FAA Expected to Relax Restrictions on Use of PEDs
Despite the repeated insistence of the flight crew, do you have trouble shutting down your iPad, Kindle, or Nintendo 3DS before pushing back or landing? Well, good news may be coming. According to a draft report from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the outdated restriction against the use personal electronic devices (PEDs) below 10,000 feet may be relaxed later this year. Current restrictions on cellphone calls and internet use are expected to remain unchanged.
The Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), a 28-member advisory panel commissioned by the FAA, began an investigation last August whether the use of some electronic devices onboard flights could be expanded. The use of cellphones inflight, however, was not part of the investigation.
The panel is currently scheduled to submit its final report to the FAA at the end of September. The details are still under debate, but the panel is expected to recommend that the FAA relax its restrictions during taxiing, takeoff, and landing.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown: “The FAA recognizes consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft. That is why we tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions.”
The ban against the use of all devices until planes reach an altitude of 10,000 feet was first introduced in 1966 — a time when passenger jets were less tolerant to electromagnetic interference from computers and other electronic devices. In the years since, aircraft have improved to better withstand such interference.
Electronic devices themselves have also become less threatening to onboard systems since the original ban. According to the report, today’s devices use less power, transmit weaker signals, and ‘stay within a tighter range of frequencies.’
In a recent statement Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) praised the potential changes, “It’s good to see the FAA may be on the verge of acknowledging what the traveling public has suspected for years — that current rules are arbitrary and lack real justification.”
In fact, nearly 30 percent of passengers may not even turn their electronic devices off during a flight, according to a study released last monthby the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) is among the members of the ARC panel. In a press release issued on June 21, the AFA expressed its committment that the safety of the flight “will not be adversely affected.”
Because flight attendants must constantly remind passengers about the rules about PED usage and because some passengers outright refuse to turn off their devices, AFA spokeswoman Corey Caldwell stated, “It’s no secret that the use of personalized electronic devices in the aircraft often causes a problem.”
While a relaxation of the restrictions on PEDs below 10,000 feet will certainly not solve all the problems associated with modern air travel, it will at least be one less source of frustration.