signal (FCC Part 15 says, essentially, that your device "must not interfere with other electronics, and must be able to accept a certain amount of RF interference from other electronics"). Avionics are tested against many potential sources of RFI, but they can't test everything, or keep up with what might cause such interference (many aircraft, including the on-board electronics, are upwards of 20 years old). It's essentially the same reason hospitals are generally "no cell phone" zones.


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Mar 18, 2013 16:16 |  #6

Luxornv wrote in post #15726315 (external link)
I understand some electronics may interfere with equipment in the aircraft. However, some of these restrictions are pointless and done in the name of "safety." After the September 11th attacks, panicked people asked for someone to do something. The pointless regulations from the government are the answer.

I have heard that take offs and landings are the riskiest part of the flight, I had always assumed the 'interference' story was a ruse, what they really want is people not being distracted by electronics at those two times just in case.


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neilwood32
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Mar 19, 2013 08:34 |  #7

Jon wrote in post #15727795 (external link)
The electronics thing predates 9/11 though. It started because most portable electronic devices did radiate a certain amount of RF signal (FCC Part 15 says, essentially, that your device "must not interfere with other electronics, and must be able to accept a certain amount of RF interference from other electronics"). Avionics are tested against many potential sources of RFI, but they can't test everything, or keep up with what might cause such interference (many aircraft, including the on-board electronics, are upwards of 20 years old). It's essentially the same reason hospitals are generally "no cell phone" zones.

Acetoolguy wrote in post #15729131 (external link)
I have heard that take offs and landings are the riskiest part of the flight, I had always assumed the 'interference' story was a ruse, what they really want is people not being distracted by electronics at those two times just in case.

As Jon has said, electrical items all do give off RF signals (it is a simple law of physics that a magnetic field will be generated by a current passing through a wire which can generate interference in another). So unless the item is shielded, there is the possibility of a problem with interference.

The reason the issues are enforced at take off/landing more stringently is that the aircraft is under most stress (with the most electronics operating and therefore susceptible to interference) and a sudden failure would leave the crew with no time to remedy a problem.


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rick_reno
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Mar 19, 2013 09:21 |  #8

I've taken lots of photos from plane seats, never been bothered. Funny Lufthansa was mentioned, I had "electronics" problems on a flight with them from Singapore to Frankfurt once.




  
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Luxornv
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Mar 21, 2013 00:11 |  #9

Acetoolguy wrote in post #15729131 (external link)
I have heard that take offs and landings are the riskiest part of the flight, I had always assumed the 'interference' story was a ruse, what they really want is people not being distracted by electronics at those two times just in case.

Logical answer, but if that's the case, they aren't being transparent about it. If that's the issue, I honestly have no problem with it. Jon also brought up a good point with many aging avionics that may not be immune to signals from modern cell phones and other devices.

Many of the other regulations are just pointless though. They were done in the name of safety, but really just make things more of a hassle than they need to be.

I also did take some pictures with a Canon Powershot SX120 IS on my trip to Vegas in Oct. last year. I kept it off during the times they said and shot out of the window while it was permitted. No one ever said anything to me. I flew Southwest. I plan on doing the same thing when I fly to Orlando in May.

Other topics though, what about photography in airports? Honestly, I'd like to do it. There is some nice architecture in some of them that is just begging for pictures.


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Mar 21, 2013 01:21 |  #10

Yeah - I'm just waiting for a comedy show to show a flight where a terrorist jumps up, and makes demands 'or else I'll turn on my cell phone' - at which point everyone gasps, and then complies. ;)

In fact - as a pilot myself, we are told to use cell phones to contact the tower in case of radio failure. :)

I think part of the whole no electronic equipment comes down to the zzzt zzzt zzzt that you may sometimes hear through the headphones whilst trying to perform important tasks (such as cell phones) - and it's not just annoying, but can be distracting which can potentially lead to mistakes or add to task loading if something goes wrong. Considering takeoff and landing are the most task loaded parts of (a normal) flight - this may have something to do with the ban on equipment during those two times.

I'm not sure why it's a total ban on electronics. Maybe an engineer would have more idea, as to whether it's to reduce risk of fire or something else with lithium batteries these days? I really don't know.


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Mar 21, 2013 01:36 |  #11

Writer has an @aol email and is a blogger at best.

Bottom line. FCC rules the roost on use of electronics in flight and the cabin crew's word is law.

Deal with it.

FWIW, I've never been hassled for shooting out the window in as many years as the author and while I'd prefer to be able to shoot during takeoff and landing, if I'm told otherwise, I comply.


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Mar 21, 2013 05:27 |  #12

Luxornv wrote in post #15738384 (external link)
Logical answer, but if that's the case, they aren't being transparent about it. If that's the issue, I honestly have no problem with it. Jon also brought up a good point with many aging avionics that may not be immune to signals from modern cell phones and other devices.

Many of the other regulations are just pointless though. They were done in the name of safety, but really just make things more of a hassle than they need to be.

I also did take some pictures with a Canon Powershot SX120 IS on my trip to Vegas in Oct. last year. I kept it off during the times they said and shot out of the window while it was permitted. No one ever said anything to me. I flew Southwest. I plan on doing the same thing when I fly to Orlando in May.

Other topics though, what about photography in airports? Honestly, I'd like to do it. There is some nice architecture in some of them that is just begging for pictures.

Ask security - simple as that.
At least in Europe asking is no problem.

I asked if I could take photographs of the aircraft while walking towards it at Manchester airport - on one occasion they were happy for me to do so, the other time they said no. (They did say they couldn't stop me, but then again I don't want to have to find another airport, so if they say no it is no . :D)

So as I said - if you like the architecture - find a customer service point or a member and security and ask.
In fact I once asked about shooting out of the windows at Manchester airport - I think I asked security who didn't know, then found a customer service phone and the lady told me to check with security.... because I would have had to walk back I did not bother (and didn't shoot photos through the window).


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Mar 21, 2013 21:12 |  #13

neilwood32 wrote in post #15731484 (external link)
As Jon has said, electrical items all do give off RF signals (it is a simple law of physics that a magnetic field will be generated by a current passing through a wire which can generate interference in another). So unless the item is shielded, there is the possibility of a problem with interference.

The reason the issues are enforced at take off/landing more stringently is that the aircraft is under most stress (with the most electronics operating and therefore susceptible to interference) and a sudden failure would leave the crew with no time to remedy a problem.

Not true according to Myth Busters...for what its worth.

http://www.google.com …FxA&bvm=bv.4415​8598,d.dmQ (external link)


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Mar 21, 2013 21:47 |  #14

Acetoolguy wrote in post #15741465 (external link)
Not true according to Myth Busters...for whats its worth.

http://www.google.com …FxA&bvm=bv.4415​8598,d.dmQ (external link)

It's worth not much. THe issue isn't the primary operating frequency. It's the RFI that isn't "in bounds" that's the issue. Those planes that offer cell phone service (like cruise ships that do) have essentially a repeater, and are designed to cope with GSM/GPRS frequencies.


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Mar 23, 2013 01:30 |  #15

It's been proven for a few years now that cell phone and small electronic device usage will not interfere with the plane and its controls.

Bryan


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