FAA Allows Use of Electronic Devices Aboard Flights

FAA Allows Use of Electronic Devices Aboard Flights
Bernadine Racoma

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has moderated the regulation on the use of electronic devices aboard flights. Passengers will now be allowed to use their gadgets on planes albeit with certain limitations.

Portable devices

With the loosening of rules for electronic devices during flights, passengers can now use their gadgets for reading, playing games, watching movies and listening to music. However they are not allowed to use their cellphones for in-flight calls. Michael Huerta, FAA administrator made the announcement on the change at the Reagan National Airport in Washington. Huerta said airlines are still held responsible to confirm that general use of electronics will not obstruct every kind of airplane.

Updating flight manuals

In view of the change in regulation for electronic device use, the FAA directed airlines to update their flight manuals by including guidelines on the new policy. Moreover, training and safety orientation must be conducted among the crew. Passengers will likewise be informed and guided accordingly. Most flights are expected to implement the recently issued adjustment before the year ends. The FAA however emphasized on the need for readiness among airlines. This means that before an airline starts to allow use of electronic devices aboard flights, it must be able to meet the required preparatory measures. The FAA needs to inspect and approve every airplane to confirm compliance. Delta Airlines has manifested its conformity and said it will soon submit an implementation plan. How quickly the change takes effect, Huerta said, will depend on the airline’s ability to comply with the requirements.

Airplane mode

The current set up on flights is for passengers to turn their smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets to airplane mode as soon as the door of the plane is shut. Meanwhile they can restart them again when the plane is already on a 10,000 feet altitude as advised by the captain. On landing, passengers are again advised to turn off their devices, as the plane gets ready to go down to land. When the plane is already on the ground, passengers may restart them again.

New guidelines

Airplanes that are properly guarded from electronic disturbance can permit their passengers to use their gadgets when the plane is taking off, landing and taxiing. Airlines that already allow WiFi use at certain altitudes may be the first to modify their planes to meet the new regulation. At 10,000 feet high, these airlines grant Internet connection so that passengers can send emails, surf the Internet or download information. Below this altitude however, passengers are asked to turn off their devices.

2011 incident

In 2011, famous actor Alec Baldwin was forced out of an American Airlines jet when he refused to turn off his smartphone while the plane was preparing to take off. He was said to be playing the online Scrabble game Words With Friends. Under the new guideline, heavier equipment like laptops will still be required to be tucked in a particular place because they might cause injury if there are disturbances in the flight and these devices fly around and hit someone.


Cellphone calls will continue to be prohibited in airplanes that are flying lower than the specified altitude. The reason for the restriction is that cellular network radars may strain in order to provide signals to cellphones aboard the planes. This might cause interference with ground users. In 1966 the FAA started the ban on use of electronic devices. This prohibition came as an action to statements that FM radios and other electronic gadgets used during those days interfered with the airlines’ navigation and communications apparatus. Today however, new airlines have equipped their planes with systems that are resistant to electronic interference. Incidentally, modern electronic devices such as the e-readers have lower power radio conveyance with minimal transference when they are used in planes.

Photo Credit: FAA Logo

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