Mobile Devices on Flights


If you’re a frequent flyer, you’re familiar with the request: turn off your portable electronic devices. It’s more a demand than a request, considering passengers can be fined if it’s found they have not complied. Concerns center on frequency interference created by wireless devices during critical moments on a flight, such as when the pilot is preparing for takeoff or landing.

However, a new study commissioned by the FAA (Federal Aviation Admin.),, may open the door to a new line of thinking when it comes to the use of devices on aircraft. The administration has announced it will form a group of government and industry stakeholders that will set out to evaluate whether the ban on consumer electronics during flights needs to stand as is.

Current regulations require an aircraft operator to determine that radio frequency interference is not a flight safety risk before authorizing use during a flight. Outside of those periods authorized by the pilot/aircraft operator, device use is banned. The FAA-commissioned group’s ultimate goal will be to re-evaluate the current regulations, along with policies and procedures, and determine how best to proceed.

According to the FAA, the re-evaluation is a natural progression thanks to the burgeoning interest and market for consumer connected devices, or what it calls “PEDs” (portable electronic devices). In fact, it seems the explosion of connected devices is what prompted the FAA and the U.S. Dept. of Transportation,, which oversees the FAA, to take action.

In a statement, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said the organizations realize this is “an issue of consumer interest.” At the same time, LaHood says safety remains the highest priority; the industry needs solid data before making changes to the status quo.

During the study, the FAA says the government-industry group will examine the methods aircraft operators use to determine which technologies can be safely used in flight, as well as when they can be used.

The group will be formally established this fall, meeting for six months before making recommendations to the FAA. The administration has issued a formal request for public comments as a first step in the process.

For consumers and businesspeople who desire connectivity, the no-devices rule on aircraft can be a pain. However, it is in the public’s best interest to support a thorough evaluation and testing process that takes an objective look at the dangers of using connected devices during flights, while also factoring in the benefits.

While the FAA’s study may not result in a change to the status quo, the fact the administration has taken this step at all represents how important and increasingly ubiquitous mobile devices and their connected functionalities have become to modern society.

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June/July 2014
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