Portable Electronic Devices Presser

Former Administrator, Michael Huerta (January 09, 2013–January 05, 2018)

Good morning. Thank you for joining me today.

As you may know, in January of this year, when I became Administrator, I wanted to take a thoughtful look at the rules governing the use of portable electronic devices in flight – rules that have been in effect for nearly 50 years. I assembled a team of industry and aviation experts to explore the issue and today we want to share the conclusion.

After reviewing the report and the committee’s recommendations and consulting with agency specialists, I am pleased to announce that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices during all phases of flight. Today, the FAA is providing the airlines with implementation guidance to do so.

The committee determined that most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference from portable electronic devices. It’s safe to read downloaded materials like e-books and calendars and to play games. But, the committee found that in some instances of low visibility – about one percent of flights – some landing systems may not be proven to tolerate the interference. In those cases, passengers should be asked to turn-off devices. We agree with that recommendation and our guidance to airlines reflects that.

It’s important for everyone’s safety that passengers obey all requests to store such devices if need be. The committee recommended that heavier devices be safely stowed under seats or in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing. This is something we’ll ask airlines to implement.

This was not our typical aviation rulemaking committee. While the team was made up of representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, pilots and flight attendants, we also included organizations that represent passengers and the mobile technology industry. This diverse group assured that we protected aviation safety while addressing the passenger desire to use their portable devices. I commend the detailed and thorough work of the group, which represented all of the stakeholders. The report can be found on our website, at FAA.gov.

These changes won’t take effect immediately. But we will be working with the airlines to get it done as quickly as we can, and to maximize consistency across the industry.

Cabin safety is extremely important and each airline will evaluate its fleet and may need to change the rules for stowing carry-on items and passenger safety announcements. Each airline will also need to revise manuals, checklists for crewmember training materials, and passenger briefings before expanding the use of portable electronic devices. Each airline will determine how and when it will allow passengers the broader use of tablets, e-readers and smartphones at all altitudes. We’re committed to working with carriers to review their plans expeditiously and to promote consistency for passengers.

I want to be clear that you still cannot talk on your phone during a flight. The Federal Communications Commission governs cell phone use during flights, and the committee did not consider that issue. All devices should be in airplane mode. However, you will be able to connect through Wi-Fi to an airplane’s wireless network if the airline provides the service. And you will be able to connect to Bluetooth accessories like a mouse or keyboard.

There’s one thing that won’t change. Passengers must take a break from their devices, their music, or whatever they’re doing, and listen to the safety briefing before each flight. It could save your life in the event of an emergency.

In closing, I want to commend the dedication and excellent work of all the experts who spent the past year working together to give us a solid report. It has allowed us to move forward with a science-based decision on expanded use of electronics on airplanes during all phases of flight. And while it will take some time for each airline to verify that its fleet is PED tolerant, I expect expanded use will come soon.

Thank you again for joining me today. I’ll take some questions.