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Expect to use some portable electronic devices during the entire flight very soon

by Devesh Agarwal

The United States’ aviation regulator the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has today allowed airlines to relax rules regarding the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) on-board flights below 10,000 feet. In a release the FAA said

Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll. Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones. If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.

Passengers can soon expect US airlines to start allowing use of e-readers and games and some other devices in the “airplane” mode throughout all phases of a flight i.e. from gate to gate. However, connecting to the internet below 10,000 feet, will continue to be disallowed, and using a cell phone for voice phone calls during a flight is prohibited by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said

“We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer’s increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” “These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future.”

Due to the wide variety of gadgets and types of aircraft and equipment, the FAA expects airlines to take some time to prove their safe operation together, but expects wide scale implementation of the new rules by end of this year.

US major, Delta Air Lines has already announced it is ready to roll out new rules by November 1. In a statement the airline said

Delta Air Lines is ready to allow its customers to be the first to use their portable electronic devices below 10,000 feet as early as Nov. 1, 2013 pending Federal Aviation Administration approval. All Delta aircraft have completed carrier-defined PED tolerance testing to ensure the safe operation of passenger portable electronic devices during all phases of flight and Delta’s plan has been submitted to the FAA for approval.

In support of the FAA’s call for expanded PED usage in flight, more than 570 mainline domestic aircraft stand ready to allow customer use of e-readers, tablets, and smartphones, all in airplane mode, during taxi, takeoff and landing on domestic flights. Delta Connection’s more than 550 regional aircraft will be ready by the end of the year. In-flight Wi-Fi will continue to be available for customers above 10,000 feet.

Top things passengers should know about expanded use of PEDs on airplanes:

  • Make safety your first priority.
  • Changes to PED policies will not happen immediately and will vary by airline. Check with your airline to see if and when you can use your PED.
  • Current PED policies remain in effect until an airline completes a safety assessment, gets FAA approval, and changes its PED policy.
  • Cell phones may not be used for voice communications.
  • Devices must be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. You may use the WiFi connection on your device if the plane has an installed WiFi system and the airline allows its use. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.
  • Properly stow heavier devices under seats or in the overhead bins during take-off and landing. These items could impede evacuation of an aircraft or may injure you or someone else in the event of turbulence or an accident.
  • During the safety briefing, put down electronic devices, books and newspapers and listen to the crew-member’s instructions.
  • It only takes a few minutes to secure items according to the crew’s instructions during take-off and landing.
  • In some instances of low visibility – about one percent of flights – some landing systems may not be proved PED tolerant, so you may be asked to turn off your device.
  • Always follow crew instructions and immediately turn off your device if asked.

To read the fact sheet about the PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) click here. The read the full PED ARC report in PDF format click here.

Given the influence of the FAA on global aviation standards, what are your views on how soon we can expect changes in other parts of the world? Share your thoughts via a comment.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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