FAA Advisory Committee Recommends Relaxation of Electronic Device Restrictions on Commercial Aircraft

The Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee has recommended that electronic device restrictions on commercial aircraft be relaxed. According to the committee, airline passengers should be permitted to use smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and other personal electronic devices during taxi, takeoff and landing.

The 28-member committee agreed on the recommendations during a closed-door meeting, the officials said. The recommendations will be included in a report to be delivered to the FAA early next week, they said.

Current rules prohibit the use of electronic devices such as the iPad or the iPhone below 10,000 feet, which means airline passengers are instructed to power off their devices as the plane ascends and descends. Pilots and crew, however, are allowed to use iPads during all phases of flight and many airlines have replaced pilot flight bags with iPads to reduce weight and save money.

united_pilots_ipad-1
The ban has been in place to prevent electronic devices such as cell phones from interfering with cockpit equipment, but modern planes are designed to prevent electronic interference.

The Federal Aviation Administration began reexamining the regulations that ban electronic device usage below 10,000 feet last year, and in March, the FAA’s advisory committee reported that it hoped to loosen device restrictions by the end of the year.

Under today’s recommendation, passengers would be able to use most devices, though some, like Apple’s iPhone, would need to be switched to airplane mode. Downloading data, browsing the web, and talking on the phone would remain prohibited, though reading e-books, listening to music, watching movies, and playing games would be permitted during all phases of flight.

The recommendation will be delivered to the Federal Aviation Administration next week, but it remains up to the FAA to decide whether to follow the recommendations of the committee. The FAA created the committee and was involved in committee deliberations, so it is likely that some of the changes will be implemented, though a timeline for the change is thus far unknown.

Top Rated Comments

Kurwenal Avatar
97 months ago
these restrictions were nonsense



but what's so wrong with having them?

I dunno, how about the fact that they are nonsense?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
troop231 Avatar
97 months ago
I'm OK with this as long as people text, play games, or listen to their headphones. I'm not Ok with this if people are talking loudly on their phone.
Yeah! I wish those people would step outside to place their call, preferably during takeoff :D
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rols Avatar
97 months ago
And tomorrow morning I fly to LA!... a week too early to take full advantage of this new policy.

A week? In a week it goes to the FAA, who then decide what they want to do about it and start the rule-making process which may eventually result in the rules being changed. Then those rules go to the airlines who decide whether they are going to relax their policies and change their safety videos (even if the FAA says you can, that's a minimum policy, the airlines are free to continue to enforce something stricter) and then, only then, will anyone be taking advantage of anything.

I'm pessimistically going for a year or two .. and another 10 before other aviation authorities in other parts of the world decide to follow suit, if they do.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
97 months ago
Holy recycled photograph, Batman! (https://www.macrumors.com/2013/03/25/faa-still-looking-at-digital-device-use-during-takeoff-and-landing/)
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Illusion986 Avatar
97 months ago
Definitely about time! So many rules are active from 10-20 years ago that no longer make sense.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kdarling Avatar
97 months ago
I see the same questions and comments over and over again, from people are obviously neither pilots nor engineers. Let's review some:

But my radio / device is in receive only mode.

ALL digital electronics are transmitters. CPUs require oscillators at MHZ to GHz frequencies. Those are transmitters. Even receive only simple transistor radios have oscillators that transmit.

I don't understand why pilots can use iPads but I can't.

The use of those two iPads in the cockpit has taken most airlines over a year to test and get approved. There is no way that those results carry over to dozens of other people using electronics.

How can electronics so far from the cockpit interfere?

The radio antennas, anti-collision antennas, their wires, and all the modern electronic control wires run through the cabin. You can easily be just a few feet away from one of those. There are cases where pilots have gotten emergency automatic climb/descend commands that likely came from passenger electronics in a seat nearby one of those cables.

Why aren't they worried about outside interference as much?

An airplane is what's called a Faraday Cage, because it's a closed metal tube (or a composite with embedded metal for lightening protection). This prevents outside signals from entering the cabin (except through the windows). It also tends to keep the signals that originate inside, inside and bouncing around.

But interference can't bring down a plane, so why should I worry?

Text messages don't stop a car's engine from working, yet they have caused many wrecks and deaths.

Interference, as in disabling something, is usually not the problem. The problem is causing distractions to the pilots or interference to instruments. Safe flight, especially when in the airport area for landing or takeoff, is highly dependent on good communications and no distractions. Non-pilots don't realize that it takes very little to cause an aviation accident, especially when low and slow and in a crowded airspace. All it needs is a chain of little mistakes.

If it's dangerous, why do they allow usage above 10,000 feet?

10,000 feet is also where speed limits change, radio comm rules change, separation distances change, all sorts of things change.

This is because the more altitude you have, the more time that pilots have to debug a problem.

But some airliners have WiFi

Above 10,000 feet. They also use low power, and expect the passenger devices to likewise use low power. See below.

Got an example of an interference?

I have previously posted quite a few examples from the NASA database. GSM buzz, false anti-collision alarms, navigation instrument wonkiness, and autopilot shut-offs are the main ones.

Handled high up, they're not so bad. Within the airport environment, they're a potential accident chain cause.

Here's a good example: Recently, Boeing engineers were certifying one of their airliner models for WiFi. Quite by accident, they found that some laptops ramped up their WiFi power, causing the plane's WiFi to ramp up, and the interference caused the pilots LCD displays to go blank. (!) They fixed it by adding more display shielding, but ...

Consider if that had happened while landing at night or in clouds. It's been proven many times that without working instruments in dark or sightless conditions, a pilot's (and by extension, the passengers') life expectency is measured in minutes. (There was a 747 that crashed on takeoff at night, because of faulty reading instruments. The pilot accidentally rolled it upside down into the sea.)

Would you risk your familiy, or your child's life, just to use your iPad a few minutes more?

I think, until everything on an airliner is shielded and all signals sent by fiber optics, that this is a mistake.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone 6 in hand

Apple Faces Another iPhone Lawsuit Over 'Programmed Obsolescence'

Monday March 1, 2021 6:44 am PST by
Apple faces a new class-action lawsuit that accuses it of deliberately releasing iOS updates that slowly reduce the performance of an iPhone, forcing customers to upgrade their devices. The lawsuit comes from the Portuguese Consumer Protection Agency, Deco Proteste (via Marketeer), which in a statement says that it will proceed with a case against the Cupertino tech giant because it...
PIA23764 RoverNamePlateonMars web

NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Uses Same PowerPC Chipset Found in 1998 G3 iMac

Tuesday March 2, 2021 3:21 am PST by
NASA's Perseverance rover, which recently made history landing on the surface of Mars, is powered by the same processor used in an iMac more than 23 years old. Image Credit: NASA As reported by NewScientist (via Gizmodo), the rover includes the PowerPC 750 processor, the same chip used in the G3 iMac in 1998. The main chipset is the same; however, there are differences between the...
magsafe charging brick feature

Prosser: iPhone 12 MagSafe Battery Pack to Feature Reverse Charging

Monday March 1, 2021 1:18 pm PST by
Apple is working on MagSafe-compatible battery packs that will be compatible with the iPhone 12 models, and leaker Jon Prosser today said on the Genius Bar podcast that one version of the battery pack will feature "reverse charging." According to Prosser, Apple is working on two versions of the battery packs, one that's a standard version and one that's a premium version with reverse...
iphone 12 pro display video

iPhone 13 to Include 1TB Storage Option and LiDAR Across the Board, Says Wedbush Analyst

Monday March 1, 2021 4:00 am PST by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 13 could include a 1TB storage option for some models and LiDAR Scanners across the entire lineup, according to a report from Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said that initial Asian supply chain checks gave the firm "increased confidence" that Apple's 5G-driven product cycle would extend well into 2022,...
Top Stories 47 Feature copy

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, and AirPods Rumors, macOS 11.2.2, MagSafe Wallet Revisited

Saturday February 27, 2021 6:00 am PST by
March is right around the corner, and that means our first good opportunity for Apple product launches in 2021 as the company frequently has significant launches in March or April each year. We're hearing rumors about MacBook Pro, iMac, AirPods, and more, although many of these will be coming out at different times over the course of the year. This week also saw a macOS update to address a ...
microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

Kuo: iPhone 13 Lineup to Feature Smaller Notch and Larger Batteries, 120Hz Display for Pro Models, and More

Monday March 1, 2021 7:50 am PST by
iPhone 13 models will all feature a smaller notch, while the two Pro models will be equipped with low-power LTPO display technology for a 120Hz refresh rate, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Several other sources have previously claimed that some iPhone 13 models will support a 120Hz refresh...
maxresdefault

HomeKit Essentials Worth Checking Out

Saturday February 27, 2021 7:05 am PST by
HomeKit was slow to take off after its 2014 launch, but now that it's been around for seven years, there are hundreds of HomeKit products available, ranging from doorbells and speakers to TVs, lights, and cameras. In our latest YouTube video, we rounded up some of our favorite HomeKit products that we find most useful. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. HomePod...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
Apple Prefer Lightning Over USB C Feature

iPhone Sticking With Lightning Port Over USB-C for 'Foreseeable Future'

Tuesday March 2, 2021 9:32 am PST by
Apple will retain the Lightning connector on the iPhone for the "foreseeable future," with no intention of switching to USB-C, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In spite of much of the industry moving toward USB-C, Apple will not be using it to replace the Lightning connector on the iPhone 13, or indeed on any iPhone model for the time being. In a note seen by MacRumors yesterday,...