PED Ban for the Flight Deck–FAA Issues New InFO Document for Operators

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The FAA has issued a new InFO Document banning the use of personal PEDs by flight crew in the flight deck.

InFO 14006 Prohibition on Personal Use of Electronic Devices on the Flight Deck was issued on 5/20/14, at the same time that Cabin Safety Personnel gathered at the IATA Cabin Operations Safety Conference in Madrid; which had PEDs policy among the top issues on its agenda.  Flight Chic is currently reporting from this conference, which covers key Cabin Safety topics such as PED use, Unruly Passenger Handling, Turbulence Management, Child Restraint Protection, and the risks of Lithium-Ion Batteries onboard.

In the InFO, the FAA refers to Part 121 § 121.542 (d) (effective 4/14/14) which prohibits flight crew from using personal wireless communications devices or laptop computers for personal use while on duty on the flight deck while operating the aircraft.  The FAA specifies that this ban does not apply when the PED use “is in accordance with FAA approved operational procedures.”

As the FAA explains, the purpose of this prohibition is to reduce the risk of distractions which could affect flight safety,  and that “non-essential activities do not affect flight deck task management or cause a loss of situational awareness during aircraft operation.”

Note the clarifications the FAA makes on the applicability of this InFO document:

Operators should be aware of the following:

  • This prohibition includes any personal use byflightcrew members of these devices, including, butnot limited to, talking, texting, bidding for schedules, reading or accessing the Internet. In other words, all personal use is prohibited, whether or not the device is in “airplane mode”.
  • “FAA approved operational procedures” (e.g., use of electronic flight bags, digitized charts or manuals) are those procedures that have been developed by the air carrier and have been approved/accepted, as appropriate, by the FAA.
  • This prohibition does not apply to a person occupying a flight deck jumpseat.
  • The prohibition applies regardless of any “ownership” test. The rule does not differentiate between devices owned by the air carrier or the flightcrew member. Rather, the rule requires a “use” test. These devices (regardless of ownership) may not be used for personal use during aircraft operation but may be used only in accordance with FAA approved operational procedures, as defined above.

The final point will require special attention.  It implies that flight crew may not use apps installed on airline-owned PEDs for activities which may distract them from core duties.

At present, airlines vary greatly in their policies on PED app management, some allowing crew to liberally install whatever apps may enhance their travels with a broad definition of enhancement, while others run tight App restrictions which prevent crew from installing any apps which have not been installed directly by the airline’s department of information management.

As a result, airlines may now face the question of enforcement of this InFO; determining whether App policies need to be revised, and how they can enforce these rules.

The FAA specifies this InFO applies only to Part 121 operators (commercial airlines), though they recommend it for other flight operations.

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