FAA Panel Advises Lifting Flight Restrictions on Electronics

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A Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee tasked with investigating flight restrictions on personal electronic devices has concluded that most electronics, including those connected to onboard Wi-Fi, can be safely used during all portions of flight on most U.S. passenger aircraft.


Established last year, the 28-member panel is comprised of representatives from the Federal Communications Commission, FAA, pilot and flight attendant groups, airlines and consumer electronic device makers and other industry affiliates.

Citing a senior Amazon official who headed the group’s technical subcommittee, the Wall Street Journal reported Oct 1, 2013 that the panel determined “the vast majority” of aircraft “are going to be just fine” from a safety standpoint, no matter what applications a device may be running or what wireless-transmission mode it may be in.

The designs of nearly all modern aircraft “have been so dramatically improved, and aircraft are [now] so resilient” to interference that personal electronic devices are believed safe for “gate to gate use,” Paul Misener told the international business newspaper.

Ground-based cellular connections, however, will remain off-limits for now, in part due to a long-standing Federal Communications Commission rule prohibiting access to cellular service during flight because of interference concerns. According to Misener, the committee urged the FAA to work with the FCC to reassess these restrictions as part of their report.

The panel also advised pilots be given the authority to ask passengers to turn off devices in cases when pilots need to use complex instrument-landing systems in low visibility or poor weather conditions.

Another committee member confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the report does not include any restrictions on using onboard Wi-Fi below 10,000 feet, instead recommending that aircraft already equipped with Wi-Fi systems be subjected to simple testing—or no testing at all— for portable electronic devices. This recommendation was made because they’ve already passed more rigorous testing for the Wi-Fi hardware, the committee member reportedly explained.

The committee also endorsed a system for airlines to demonstrate to the FAA that electronic devices carried by passengers do not interfere with cockpit instruments as part of their report. The system would reportedly be based on the reassessment of earlier test results, rather than on new tests based on new standards.

Ultimately, the FAA must make the final decision on whether or not to change current restrictions on personal electronic device use in flight. FAA officials have reportedly declined to comment thus far on the report, except to say they will evaluate them and then decide on what further action, if any, to take.

Article: ITEM Media / Aliza Becker
Editor: M. Danmole’
Image: Dayton Daily News