I am very bad person. I am a scofflaw, and a delinquent, and a wicked villain if ever there was one.  I am a troublemaker, a scoundrel, a reprobate, and a miscreant. I am the lowest of the low, the vilest of the vile, the most evil-doing of the evildoers. I am, in short, very bad indeed.

For while I am an otherwise obedient and dutiful citizen, and follow all the flight attendant’s instructions with regard to how to fasten my seatbelt, and keeping my seat in the upright position and my tray table latched away; while I am scrupulous in taking my laptop out of its bag and removing all metallic devices when going through security; while I am occasionally observant of the request not to take up valuable overhead compartment space with items that could,  conceivably fit under the seat in front of me; while I am in all these ways and more a most dutiful and obedient frequent flyer, I do fall short in one area:

I am frequently in flagrant and willful violation of both 14 C.F.R. § 91.21 and the flight attendant’s clear and meticulous instructions regarding the acceptable use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

In short, ladies and gentlemen, I put it to you: I often do not turn off my Nikon when told to do so on an airplane.

And not only do I blatantly violate federal and airline rules and regulations, I do so with malice aforethought: I frequently specifically request a window seat so I can engage freely in my perfidy.

The aforementioned regulation empowers the airlines to establish their own policies regarding electronic equipment. Most airlines adhere to policies like United’s :

Devices that may be used only when announced by the flight attendants and the aircraft is above 10,000 feet in altitude:

       electronic games

       personal computers

       entertainment players

       recorders (audio and/or video, such as tape/CD/MiniDisc/MP3 players and camcorders)



       CAMERAS (emph. mine)

       aircraft power ports for laptops.

(Shavers? Really? I have felt many things on airplanes over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt an urgent need to shave, even during a long international flight. There’s usually plenty of time for self-grooming activities once I’m no longer hurtling through the air at 36,000 feet.)

Let’s be clear: There is No Evidence that any electronic device, much less a digital camera, poses any threat to airline systems. Neither the FAA nor the FCC has any sound basis for the prohibition, and neither seems able to point to any solid evidence whatsoever. The FCC states:

The FCC determined that the technical information provided by interested parties in response to the proposal was insufficient to determine whether in-flight use of wireless devices on aircraft could cause harmful interference to wireless networks on the ground. Therefore, it decided at this time to make no changes in the rules prohibiting in-flight use of such devices.

In addition to the FCC’s rules, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits in-flight use of wireless devices because of potential interference to the aircraft’s navigation and communication systems. For this same reason the FAA also regulates the use of all portable electronic devices (PEDs), such as iPods and portable DVD players, during flight.

Now, I am second to none in my appreciation of everyone’s need to err on the side of keeping my butt from falling out of the sky. But until someone demonstrates that turning on a digital camera will cause a 767 to plummet from the sky, I’m likely to accept the risk on behalf of my fellow passengers and crew and, more importantly to me, myself. What studies there are (and there are few) have found no more than indistinguishable background radiation being emitted by digital cameras, with a barely-detectable electromagnetic transient when the shutter is activated. I do not have a GPS attachment for my D90, so it’s not talking to any satellites. I know that in addition to risking a violent and flaming demise, I am also risking hefty fines and even imprisonment for my felonious photography; but in this life risks must be taken, right? Plus, the likelihood of discovery is slim, since during the commission of my crimes the flight attendants are all snugly buckled in somewhere aft. And because my seatmates have also been, shall we say, liberal in their interpretations of when to boot up, turn on, lean back, or plug in, they are unlikely to narc on me. I’m not alone in my badness.

However, my surreptitious activities do not go unrewarded. Full compliance would have made the following images impossible, and that would be, in my view, something of a shame:

Rosemont, Illinois, on approach to Chicago O’Hare International Airport

LAX viewed during takeoff of a flight from Orange County Airport (SNA) to Seattle

Washington, DC on takeoff from National Airport

Red Bull Stadium and Newark, New Jersey, on approach to Newark Liberty International Airport

University of Nevada-Las Vegas’s football stadium, on approach to McCarran International Airport

Las Vegas Strip shortly after taking off from McCarran International Airport

Flying over the Space Needle on approach to Seattle-Tacoma

Boston skyline across Massachusetts Bay, immediately upon takeoff from Logan International Airport

Massachusetts Bay and the city of Boston, a few minutes after takeoff from Logan International Airport

Please visit EButterfield Photography and browse the galleries. Thanks!