FAA: Airline Passengers May Use Most Electronic Devices in Flight

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-10-31 Print this article Print

Ultimately, the decision to allow the use of most PEDs on flights came after the PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) concluded that most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference signals from PEDs, the FAA reported. "Once an airline verifies the tolerance of its fleet, it can allow passengers to use handheld, lightweight electronic devices—such as tablets, e-readers, and smartphones—at all altitudes."

An exception might be during times of low-visibility, when a flight crew might instruct passengers to turn off their devices during landing, according to the FAA. "The group also recommended that heavier devices should be safely stowed under seats or in overhead bins during takeoff and landing."

The FAA has been hinting about the potential changes since March 2013, when the agency announced that it was considering flight rules changes that would allow U.S. airline passengers to use their e-reader devices during takeoffs and landings. The FAA said at the time that it hoped to have a decision on the matter by the end of this year. The agency has been under pressure to let people use reading devices on planes or to provide solid scientific evidence about why the practice could be dangerous. The rules on electronic devices and their use during flights relate to concerns that the devices could potentially interfere with the sensitive avionics equipment that is used by flight crews to control their airplanes during all phases of flight.

The FAA move to allow the unfettered operation of most PEDs will likely please many business and vacation travelers who carry a widening array of devices with them when they fly.

To help airlines comply with the expanded rules, the FAA has issued a guidance paper with details about what will and will not be permitted so that airlines can minimize any potential interference with aircraft avionics systems. "This FAA tool will help airlines assess the risks of potential PED-induced avionics problems for their airplanes and specific operations," the statement said. "Airlines will evaluate avionics as well as changes to stowage rules and passenger announcements. Each airline will also need to revise manuals, checklists for crew member training materials, carry-on baggage programs and passenger briefings before expanding use of PEDs. Each airline will determine how and when they will allow passengers broader use of PEDs."

An FAA spokesperson could not immediately be reached for further comment by eWEEK.

The introduction of new kinds of PEDs, including e-readers, was a key motivator for the creation of the original FAA study on the topic.


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