Hold the phone – electronic devices cleared for takeoff, but not yet in Australia
The US Federal Aviation Administration has approved passenger use of portable electronic devices – PEDS – in all phases of flight following the findings of the PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee which determined that most commercial airliners can tolerate radio interference signals from PEDs.
The decision means passengers will be able to use devices such as smartphones, iPads and e-book readers ‘gate-to-gate’, but mobile phones will still need to placed in ‘flight mode’ with mobile phone calls remaining banned.
The FAA elaborated in a statement released on Thursday: “The PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) concluded most commercial airplanes 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 airplanes 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.”
It said that it did not consider changing rules for voice calls as that falls under the jurisdiction of the US’s Federal Communications Commission. “Cell phones differ from most PEDs in that they are designed to send out signals strong enough to be received at great distances.”
In response to the FAA decision, Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority said it is “examining” the announcement, but for the time being warned that: “Currently in Australia all airlines restrict the use of electronic devices during critical phases of flight – such as takeoff and landing – due to the risk of interference to aircraft systems. These restrictions remain in place and passengers must follow directions from aircraft crew at all times.”
CASA noted that it in fact has no specific rules governing the use of electronic devices in aircraft, and instead noted that “issue is covered by regulations which require aircraft operators to ensure safety is maintained at all times and passengers to comply with the safety instructions given by crew members.”
Qantas has said it is examining the FAA decision.