Last year, Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) Michael Huerta recognized the increasing consumer interest in the expanded use of personal electronic devices on airplanes and decided to reconsider when passengers can use the latest technologies safely during a flight.
At his request, the Portable Electronic Devices (PED) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) began work on January 7, 2013, to determine if it is safe to allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today’s aircraft. The group was also asked to review the public’s comments in response to an August 2012 FAA notice on current policy, guidance, and procedures that aircraft operators use when determining if passengers can use PEDs. The group did not consider the use of electronic devices for voice communications during flight because Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones.
The group was comprised of experts from stakeholder organizations including the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and mobile technology advocates/manufacturers. The group’s goal was to determine whether the use of electronic devices in today’s aircraft could safely be expanded, make sure tomorrow’s aircraft designs are protected from interference and make a recommendation to the FAA administrator based on that determination.
What is a PED?
A PED is A Portable Electronic Device (PED) is any piece of lightweight, electrically-powered equipment. These devices are typically consumer electronic devices capable of communications, data processing and/or utility. Examples range from handheld, lightweight electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers, and smartphones to small devices such as MP3 players and electronic toys.
Summary of the PED ARC’s Conclusions
In its September 30 report to Administrator Huerta, the PED ARC concluded that:
- Most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference signals from PEDs.
- The FAA should provide airlines with new procedures to assess if their airplanes can tolerate radio interference from PEDs.
- Once an airline verifies their fleet is PED tolerant, it may allow passengers to use handheld, lightweight electronic devices – such as tablets, e-readers, and smartphones, at all altitudes.
- In some instances of severe weather with low-visibility, the crew should continue to instruct passengers to turn off their devices during landing.
- Heavier devices, such as standard laptops, should be safely stowed under seats on in overhead bins during takeoff and landing. Items that do not meet the operator’s size criteria for use during takeoff and landing must be stowed in accordance with the aircraft operator’s approved carry-on baggage program
- All loose items should be held or put in the seat back pocket prior to takeoff and landing.
- The ARC did recommend that the FAA consult with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to review their current rules.
PED ARC members and industry and FAA experts accomplished a safety assessment by using available data. The assessment concluded that PEDs can be addressed to provide an acceptable level of safety for expanded PED use.
The PED ARC report contains 29 recommendations including technical, operational and safety communications aspects of PED usage.
The ARC recommends that airlines can expand PED use by the following path:
- Use a Safety Management System (SMS) risk analysis to mitigate hazards associated with passenger use of PEDs.
- Make aircraft PED-tolerant.
- Train crewmembers to recognize and response to potential PED interference.
- Develop standardized messaging to better inform the public regarding PED-tolerant airplanes and PED usage Policies.
The ARC members reached consensus on all recommendations with the exception of one aspect of Recommendation #10, which included a dissenting opinion that the expanded use of PEDs should not increase flight or cabin crewmember workloads.