October 31, 2013
The FAA says it has “streamlined” the approval process that airlines can use for approving on-board personal electronic devices (PEDs), opening the door for individual airlines by the end of the year to approve PEDs for use at all times during a flight.
Currently the agency requires all electronic devices to be turned off below 10,000 ft., a safety measure put in place to avoid the potential for interference between the devices and the aircraft’s avionics. But during an event today at Reagan Washington National Airport, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced, “We can safely expand PED use during all phases of flight.”
Once cleared by the FAA, airlines can allow passengers to use e-books, play games and watch videos on PEDs during all phases of flight, although cell phones will have to be set to “flight mode” with transmitters turned off. GPS devices and short-range Bluetooth devices, including wireless keyboards, also will be allowed.
Huerta says that even cell phones with transmitters mistakenly left on will not pose a safety problem, though passengers will find the device’s battery drained by the end of the flight.
The change comes after a landmark aviation rulemaking committee recommended an ease in PED restrictions.
Huerta says the group determined that aircraft can safely tolerate the radio frequency emissions from PEDs is most conditions, with the exception of potential interference to Category 2 and 3 low-visibility approaches. In those conditions, the airlines will likely ask passengers to turn off all PEDs.
Airlines already were allowed to prove to the FAA that PEDs could be used on board during all phases of flight, but there were no consistent procedures and test protocols to do so until the rulemaking committee provided the details.
Huerta says airlines will have to evaluate their fleets and submit plans to the FAA covering new stowage requirements for heavier devices (including laptop computers), as well as appropriate checklists, passenger safety announcements and briefings.
One phase of flight where PEDs will not be allowed is the pre-flight safety briefing. “Passengers must take a break from devices during the briefing,” Huerta says.