FAA seeks to ban pilots' use of personal devices while in the air

It's long been prohibited for pilots to use a cell phone, tablet, or laptop during take off or landing, but a new rule could forbid pilots' use of electronic devices for the entire flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration looks to be tightening the screws on what personal devices pilots are allowed to use while in the air.

A new proposal, which the agency published in the Federal Register today, aims to stop pilots from using electronic devices for any type of personal use while in the cockpit. The proposal comes after a handful of incidents gave the FAA cause for concern.

"The personal use of personal wireless communications devices and laptop computers for non-safety related activities is prohibited by the broad restrictions in the current 'Sterile Cockpit' rule during ground operations involving taxi, take-off and landing, and all other flight operations conducted below 10,000 feet," the proposal reads. "The proposed requirements in this NPRM [Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking] would extend the prohibition on personal use of personal wireless communications devices and laptop computers to all phases of flight."

The incidents that prompted the FAA to address this issue involved pilots not paying full attention to their flight duties. For example, in one instance in October 2009, two pilots using their laptop computers during the cruise portion of the flight flew past their destination by 150 miles.

While the FAA is looking to ban personal use of electronic devices, pilots will still be able to use laptops, iPads, or other devices that are needed for operating an airplane. Some airlines have forged into new tech territory by giving pilots tablets for work purposes. For example, American Airlines was the first commercial carrier to toss out its heavy paper-based flight manuals in lieu of iPads -- saving the airline $1.2 million in gas costs.

This FAA proposal is now being reviewed during an open comment period that will wrap up on March 18. It is expected that the agency will then make its decision on the proposed ban.

About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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