Hello Capt Lim,
My name is Arif and I am living in Surabaya, Indonesia. I know you from a well known aviation magazine in Indonesia.
About a month ago, I was flying from Surabaya to Jakarta. I love to make notes of my trips. During my ride on the plane, I would take pictures of my aircraft - an Airbus A320-212.
While at mid-flight, a flight attendant come over and asked me to erase the pictures I have taken. She said "Your pictures are our company credits".
Is it prohibited to take pictures of the aircraft? Does it affect safety?
I know how precious a picture is to a tourist or traveler, especially if one wants to record his travel. More so, if one is taken inside or outside an airplane.
As far as I know, there are no laws prohibiting the taking of photos inside the cabin but individual carriers have the right to set and enforce their own rules on their planes. (However, most airports and military installations do not allow pictures to be taken within its compound.)
So individual flight attendants have the right to restrict the use of any digital media inside the plane and passengers are required to do what the flight crew says under the air regulations.
Perhaps all these restrictions stem from the security fears that started from the Sep 11 event.
When asked why there is a restriction, usually the answer is basically due to security reasons. This is laughable to some as in the Internet, especially in Airliners.net - one can view close-up glimpses of the cockpits, cabin and aircraft of almost every airline on earth. So attempts to restrict photography are based on misguided fears about the supposed dangers that they may pose to society.
According to one security official "A passenger is free to take any picture he or she wants in any public area of the airport as long as he is not deemed a threat.”
Are there any dangers involved when taking pictures with a camera in the cabin?
Well, a camera is among the items that are classified as non-intentional transmitters of radio signals. It would not interfere with airplane operation. Its usage is not as critical as a cell phone that intentionally transmits radio signals. See another related answer in "Can a US$20.00CD player actually bring down a US$270 million aircraft?”
So, unofficially, it is okay to take a picture discreetly without annoying other passengers anytime when 'electronic devices' are permitted - meaning that you can only do so before the door is shut at the gate and above 10,000 feet. However, if the FA tells you to put the camera away, do it without any complaints as they have the backing of the air regulations behind them.
Interestingly, in some airlines such as Qantas (I am told) its safety cards expressly permit the use of cameras at any time.