FAA approves increase of PED usage in-flight

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta revealed that the FAA has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) in all phases of flight.

The FAA is in the process of providing airlines with implementation guidance. Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their aircraft allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.

The FAA based its decision on input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.

Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices in-flight at all times, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll. Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled and cannot be used for voice communications based on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones. If an airline provides an in-flight Wi-Fi service, passengers can use these services, as well as continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.

“We believe today’s decision honours both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future.”

“I commend the dedication and excellent work of all the experts who spent the past year working together to give us a solid report so we can now move forward with a safety-based decision on when passengers can use PEDs on airplanes,” commented Michael Huerta.

The PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) concluded most commercial aircraft can tolerate radio interference signals from PEDs. In a recent report, they recommended that the FAA provide airlines with new procedures to assess if their aircraft can tolerate radio interference from PEDs. 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. In rare instances of low-visibility, the crew will instruct passengers to turn off their devices during landing. The group also recommended that heavier devices should be safely stowed under seats or in overhead bins during takeoff and landing.

The FAA is streamlining the approval of expanded PED use by giving airlines updated, clear guidance. This FAA tool aims to help airlines assess the risks of potential PED-induced avionics problems for their aircraft and specific operations. Airlines will evaluate avionics as well as changes to stowage rules and passenger announcements. Each airline will also need to revise manuals, checklists for crewmember training materials, carry-on baggage programmes and passenger briefings before expanding use of PEDs. Each airline will determine how and when they will allow passengers broader use of PEDs.

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