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Hold the phone – electronic devices cleared for takeoff, but not yet in Australia

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 1, 2013
FAA infographic on electronic device usage
FAA infographic on electronic device usage

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.”

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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.

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2 Comments

  • John Harrison

    says:

    Sounds like a good idea for all those people who can’t survive any time away from their electronic devices.
    All I ask is never let mobile (cell) phones be used inflight for talking on. It would be a nightmare listening to
    people telling “their life story” over a phone while on a long haul flight to somewhere. Fine for all the other uses that mobiles have these days, but please no talking in flight.

  • Martin

    says:

    I was going to take a photo of Jetstar airliner on the apron prior to boarding a few weeks ago and a member of ground staff indicated that I could not use the (regular digital) camera. On clarification, it wasn’t a security issue, rather related to fire hazard. Sure, he was just following company instructions, but it did still make me wonder what the relative risk was of a low powered digital camera with small battery encased in a housing compared to some of the other hazards that must exist such as hot exhaust pipes / engines of ground support equipment around aircraft, the high capacity battery systems of such equipment (that could surely give a decent spark if short circuited) etc.

    I have never quite understood the paranoia re such small electrical devices, including those that can’t even transmit. If any plane was that sensitive to such devices, then it should not be given an airworthiness certificate to start with.

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