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 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 of PEDs and intentional transmissions3 from transmitting PEDs. While the highly critical fly-by-wire controls and electronic displays were designed and certified to withstand the fields from transmitting PEDs, all aircraft electrical and electronic systems were not designed to withstand these fields. These newer aircraft still have sensitive navigation, communication, and surveillance radio receivers that may be susceptible at certain frequencies to spurious radio frequency emissions from PEDs.
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.
- What are the technical challenges the aircraft manufacturers, modifiers, and avionics equipment manufacturers see with further PED usage allowance?
- Data and support can they provide to commercial aircraft operators to address these technical challenges?