A Ban Doomed To Fail?
It seems odd that based on one incident -- those two pilots who flew right past their destination while absorbed in a discussion and looking at their laptops -- the FAA wants to ban all airline pilots from ever using personal electronic devices while in the cockpit -- ever. The FAA did cite a couple of other incidents, when a pilot received a text or their cellphone rang, but those occurred during times already covered by the sterile cockpit rule, so they don't really seem to justify this proposed rule change.
Exactly how the FAA intends to enforce this ban, isn't clear. Maybe they will use it as a reason to revisit the idea of having video monitors in the cockpit, a change the NTSB has been asking for, for years. Otherwise, it's a rule that seems almost certain to be broken. And because it seems so arbitrary and unenforceable, it's exactly the kind of rule that encourages people to ignore, disrespect, and break the rules, which doesn't seem like something the FAA should be wanting to do.
Airline pilots often have some downtime while cruising at altitude. It was a long time ago that I used to fly jumpseat in a cargo jet, but it was pretty common then for the pilot not flying at cruise to pass the time reading a book or a magazine. I imagine that's still true today. If they are reading on a Kindle or playing Angry Birds, I don't see how that makes any difference. Having something engaging to do to provide a little distraction seems like a good way to stay alert.
The FAA is accepting comments on its proposed rule until March 18. It will be interesting to see what kind of response they get.