FAA Changes Guidelines Allowing More Use of Wireless Devices on Airplanes

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We’ve all been wondering for years whether it really makes a difference to our safety, but the FAA is finally starting to make changes to their guidelines and are going to start allowing more use of wireless devices and electronics on Airplanes. We’ve even heard from some of our strategically placed friends (i.e. pilots and flight attendants) that what they really want is not for the device to be off but rather that they have our undivided attention should things get “interesting”. However there seems to be some relaxing of the current restrictions according to the FAA, which oversees air travel announced on Thursday.

What this does not mean is that you can just go crazy and use all of your electronic devices all of the time. The changes in the restrictions may vary depending on the airline. This is because there are differences between types of planes and how things are run at each different carrier. The FAA does anticipate that most airlines will permit passengers to use their devices “in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.”

The word is that passengers can use e-book readers, play games and watch videos on devices, and can either hold gadgets or else stow them in the seat back pocket during both take-off and landing. And even though these devices are required to be in Airplane Mode or have cell service turned off during both landing and taxi/take-off, you can actually use Wi-Fi during your flight and continue to use any Bluetooth accessories connected to your phone.

Here are some quick guidelines that the FAA says travelers need to be aware of in order to make sure they’re still covered under these most recent changes:

1. Make safety your first priority.

2.  Changes to PED policies will not happen immediately and will vary by airline. Check with your airline to see if and when you can use your PED.

3.  Current PED policies remain in effect until an airline completes a safety assessment, gets FAA approval, and changes its PED policy.

4. Cell phones may not be used for voice communications.

5.  Devices must be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. You may use the WiFi connection on your device if the plane has an installed WiFi system and the airline allows its use.  You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.

6. Properly stow heavier devices under seats or in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing. These items could impede evacuation of an aircraft or may injure you or someone else in the event of turbulence or an accident.

7. During the safety briefing, put down electronic devices, books and newspapers and listen to the crewmember’s instructions.

8.  It only takes a few minutes to secure items according to the crew’s instructions during takeoff and landing.

9.  In some instances of low visibility – about one percent of flights – some landing systems may not be proved PED tolerant, so you may be asked to turn off your device.

10. Always follow crew instructions and immediately turn off your device if asked.

We’re glad to see the FAA is being considerate in adjusting itself to changing realities. Most of us would prefer a little inconvenience over any compromised safety, but some of the restrictions did seem arbitrary. Now, where were we in our in-flight entertainment….

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