FAA To Study Electronics Use Aloft

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The FAA said on Monday it will form a working group to study whether it might be OK to allow airline passengers to use personal electronic devices during flights. "We're looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today's aircraft," said Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow's aircraft designs are protected from interference." The government-industry group will examine a variety of issues, including the testing methods aircraft operators use to determine which new technologies passengers can safely use aboard aircraft and when they can use them.

The FAA policies regarding passenger devices were first established in the 1960s, the agency said, when studies showed that portable FM receivers could interfere with VOR navigation signals. More recently, the FAA has been concerned about potential interference with fly-by-wire controls and electronic cockpit displays. The FAA provides guidance about the use of the devices, but has left it up to the airlines to set and enforce their own rules. The new working group will be established this fall and will meet for six months, the FAA said. The group is seeking comments (PDF) from aircraft operators, flight crews, passengers and manufacturers of personal electronic devices within the next 60 days. The FAA added that the group will not address the use of cellphones in flight.