Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
We are reviewing the policies, guidance, and procedures that establish the methods and criteria aircraft operators use to determine if they can allow PED usage during flight. The FAA has long recognized that PEDs have the potential for causing interference with aircraft navigation or communication systems. Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) §§ 91.21, 121.306, 125.204, and 135.144 establish the requirements prohibiting the use of PEDs without the authorization of the aircraft operator.
The FAA's first published rulemaking
During that rulemaking process, the FAA received comments on the subject of FAA involvement in the authorization of use of PEDs. The public expressed concerns that authorization of devices not specifically excepted in the rule (e.g., portable voice recorders, hearing aids, heart pacemakers, and electric shavers) would subject operators to a considerable amount of “red tape.” In response to those comments, the FAA concluded that the aircraft operators were best suited to make the determination of which PEDs would not cause interference with the navigation or communication system on their aircraft. The FAA also recognized that for it to place requirements upon itself to conduct or verify tests of every conceivable PED, as an alternative to a determination made by the operator, would thereby place an excessive and unnecessary burden on the agency.
The potential for aircraft interference depends on the aircraft and its electrical and electronic systems, as well as the type of PED being used. Prior to fly-by-wire flight controls, the primary concern was the susceptibility of sensitive aircraft communication and navigation radio receivers to spurious radio frequency emissions from PEDs. Many of these aircraft using this older technology are still in service and are as susceptible today to interference as they were when they first entered service. When aircraft included fly-by-wire controls and electronic displays, the susceptibility of these aircraft systems also became a concern. The FAA defined requirements for high-intensity radiated fields (HIRF) that provide assurance that newer aircraft with such systems have sufficient protection to continue to operate safely when exposed to spurious emissions
PEDs have changed considerably in the past few decades and output a wide variety of signals. Some devices do not transmit or receive any signals but generate low-power, radio frequency emissions. Other PEDs, such as e-readers, are only active in this manner during the short time that a page is being changed. Of greater concern are intentional transmissions from PEDs. Most portable electronic devices have internet connectivity that includes transmitting and receiving signals wirelessly using radio waves, such as Wi-Fi,
Avionics equipment has also undergone significant changes. When the regulations were first established, communication and navigations systems were basic systems. In today's avionics, there are various systems—global positioning, traffic collision and avoidance, transponder, automatic flight guidance and control, and many other advanced avionics systems—that depend on signals transmitted from the ground, other aircraft, and satellites for proper operation. In addition, there are advanced flight management systems that use these avionics as a critical component for performing precision operational procedures. Many of these systems are also essential to realize the capabilities and operational improvements envisioned in the Next Generation airspace system. As such, harmful interference from PEDs cannot be tolerated.
Under FAA regulation, the aircraft operator is responsible for determining which PEDs may be used by the passengers and during which phase of flight this utilization may occur. The aircraft operator is best suited to make the determination of which PEDs would not cause interference with the navigation or communication system on its aircraft. The operators' PED policy determines what types of devices may be used on board their aircraft and during which phase(s) of flight. The responsibility for enforcing an aircraft operator's PED policy typically falls on the cabin crew. On occasion, enforcement of a commercial airline's PED policy results in a conflict between a flight attendant and a passenger. Noncompliance with crewmember safety instructions on the use of PEDs has resulted in passengers being removed from an aircraft and, in some cases, has caused in-flight diversions. The FAA provides oversight of aircraft operators to ensure that they have established and are currently following robust PED-allowance procedures.
As aircraft and consumer electronics evolved, the FAA recognized that the industry needed assistance to keep up with the challenges of determining if devices would interfere with the aircraft navigation or communication systems. In 1958, at the FAA's request, the first RTCA, Inc., (previously Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) documents
These joint industry-government committees studied the risks associated with PED usage and are the basis for the FAA's guidance today. For instance, based on these studies, FAA has recommended that operators allowing passenger use of PEDs do so only during non-critical phases of flight and prohibit PED use during takeoff and landing. See AC 91-21-1B. While these recommendations are non-binding, most commercial airlines allow the use of non-transmitting PEDs in flight after the aircraft has reached a safe altitude, and those airlines continue to allow PED usage until near the end of the flight.
The FAA has also published AC 20-164,
Smart phones, personal computers, and wireless technology have become ingrained in peoples' day-to-day lives. Passengers not only use these devices to remain connected to their work, family, and friends, but also to read books, play games, and accomplish many of their day-to-day tasks. This has naturally led to the passengers' desire to use PEDs from the time they board an aircraft until they exit the aircraft at their destination. In some cases, a transmitting radio is embedded in a PED so that the operation of the transmitter is not apparent to the user. Many of these devices incorporate transmitters such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular phone modems, which may operate without specific actions from the passenger.
While FAA regulations allow aircraft operators to demonstrate when and which PEDs can be safely used, few aircraft operators have allowed use of devices during critical phases of flight (e.g., takeoff and landing). Recognizing that some passengers may wish to use their devices throughout a flight, the FAA is requesting comments regarding the FAA's policies, guidance, and procedures that aircraft operators use to determine whether to allow a particular PED for usage during flight.
The FAA is interested in obtaining comments related to the use of PEDs on aircraft from the viewpoints of aircraft
• Aircraft operators' concerns, both technical and operational;
• Flight attendants' and pilots' concerns;
• Security concerns;
• Manufacturers and designers of PEDs;
• Passenger perspectives; and
• How the FAA can support the aviation industry in considering how to allow greater use of PEDs.
The FAA has identified the following specific areas for comments.
• What processes and methods are aircraft operators currently using to evaluate PED technology interference?
• How can those procedures and methods be improved?
• Is additional FAA guidance and policy needed?
• Should the industry develop data sharing for this purpose?
• Is it necessary to establish aircraft certification regulations to require new aircraft to be PED-tolerant?
• How can these demonstrations best be leveraged to help an operator allow the use of PEDs?
• Should aircraft manufacturers and avionics equipment manufacturers provide documentation of aircraft PED tolerance, aircraft systems that meet RF susceptibility requirements, interference path loss, etc., to the operators to support the operator's PED allowance determination?
• Should it be mandatory that aircraft manufacturers and modifiers provide this information to the operators for new and modified aircraft?
• Could the consumer electronics industry develop standards for aircraft-friendly PEDs, or aircraft-compatible modes of operation, that would reduce the risk of interference to aircraft systems by defining maximum emissions in designated bands?
• If some PEDs are found to be compatible with aircraft systems, should there be restrictions on the use of PEDs for other reasons?
• Should voice communications using other technologies such as voice over IP be limited or restricted?
• Should aircraft operators be required to publish their PED policies?
• If some PEDs are found to be compatible with aircraft systems, should requirements to stow PEDs for takeoff, approach, landing and abnormal conditions exist nonetheless to prevent personal injury?
• Should the FAA consider working with industry to develop standards for an active PED monitoring system?
• What are the technical, operation, and regulatory challenges commercial aircraft operators face in expanding their PED usage policy?
• What are the technical challenges the aircraft manufacturers, modifiers, and avionics equipment manufacturers see with further PED usage allowance?
• What data and support can they provide to commercial aircraft operators to address these technical challenges?
• What are the operational, safety and security challenges and concerns associated with expanding PED usage policy?
• What is needed to alleviate those concerns?
The FAA invites interested persons to submit written comments, data, or views. The agency also invites comments relating to the economic, environmental, energy, or federalism impacts that might result from changes in our current policy. The most helpful comments reference a specific area of concern, explain the reason for any recommended change, and include supporting data. To ensure the docket does not contain duplicate comments, commenters should send only one copy of written comments, or if comments are filed electronically, commenters should submit only one time.
The FAA will file in the docket a summary of all comments it receives. The FAA will consider all comments it receives on or before the closing date for comments. The FAA will consider comments filed after the comment period has closed if it is possible to do so without incurring expense or delay.
Proprietary or Confidential Business Information: Commenters should not file proprietary or confidential business information in the docket. Such information must be sent or delivered directly to the person identified in the
Under 14 CFR 11.35(b), if the FAA is aware of proprietary information filed with a comment, the Agency does not place it in the docket. It is held in a separate file to which the public does not have access, and the FAA places a note in the docket that it has received it. If the FAA receives a request to examine or copy this information, it treats it as any other request under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552). The FAA processes such a request under Department of Transportation procedures found in 49 CFR part 7.