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FAA Details The Risks Airlines Must Asses to Approve Use of Personal Electronic Devices


It’s the eternal question on the minds of techie travellers: are there really any risks to aircraft from the use of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) onboard?

In a word: YES.

A recently revised InFO Document from the FAA details what those risks are, and provides a checklist airlines must use to clear their aircraft and request the Special Conditions Approvals which would approve the use of PEDs on individual aircraft.

As I recently reported on Skift, airlines attending the IATA Cabin Operations Safety Conference in Madrid expressed eagerness to adopt new policies allowing the use of PEDs gate-to-gate for their passengers.  However, they also recognised the importance of satisfying the governing authorities and themselves that the safety of passengers and crew will not be affected.

The newly revised InFO Document (InFO13010SUP) defines a five step process which airlines must follow before requesting clearance for each aircraft.

  1. Aircraft Immunity to PED Back Door and Front Door Interference
  2. Analysis and mitigation of risks based on proof of aircraft tolerance to interference from PEDs During the various phases of flight.
  3. Establish clear documented policies for expanded use based this analysis and mitigation of risks.
  4. Establish and document operational policy and procedure.
  5. Train pilots and flight attendants.

So what are these risks?

According to the revised InFO document (updated to make it easier for airlines to know what procedures to follow for approvals), the FAA asks that airlines make sure the following factors cannot affect the avionics or communications systems of aircraft:

  • Intentionally transmitting PEDs, Back Door Coupling on various frequencies.
  • High Intensity Radiated Fields (HIRF) interference to emergency systems and equipment required for the operation of the aircraft. Note that the FAA states aircraft certified prior to 1987 aren’t verified immune to radio frequencies.
  • Unintentionally transmitting emissions from PEDs and T-PEDs (Transmitting Personal Electronic Devices), Front Door interference.  The FAA cites the many frequencies these various Transmitting PEDs operate on as potentially problematic, and emphasises that, because some of these radio transmitters are embedded in a T-PED, the user may be unaware that they are transmitting.  This is why airlines, even those who allow gate-to-gate use of PEDs, require that those PEDs are placed on Flight-Mode during various stages of flight.

The mention of intentional interference is important here.

While typical passengers might not use their PED to intentionally interfere with the aircraft’s functions, the FAA and the airlines must make sure that those who might think of doing such a thing do not succeed.

That, above all else, justifies a careful and considered approach to allowing this equipment in flight.

For the benefit of those readers who, like me, adore deciphering technical jargon and are tickled by reading through regulatory documents, I’ve embedded a full copy of the InFO here: InFO13010SUP


For the curious, you can also read my last post from April on the previous publication of this InFO 13010SUP, which explains the procedures airlines must establish for safe operations in flight.

I can only repeat the adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We have seen malicious interference to aviation before.  We see it still, with the criminals who find it amusing to flash lasers on aircraft–as an example–but we don’t want to see it again.

Featured Image: via Wikimedia Commons used under Creative Commons License

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