Entertainment, Hardware

Do Airplanes and Personal Electronic Devices Mix?


For more than 15 years, the debate continues: Should airline passengers be allowed to use personal electronic devices, such as e-readers or tablets or even cell phones at all times? FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is asking that question again of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Tests over the years did not prove definitively that our mobile devices interfere with aircraft communications or operation. Cell phones get the worst rap because they use the same frequency as a plane?s navigational equipment.

Authorities argue that passengers should ?turn off all electronic devices? during take off and landing, more for safety than technological concerns. Theory is that we?d be distracted too distracted by our mobile gadgets to be aware of a problem during those critical times. A 36 year study by Boeing indicated that 69 percent of all accidents take place as the plane takes off or lands. I?d wager, though, if something drastic happened while you were engrossed in the mystery story on your e-reader, you?d put the device down immediately and pay attention to the stewardess.

GoGo powers some in-flight internet options

Although you can surf the net on a wireless device, in fact even buy Internet time while on the aircraft, voice communications are still suspect. However, an August FAA study skirted the question of allowing voice communications during flights. Some say it?s because they don?t have the capability to test each and every device that comes on the market.

An early study resulted in the 1996 Document No. RTCA/DO-233, entitled ?Portable Electronic Devices Carried on Board Aircraft.? The finding and conclusions from this and a later study helped the FAA establish the current policy which allows the use of non-transmitting PEDS during non-critical phases of flight.

To quote an Advisory Circular released in 2006: ?Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91, section 91.21. Section 91.21 was established because of the potential for portable electronic devices (PED) to interfere with aircraft communications and navigation equipment. It prohibits the operation of PEDs aboard U.S.-registered civil aircraft while operating under instrument flight rules. This rule permits use of specified PEDs and other devices that the operator of the aircraft has determined will not interfere with the safe operation of that aircraft.?

The Advisory places the onus on the airline company should an accident be attributable to your PED (Personal Electronic Device):?It should be noted that the responsibility for permitting passenger use of a particular PED technology lies solely with the operator.?

Given that opinions have been bantered about since the mid 1960?s, the Vice President for Government Affairs Jot Carpenter of CTIA-The Wireless Association rightly stated that the FAA’s current electronic devices ban is "an antiquated rule that no one could explain, especially since there are several airlines [such as Alaska Airlines and American Airlines] that offer tablets for their pilots.?

Sri Lanka pilot shows off his new iPad EFB tool

Sri Lankan Airlines says the iPad EFB is an information management device displaying data intended primarily for flight-deck or cabin use. They planned that of October 2012, the entire technical flight crew of approximately 300 pilots would be using the iPad EFBs in the all Airbus fleet of A340s, A330s and A320 aircraft. By reducing the heavy manuals that pilots were required to carry aboard, the lightweight PEDs will save approximately 264,000 gallons of jet fuel and in turn reduce tons of emissions according to Travel Daily. Hopefully, with all the technology experts available today, the FAA can arrive at a reasonable and scientifically supported conclusion soon.