updated 10:38 pm EDT, Mon August 27, 2012
Cellphones not on the list for examination
As promised, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said today that it was forming a combined government and industry group to study the commercial aviation policies on portable electronic device use in flight. While a large number of devices are being examined for use, the group is not considering the airborne use of cell phones for private voice communications during flight, however.
The committee will look at technological standards, and testing methods aircraft manufacturers use to determine which devices passengers can use about airplanes and when they can use them. Devices slated to be re-examined include CD players, MP3 players, calculators, cameras, GPS receivers, portable gaming devices, laptops, tablets, pagers, and camcorders.
The document outlining the evaluation of current policies points out that avionics equipment having changed since the guidelines were originally published, and points out that "harmful interference from PEDs cannot be tolerated." Of particular concern are devices that have "internet connectivity that includes transmitting and receiving signals wirelessly using radio waves, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and various other cellular technologies." These devices "transmit high-powered emissions and can generate spurious signals at undesired frequencies, particularly if the device is damaged," according to the request for input.
Acting FAA administrator Michael Huerta said "We're looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today's aircraft. We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow's aircraft designs are protected from interference."
A request for comments will appear in the Federal Register on August 28. Comments will be accepted by email, or US postal service, with contact information listed in the request for comments. Independent testing has cast some doubt on the current device ban during takeoff and landing, possibly leading to the review. The FAA is allowing iPads to replace 35 pounds of logbooks and charts in the cockpit during all phases of flight.