FAA Says Electronics and Wi-Fi OK for Takeoff, Landing

| News

The Federal Aviation Administration's advisory committee looking into the use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing has concluded current restrictions prohibiting their use aren't necessary. The committee said handheld devices and Wi-Fi connections were safe for all parts of flights instead of just above the current 10,000 foot limit.

FAA panel says handheld electronics and Wi-Fi are safe for takeoff and landingFAA panel says handheld electronics and Wi-Fi are safe for takeoff and landing

The committee concluded that most every airplane has the necessary shielding in place to protect critical electronic components from any interference handheld devices could potentially pose. A senior Amazon official serving on the committee said that most airplanes "are going to be just fine," according to the Wall Street Journal.

The policy change doesn't, however, mean that travelers can start making cell phone calls in flight. Current Federal Communication Commission regulations prohibit the use of cell phones in flight over concerns of interference with ground-based cell service systems.

Fliers will still be required to shut off the cell signal part on their smartphones and tablets even after other restrictions have been lifted, and that could prove difficult for flight attendants to control. Even still, the committee's findings show that there doesn't appear to be any risk from active cell signals in flight.

Instead of starting over with tests to show that handheld electronics are safe for all phases of flights, the committee said tests that have already been conducted should be reassessed and that planes with Wi-Fi already onboard shouldn't need to go through rigorous testing, if any at all. Those planes, they said, have already undergone extensive electronics interference testing and have been shown to be safe.

Word surfaced in June that the panel was suggesting inflight electronics restrictions should be lifted, although at the time there was talk of creating tiers where some devices could be used below the 10,000 foot ceiling and others would still be bound by the current restrictions. Easing restrictions on all electronic devices makes much more sense and will be easier for passengers to understand, too.

While the FAA committee has already started talking about their findings, the official announcement has yet to come. Once the official announcement comes it'll still take about a year before we see the changes take place, so don't plan on surfing the Web on take off during this holiday season's travel time.

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Comments

wab95

I just got off of a flight this morning, while awaiting this news, and of course, had to shut off both iPad and iPhone at take off and landing.

I can personally attest that this rule is routinely, indeed, religiously violated on nearly every flight I’ve attended out of the Middle East or SE Asia, and no planes were brought down.

I’m hoping that this ruling gets disseminated throughout the industry sooner than later in the form of lifted restrictions, but am concerned that, as you’ve highlighted, the confusion between cellular vs other radio frequencies, and the possibility that some passengers will, knowingly or through ignorance, violate the new terms, cause the airlines to maintain the current status quo.

Substance

Love the ‘Mac Observer spin’ on this one Jeff.  Sadly for all of us who followed the rules - no matter how archaic - there were always a few who didn’t.  Thankfully no planes were harmed by these selfish few and in doing so, as you said, there’s already been plenty of real-world in-flight testing to show that the use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing does not affect the planes electronic instruments.

I am glad they are leaving the cell phone signal ban in place, not only because the cell phone signal I believe is much stronger and potentially a danger, but also because it would socially annoying to have a bunch of people chatting on their cell phones all flight.

Lee Dronick

I will still not use my devices during takeoff and landing because I want to be ready for an emergency.

iJack

I think you’ve jumped the gun here, Bryan. Your headline, “FAA Says Electronics and Wi-Fi OK for Takeoff, Landing,” is incorrect to the point of being misleading. The FAA has said no such thing. The Advisory Committee has said no such thing.

I don’t get the WSJ, but Entrepreneur.com quotes them thus;
“A federal advisory committee is poised to advise the Federal Aviation Administration that many planes can handle passengers using their electronics even when the aircraft is below an altitude of 10,000 feet, according to The Wall Street Journal. The panel does not recommend the use of cellular or Wi-Fi connections below 10,000 feet, meaning fliers would only be able to access content already saved on their devices.”

NBC News backs this up.
“Consider that under the FAA advisory committee’s recommendations, passengers will be allowed to use e-books, tablets and other devices to access preloaded content during takeoff, landing and below 10,000 feet.

They will not, however, be able to get e-mail, surf the web or engage in other activities that require an Internet connection. Regardless of the FAA’s decision, the use of cell phones, which are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, will continue to be prohibited.”

The FAA may allow Wi-Fi below 10,000 feet; then again, they may not, but since most/all modern jetliners can achieve FL 100 in about five minutes, people can just wait, AFAIC.

ibuck

...most airplanes “are going to be just fine”

What about the older planes? on smaller airlines? in remote countries? with less talented flight crew?
Are you willing to risk it in those cases?  I hope they never let people make cell phones calls inflight.  Too many people are self-centered loudmouths while on the phone, and as Substance wrote…

it would socially annoying to have a bunch of people chatting on their cell phones all flight.

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