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Recently, I've been watching a few YouTubers (mostly FOs) who make great videos like this:

Then I realized... They must spend a lot of time setting up cameras, playing with them, hitting record and stop etc. This could potentially distract them or make them miss something (a warning, a pre flight check etc)..

Are they breaking any formal rules doing this? If an accident occurred during filming would they be under investigation due to negligence?

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If the FAA considered making videos itself (i.e. separate from any unrelated rule violations within those videos) to be a problem, they would have put a stop to it long ago, either by explicit rulemaking or the catch-all "careless or reckless" when no other rule applies. They haven't, at least with respect to GA pilots--who are allowed to do all sorts or things that charter and airline pilots are not.

Several YouTubers I follow have said they mount the cameras and start recording before preflight, don't touch them again until after the plane is down and secured, and edit out the boring parts later that show this. That seems to mitigate the physical safety issues.

The other issue is pilot distraction if they're talking to the camera, but I don't see that as any worse than talking to passengers, which is commonly accepted within reason, and is perhaps less of a risk since the camera doesn't talk back.

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You can get into trouble for your videos. Stevo1Kinevo had to remove all of his videos that were taken on Part 135 trips and had to take a 709 ride. I gather that it wasn’t due to distraction so much as rules related to Part 135. He was also dinged for not using checklists, but he had the raw videos that showed that he does use them.

I suppose you could be charged under §91.13 Careless or reckless operation. if you video yourself doing something careless and/or reckless.

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    $\begingroup$ What sort of rules related to 14CFR135, if I may ask? $\endgroup$ – Sean Mar 13 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean He never said. I suppose it had something to do with the Operating Specifications that the charter was bound by, but I have no idea. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Mar 13 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean I read/heard somewhere that the FAA said he was breaking the rules on sterile cockpit operations (135.100) by providing running commentary in critical phases of flight during part 135 operations ("engaging in nonessential conversations within the cockpit"). I assume that means most of his videos are now made during part 91 flights, like repositioning. I don't have any source, but it seems plausible at least. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Mar 15 at 1:19
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Outside of a departure or arrival, with the autopilot engaged, and one pilot monitoring, the other pilot can do headstands, play a game on his tablet, read, take a snooze, fill out log books, go for a dump, or... use a video camera. It's not a big deal. I've shot video to pass the time during cruise.

The general rule (as in good airmanship) is no screwing around during a higher workload phase like departure or arrival and especially below 10000 ft (including superfluous talking... non-flying chit chat should stop below 10000 ft). During those higher work load phases, if a camera is set up to record, it needs to be set up in a way that doesn't require any attention or cause a distraction.

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The FAA does have specific regulations that could apply to making videos during part 135 and part 121 flights. As JScarry explained in his answer the part 135 rules may have been used against one prominent Youtuber.

135.100 says (emphasis mine):

§135.100 Flight crewmember duties.

(a) No certificate holder shall require, nor may any flight crewmember perform, any duties during a critical phase of flight except those duties required for the safe operation of the aircraft. Duties such as company required calls made for such nonsafety related purposes as ordering galley supplies and confirming passenger connections, announcements made to passengers promoting the air carrier or pointing out sights of interest, and filling out company payroll and related records are not required for the safe operation of the aircraft.

(b) No flight crewmember may engage in, nor may any pilot in command permit, any activity during a critical phase of flight which could distract any flight crewmember from the performance of his or her duties or which could interfere in any way with the proper conduct of those duties. Activities such as eating meals, engaging in nonessential conversations within the cockpit and nonessential communications between the cabin and cockpit crews, and reading publications not related to the proper conduct of the flight are not required for the safe operation of the aircraft.

(c) For the purposes of this section, critical phases of flight includes all ground operations involving taxi, takeoff and landing, and all other flight operations conducted below 10,000 feet, except cruise flight.

For part 121, 121.542 says essentially the same thing, with an additional section banning the use of electronic devices at duty stations for non-flight purposes.

I remember reading or hearing somewhere (maybe reddit) that the FAA went after Steveo1kinevo because he was making videos during part 135 flights that included a lot of commentary during takeoff and landing, i.e. "nonessential conversations" during critical phases of flight.

In any case, clearly recording videos during takeoff and landing in 135/121 flights is no problem; there are hundreds of them on Youtube and airlines even use them in promotional materials. It seems very likely that the FAA's real concern is distraction, i.e. not just recording but actively participating in the video.

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