No Cellphones in Flight: FAA Studies Safety of Electronic Devices on Airplanes

Those of you fearing a "Tower of Babel" experience in the air can rest easy: The existing ban on in-flight cellphone use will continue indefinitely. However, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is launching a working group to study whether other types of portable electronic devices can be used safely aboard flights and whether current policies should be changed.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking a new look at longtime in-flight safety policies that have banned the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) aboard airliners. One key issue that won't be up for discussion, though, is the existing ban on in-flight cellphone use, which will continue indefinitely, according to the FAA.

To study the issue of other PEDs, the FAA is creating a working group -- the Aviation Rulemaking Committee -- made up of government and industry leaders. The group, which will begin its work this fall, will examine existing rules and procedures regulating the devices and consider all sides of the issue to decide whether policy changes are possible, according to a statement from the FAA.

Currently, passengers on aircraft in the United States are instructed to turn off their PEDs, including cellphones, laptop computers and gaming systems, for take-offs and landings. Some devices may be used again once a flight is at cruising level, including laptops and gaming systems. Cellphone use is presently not permitted at all until the aircraft has landed, under FAA rules.

Cellphone use aboard aircraft isn't being addressed by the FAA because of existing rules from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which prohibit the practice. The FCC's "primary concern is that a cellphone, used while airborne, would have a much greater transmitting range than a land mobile unit" and would interfere with other cellphone transmissions, according to an FAA Advisory Circular.

The new PED working group will look at myriad issues, "including the testing methods aircraft operators use to determine which new technologies passengers can safely use aboard aircraft and when they can use them," the FAA stated.

This article was originally published on 08-28-2012
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