Acknowledging - if belatedly - the widespread consumer use of portable electronic devices (PEDs), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports it is forming a government-industry group to study the current PED policies and procedures aircraft operators use to determine when these devices can be used safely during flight. The group will not consider the airborne use of cell phones for voice communications during flight, however.
Current FAA regulations require an aircraft operator to determine that radio frequency interference from PEDs are not a flight safety risk before the operator authorizes them for use during certain phases of flight, the FAA says.
“With so many different types of devices available, we recognize that this is an issue of consumer interest,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Safety is our highest priority, and we must set appropriate standards as we help the industry consider when passengers can use the latest technologies safely during a flight.” FAA is a unit of the DOT.
The government-industry group will examine a variety of issues, the FAA says, 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 group will also look at the establishment of technological standards associated with the use of PEDs during any phase of flight. The group will then present its recommendations to the FAA. The group will not consider the airborne use of cell phones for voice communications during flight.
“We’re looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today’s aircraft,” said Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow’s aircraft designs are protected from interference.”
The government–industry group, established through an Aviation Rulemaking Committee, will be formally established this fall and will meet for six months. It will include representatives from the mobile technology and aviation manufacturing industries, pilot and flight attendant groups, airlines, and passenger associations.
As the first step in gathering information for the working group, the FAA is seeking public input on the agency’s current PED policies, guidance and procedures for operators. The Request for Comments, which will appear in the Federal Register on August 28th, is part of a data-driven agency initiative to review the methods and criteria operators use to permit PEDs during flights, FAA says.
The FAA is seeking comments in the following areas:
• Operational, safety and security challenges associated with expanding PED use.
• Data sharing between aircraft operators and manufacturers to facilitate authorization of PED use.
• Necessity of new certification regulations requiring new aircraft designs to tolerate PED emissions.
• Information-sharing for manufacturers who already have proven PED and aircraft system compatibility to provide information to operators for new and modified aircraft.
• Development of consumer electronics industry standards for aircraft-friendly PEDs, or aircraft-compatible modes of operation.
• Required publication of aircraft operators’ PED policies.
• Restriction of PED use during takeoff, approach, landing and abnormal conditions to avoid distracting passengers during safety briefings and prevent possible injury to passengers.
• Development of standards for systems that actively detect potentially hazardous PED emissions.
• Technical challenges associated with further PED usage, and support from PED manufacturers to commercial aircraft operators.
The request for comments will go on display later this week at the Federal Register. Comments can be filed up to 60 days after the Federal Register publish date.