FAA authorizes use of connected devices on airline flights

By November 13, 2013

FAA encourages US airlines to make it easier to use connected devices during flights.

Given that on the one hand, the public’s use of connected devices is exploding and on the other hand airline navigation systems are now far better protected against potential interference from electronic gadgets, the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation in force for the country’s airlines was looking increasingly out of date. With pilots working for a number of US airlines already using iPads to assist navigation, the FAA has finally given way to pressure from passengers and airlines and has decided to allow greater flexibility. However, each airline will be responsible for implementing the transition.

Progressive implementation

In a press release, the US civil aviation regulation agency claims that it has taken account of the views of passengers, professional aircrew, airlines and aircraft manufacturers. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that the decision “honors both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights.” The FAA decision authorizes airlines to extend passenger usage of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) to all the stages of a flight – termed ‘gate-to-gate’ – even at altitudes under 10,000 feet, whereas up to now, PED usage has only been allowed once planes hit a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet. Having made its decision, the agency is also providing the airlines with implementation guidelines. Due to differences among fleets and operations, implementation will vary among airlines, and each carrier must submit proof to the FAA that the systems in its planes allow passengers to use their devices safely in ‘airplane mode’, gate-to-gate. Delta Air Lines and JetBlue have already submitted requests for authorization to the FAA and are awaiting an initial response from the agency.

Enhancing the customer in-flight experience

Following the new ruling, passengers will be able to use their connected devices gate-to-gate – with “cell phones in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled”, underlines the press release.  Passengers’ greatest use of their devices in-flight is expected to be for playing games. The FAA authorization follows a recent separate agency decision allowing  WiFi on planes throughout the flight. These successive decisions are certainly the result of intense lobbying on the part of tablet makers. Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global public policy, had been carrying out an intensive lobbying campaign. The company has already experimented with installing its Kindle e-readers in planes and ran a special one-day promotion on a range of its tablets to celebrate this latest FAA decision.


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