Monday, 17 June 2019

US air regulator says mobiles safe for use through all phases of flight

phone use on planeAn Australian pilots union has called for changes to the country’s aviation regulations after the US air regulator decided to lift a ban on the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices during flight.


After a year-long study the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advisory panel decided in October to allow airline passengers to use their mobile phones in airplane mode to listen to music, read and play games in “all phases of flight”.
The ban on voice calls will remain in place under rules set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect mobile networks on the ground from potential interference.
The review panel concluded most commercial airplanes can tolerate interference from electronics but under the new regulations airlines will be required to prove to the FAA that their aircraft have adequate shielding to protect navigation systems from radio frequency signals.
In response to the changes the Australian and International Pilots Association told the Courier Mail that they wanted the rules changed in Australia to allow passengers to use electronic devices during all stages of a flight.
They said modern aircraft were insulated to deal with "fine electrical emissions" produced by handheld devices and switching them off during takeoff and landing was no longer necessary to ensure they didn't interfere with cockpit instruments.
The FAA said in a statement they expected “many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.”
“Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones.”
“The FAA based its decision on input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.”
FAA administrator Michael Huerta, said while it will be difficult for flight attendants to ensure whether all passengers’ phones and tablets were really in airplane mode during flight, “There’s no safety problem if they’re not, but you’re going to arrive at your destination with a dead battery,” because the device would be searching for a mobile network connection.
Under the new regulations passengers can use their mobiles and tablets for email and internet use when an aircraft’s Wi-Fi network is turned on, usually above 10,000 feet.
While in Australia there are no specific regulations regarding mobile phone use on aircraft, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has said they will review the FAA’s decision.
“CASA has no current plans to develop specific rules relating to electronic devices,” CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said.
“CASA will look closely at what is recommended and then at what the FAA does with the recommendations.”
“It is important to understand that during take-off and landing pilots have a high workload and have minimal time to respond to any interference affecting aircraft systems.”
Because CASA has no specific regulations regarding mobile phone use, the decision is left to the discretion of the airlines. The onus is placed on the pilot in command or the operator to ensure that the aircraft is operated safely. Passengers are required to obey all lawful instruction issued by the pilot in command in accordance with Civil Aviation Regulations.
“If the airlines wish to change the current restrictions they would have to show there was no risk to safety,” Gibson said.
A 2012 study conducted by the FAA found many aviation authorities outside the
US now allowed aircraft to install on-board mobile base stations, called pico-cells, to bypass this concern.
For more information see AMTA’s advice on mobile phone use on aircraft.
Published 6 November 2013

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