Airline Passengers Will Be Able to Use PED's, Except Phone, In All Phases of Flight

By Gabrielle Jonas on October 31, 2013 1:43 PM EDT

Soon, airline passengers can use their PED's inflight.
The FAA is considering adding cellphones to the list of allowable PED's while in the air. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight, The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator announced Thursday.

By January 1, most airline passengers will be able to read e-books, play games on MP3 players, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, except when the plane is landing during low visibility. Passengers will be allowed to use Wi-Fi services in those airlines that provide them.

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Though travelers still won't be able to use cell phones for voice communications during flights, the PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) recommended recently that the FAA consult with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to review its current rules on the matter.

"Today's decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumer's increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

Implementation will vary among airlines, depending on the fleets, but the FAA expects many carriers will successfully prove to the agency that their planes can safely allow passengers to use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate by January 1. An airline must prove to the FAA it can prevent potential interference that could pose a safety hazard. Current FAA regulations require an aircraft operator to determine that radio frequency interference from PEDs is not a flight safety risk before the operator authorizes them for use.

PEDs can emit unintentional radio energy that may affect aircraft safety because the signals can occur at the same frequencies used by the plane's highly sensitive communications, navigation, flight control and electronic equipment. ARC concluded most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference signals from PEDs, according to FAA administrator Michael Huerta.

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