Pilots must not use their laptops, iPads, or any other electronic device for personal use at any time while operating a Part 121 aircraft, whether for a passenger or cargo operation, the FAA said on Tuesday. The rule (PDF) reinforces procedures that already are standard at airlines, the FAA said. Also the “sterile cockpit” rule, enacted in 1981, already forbids pilots to engage in any distracting behavior during critical phases of flight, such as takeoff and landing. The new electronic-device rule was first proposed in January 2013, and takes effect in 60 days. The Air Line Pilots Association opposed the rule, on the grounds that it was “unnecessary, unenforceable and may have a negative effect on safety.”
The FAA said the rule aims to “ensure that certain non-essential activities do not contribute to the challenge of task management on the flight deck or a loss of situational awareness due to attention to non-essential tasks.” Two incidents were cited by the FAA, one in which two pilots both were using their personal laptop computers during cruise flight and lost situational awareness, leading to a 150 mile fly-by of their destination, and another in which a pilot sent a text message during the taxi phase of the flight after the aircraft pushed back from the gate and before the takeoff sequence. “These incidents illustrate the potential for such devices to create a hazardous distraction during critical phases of flight,” the FAA said.