Just five months after putting together the committee and only a month after the committee's recommendation, the FAA has actually agreed to ease restrictions on portable electronics during takeoff and landing. E-readers, MP3 players and other small devices have been approved by the FAA to be used during all phases of domestic flights.
From the FAA press release about the news,
Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.
The FAA based its decision on input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.
Delta and JetBlue will be the first two airlines to implement the changes, and both companies have said all of their aircraft are "ready to go" for use of portable electronic devices. JetBlue even said that, technically, they could make the change "today" but would wait until the FAA issued the guidelines for the new policy.
Obviously, the use of a cell phone or tablet for making phone calls will still not be permitted during any portion of the flight and connecting to the Internet will still not be allowed during times when a plane is less than 10,000 feet in the air. The FAA also mentioned that the group agrees with the committee's recommendation that devices can still be requested to be turned off by flight staff for safety. The administration cited one percent of flights operating in low visibility noticed significant interference in guidance controls from portable electronic devices, so in those circumstances, passengers would have to comply with instructions to turn the gadgets off.
Here's the ten things you should know, according to the FAA, about PEDs. And we're not talking about A-Rod stuff here.
- 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 takeoff 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 crewmember's instructions.
- It only takes a few minutes to secure items according to the crew's instructions during takeoff 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.
So there you have it. We'll have to see how long airlines take to implement these changes, and if it's anything like the dreaded "carrier testing" for smartphone updates, it might take a while. The good news is that I finally have a use for Airplane Mode again.