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FAA allows airlines to expand use of personal electronic devices

FAA allows airlines to expand use of personal electronic devices

Good news today for air travelers who can’t wait to finish that last chapter of their e-book or play another round of Candy Crush.

The Federal Aviation Administration is allowing airlines to expand passengers' use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight--yes, that means while your aircraft is taxiing, taking off, and landing.

Now, expanded use will not happen overnight. But eventually, passengers will be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions.

Photo of a middle aged man playing Angry Birds on his laptop aboard an airplane

The FAA is immediately providing airlines with guidance for implementing the new rule, and the first step toward protecting passenger safety is for airlines to verify that an aircraft's systems can tolerate radio interference from PEDs.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx commended the safety-based rule: “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.” 

Once an airline verifies its fleet is PED-tolerant, 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 flight crew will instruct passengers to turn off their devices during landing. For safety reasons, electronic items, books, and magazines also must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll. All devices should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled.  Cell phones still cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations. Heavier devices should always remain safely stowed during takeoff and landing. 

And above all, please be sure to follow instructions from the crew.

To help make your flight as safe as possible, here's a list of Top 10 Things Passengers Should Know about Use of PEDs on Airplanes:

  1. Photo of woman air passenger with tabletMake safety your first priority.
  2. Check with your airline to see if and when you can use your PED.
  3. Current FAA rules remain in effect until an airline completes a safety assessment, gets FAA approval, and changes its PED policy.
  4. Cell phones may not be used for voice communications.
  5. Devices must be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. You may use the WiFi connection on your device if the plane has an installed WiFi system and the airline allows its use. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.
  6. Properly stow heavier devices under seats or in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing. These items could impede evacuation of an aircraft or may injure you or someone else.    
  7. During the safety briefing, put down electronic devices, books and newspapers and listen to the crewmember’s safety briefing and instructions.
  8. It only takes a few minutes to secure items according to the crew’s instructions during takeoff and landing.
  9. In some instances of low visibility – about one percent of flights – some landing systems may not be proved PED-tolerant, so you may be asked to turn off your device.
  10. Always follow crew instructions and immediately turn off your device if asked.

The PED ARC report and FAA guidance materials are available at www.faa.gov.

Michael Huerta is Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Infographic from F.A.A.

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