[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 170 (Friday, August 31, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 53159-53163]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-21577]



Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Parts 91, 121, 125, and 135

[Docket No. FAA-2012-0752]

Passenger Use of Portable Electronic Devices on Board Aircraft

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of policy; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The FAA seeks comments on current policy, guidance, and 
procedures that aircraft operators (ranging from pilots of general 
aviation aircraft up to and including air carrier certificate holders 
at the major airlines) use when determining if passenger use of 
portable electronic devices (PEDs)

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may be allowed during any phase of flight on their aircraft. Current 
FAA regulations generally prohibit the use of all PEDs during flight, 
with the exception of portable voice recorders, hearing aids, heart 
pacemakers, and electric shavers. These regulations also provide an 
exception for any other PED that the aircraft operator has determined 
will not cause interference with the navigation or communication 
systems on the aircraft. To better effectuate the safety purposes of 
these regulations, this notice requests comments about key areas of 
policy and guidance that are used by aircraft operators when making 
these determinations. It also requests comments about other technical 
challenges for addressing the problems associated with determining if 
and when PEDs can be used. The desired outcome of this solicitation is 
to have sufficient information to allow operators to better assess 
whether more widespread use of PEDs during flight is appropriate, while 
maintaining the highest levels of safety to passengers and aircraft. 
The Agency stresses that the existing regulations allow the operator to 
authorize the use of PEDs, and that no specific FAA approval is 
required. The aircraft operator is responsible for assuring that the 
interference from PEDs does not pose a flight risk. Once all the 
comments have been collected, the FAA intends to establish an Aviation 
Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to review the comments and provide 
recommendations that might permit the more widespread use of PEDs 
during flight while maintaining the highest levels of safety for the 
passengers and aircraft. The FCC will be a key partner in this activity 
working collaboratively with the FAA, airlines, and the manufacturers 
to explore broader use of PEDS in flight.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before October 30, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Send comments identified by docket number FAA-2012-0752 
using any of the following methods:
     Email: Submit your comments via email to 
[email protected].
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your 
comments electronically.
     Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. 
Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Room 
W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket 
Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., 
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.
    Privacy: The FAA will post all comments it receives, without 
change, to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal 
information the commenter provides. Using the search function of the 
docket Web site, anyone can find and read the electronic form of all 
comments received into any FAA dockets, including the name of the 
individual sending the comment (or signing the comment for an 
association, business, labor union, etc.). DOT's complete Privacy Act 
Statement can be found in the Federal Register published on April 11, 
2000 (65 FR 19477-19478), as well as at http://DocketsInfo.dot.gov.
    Docket: Background documents or comments received may be read at 
http://www.regulations.gov at any time. Follow the online instructions 
for accessing the docket or contact Docket Operations in Room W12-140 
of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., 
Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions concerning this action, 
contact Timothy W. Shaver, Avionics Maintenance Branch, Flight 
Standards Service, AFS-360, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 
Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 385-
4292; facsimile (202) 385-6474; email [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 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) Sec. Sec.  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 FAA's first published rulemaking \1\ to address this issue was 
in 1966. That rulemaking was prompted after studies of PED interference 
conducted between 1958 to 1961 concluded that portable frequency 
modulation (FM) radio receivers caused interference to navigation 
systems such as very high frequency (VHF) Omni Range (VOR) navigation 

    \1\ 14 CFR 91.19, Docket No. 7247; Amdt 91-35 (later superseded 
by Sec. Sec.  91.21, 121.306, 125.204, and 135.144).

    During that rulemaking process, the FAA received comments on the 
subject of FAA involvement in the authorization of use of PEDs. The 
public expressed concerns that authorization of devices not 
specifically excepted in the rule (e.g., portable voice recorders, 
hearing aids, heart pacemakers, and electric shavers) would subject 
operators to a considerable amount of ``red tape.'' In response to 
those comments, the FAA concluded that the aircraft operators were best 
suited to make the determination of which PEDs would not cause 
interference with the navigation or communication system on their 
aircraft. The FAA also recognized that for it to place requirements 
upon itself to conduct or verify tests of every conceivable PED, as an 
alternative to a determination made by the operator, would thereby 
place an excessive and unnecessary burden on the agency.
    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 \2\ of PEDs and intentional 
transmissions \3\ 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.

    \2\ A spurious emission is any radio frequency not deliberately 
created or transmitted.
    \3\ Intentional transmission is the transmission of signals 
through free space by electromagnetic waves on specific radio 
frequencies that are used to communicate information between 


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    PEDs have changed considerably in the past few decades and output a 
wide variety of signals. Some devices do not transmit or receive any 
signals but generate low-power, radio frequency emissions. Other PEDs, 
such as e-readers, are only active in this manner during the short time 
that a page is being changed. Of greater concern are intentional 
transmissions from PEDs. Most portable electronic devices have internet 
connectivity that includes transmitting and receiving signals 
wirelessly using radio waves, such as Wi-Fi,\4\ Bluetooth,\5\ and 
various other cellular technologies. These devices transmit high-
powered emissions and can generate spurious signals at undesired 
frequencies, particularly if the device is damaged.

    \4\ Wi-Fi is defined as ``wireless local area network (WLAN) 
products that are based on the Institute of Electrical and 
Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 802.11 standards.'' Wi-Fi is a 
trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance.
    \5\ Bluetooth is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group 
(SIG). The SIG is the body that oversees the development of 
Bluetooth standards and the licensing of the Bluetooth technologies 
and trademarks to manufacturers. The SIG is a privately held, not-
for-profit trade association founded in September 1998.

    Avionics equipment has also undergone significant changes. When the 
regulations were first established, communication and navigations 
systems were basic systems. In today's avionics, there are various 
systems--global positioning, traffic collision and avoidance, 
transponder, automatic flight guidance and control, and many other 
advanced avionics systems--that depend on signals transmitted from the 
ground, other aircraft, and satellites for proper operation. In 
addition, there are advanced flight management systems that use these 
avionics as a critical component for performing precision operational 
procedures. Many of these systems are also essential to realize the 
capabilities and operational improvements envisioned in the Next 
Generation airspace system. As such, harmful interference from PEDs 
cannot be tolerated.
    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.

Policy and Guidance

    As aircraft and consumer electronics evolved, the FAA recognized 
that the industry needed assistance to keep up with the challenges of 
determining if devices would interfere with the aircraft navigation or 
communication systems. In 1958, at the FAA's request, the first RTCA, 
Inc., (previously Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) documents 
\6\ were written to help airlines make the PED allowance determination. 
Since that time, the FAA has requested three other activities; the most 
recent concluded in 2008. The current guidelines to assist aircraft 
operators in developing their PED policy are in Advisory Circular (AC) 
91-21-1B, Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft, dated 
August 25, 2006, which references industry-developed guidelines 
identified in RTCA/DO-233 and RTCA/DO-294.

    \6\ RTCA is a private, not-for-profit corporation that functions 
as a Federal Advisory Committee for the FAA. It develops consensus-
based recommendations regarding communications, navigation, 
surveillance, and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system issues. 
See FAA Order 1110.77T, RTCA Inc. (utilized as an Advisory 
Committee) (Apr. 1, 2011). The following are RTCA recommendations 
and guidance documents regarding PEDS:
    DO-307, Aircraft Design and Certification for Portable 
Electronic Device (PED) Tolerance, issued 10-11-07, and Change 1, 
issued 12-16-08. Prepared by SC-202.
    DO-294C, Guidance on Allowing Transmitting Portable Electronic 
Devices (T-PEDs) on Aircraft, issued 12-16-08. Prepared by SC-202.
    DO-233, Portable Electronic Devices Carried on Board Aircraft, 
issued 8-20-96. Prepared by SC-177. Errata issued 8-18-99.
    DO-199, Potential Interference to Aircraft Electronic Equipment 
from Devices Carried Aboard, issued 9-16-88. Prepared by SC-156. 
Supersedes DO-119.
    DO-119, Interference To Aircraft Electronic Equipment From 
Devices Carried Aboard, issued 9-16-88. Prepared by SC-88.

    These joint industry-government committees studied the risks 
associated with PED usage and are the basis for the FAA's guidance 
today. For instance, based on these studies, FAA has recommended that 
operators allowing passenger use of PEDs do so only during non-critical 
phases of flight and prohibit PED use during takeoff and landing. See 
AC 91-21-1B. While these recommendations are non-binding, most 
commercial airlines allow the use of non-transmitting PEDs in flight 
after the aircraft has reached a safe altitude, and those airlines 
continue to allow PED usage until near the end of the flight.
    The FAA has also published AC 20-164, Designing and Demonstrating 
Aircraft Tolerance to Portable Electronic Devices. This AC is based on 
RTCA/DO-307, Aircraft Design and Certification for Portable Electronic 
Device (PED) Tolerance, dated October 11, 2007. Further, AC 20-164 
provides guidance to demonstrate aircraft electrical and electronic 
system tolerance to the use of PEDs. This approach allows the aircraft 
designers to build in protections to help prevent interference to 
navigation or communication systems.

PEDs Today

    Smart phones, personal computers, and wireless technology have 
become ingrained in peoples' day-to-day lives. Passengers not only use 
these devices to remain connected to their work, family, and friends, 
but also to read books, play games, and accomplish many of their day-
to-day tasks. This has naturally led to the passengers' desire to use 
PEDs from the time they board an aircraft until they exit the aircraft 
at their destination. In some cases, a transmitting radio is embedded 
in a PED so that the operation of the transmitter is not apparent to 
the user. Many of these devices incorporate transmitters such as 
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular phone modems, which may operate without 
specific actions from the passenger.\7\

    \7\ This notice does not address flightcrew member use of PEDs 
during flight. Section 44732 of Title 49 of the United States Code 
generally prohibits flightcrew member use of PEDs on the flightdeck 
while the aircraft is being operated.

    While FAA regulations allow aircraft operators to demonstrate when 
and which PEDs can be safely used, few aircraft operators have allowed 
use of devices during critical phases of flight (e.g., takeoff and 
landing). Recognizing that some passengers may wish to use their 
devices throughout a flight, the FAA is requesting comments regarding 
the FAA's policies, guidance, and procedures that aircraft operators 
use to determine whether to allow a particular PED for usage during 

Request for Information

Considerations for Comment

    The FAA is interested in obtaining comments related to the use of 
PEDs on aircraft from the viewpoints of aircraft

[[Page 53162]]

operators, passengers, and other stakeholders. We are soliciting 
comments on the following:
     Aircraft operators' concerns, both technical and 
     Flight attendants' and pilots' concerns;
     Security concerns;
     Manufacturers and designers of PEDs;
     Passenger perspectives; and
     How the FAA can support the aviation industry in 
considering how to allow greater use of PEDs.
    The FAA has identified the following specific areas for comments.
    (1) Procedures and methods for operators to allow the use of PEDs. 
Guidance on the procedures and methods that an operator can use to 
determine allowance of PEDs is published in AC 91-21-1B. This AC 
references the industry-developed guidelines of RTCA/DO-233 and RTCA/
DO-294C. Those guidelines address testing and analysis procedures for 
advanced avionics system interference from both transmitting and non-
transmitting PEDs.
     What processes and methods are aircraft operators 
currently using to evaluate PED technology interference?
     How can those procedures and methods be improved?
     Is additional FAA guidance and policy needed?

One concept is for operators to improve the sharing of test and 
compatibility data, so that the same compatibility testing could be 
leveraged to support many aircraft operators. Data concerning PED and 
aircraft compatibility could be used by the operators to analyze 
incidents involving PED interference.
     Should the industry develop data sharing for this purpose?
    (2) Reliability of aircraft systems. Future aircraft could be 
manufactured to be immune to the PED environment. To support commercial 
aircraft operators' authorization of PED use, the FAA has issued AC 20-
164 describing criteria for aircraft manufacturers and modifiers to 
establish PED-tolerance for new and existing aircraft.
     Is it necessary to establish aircraft certification 
regulations to require new aircraft to be PED-tolerant?

In addition, many aircraft systems have already qualified for operation 
in high intensity radiated field environments.
     How can these demonstrations best be leveraged to help an 
operator allow the use of PEDs?
    (3) Aircraft Immunity to PED Interference. Some aircraft 
manufacturers and avionics equipment manufacturers have already 
demonstrated PED and aircraft system compatibility.
     Should aircraft manufacturers and avionics equipment 
manufacturers provide documentation of aircraft PED tolerance, aircraft 
systems that meet RF susceptibility requirements, interference path 
loss, etc., to the operators to support the operator's PED allowance 
     Should it be mandatory that aircraft manufacturers and 
modifiers provide this information to the operators for new and 
modified aircraft?
    (4) Promote aircraft-compatible PED transmissions. The 
transmissions from PEDs vary widely, making it very difficult for an 
aircraft operator to discriminate between PEDs that may be acceptable 
and those that may not.
     Could the consumer electronics industry develop standards 
for aircraft-friendly PEDs, or aircraft-compatible modes of operation, 
that would reduce the risk of interference to aircraft systems by 
defining maximum emissions in designated bands?
    (5) Passenger perspectives on use of PEDs. Increased access and 
usage of PEDs may distract passengers during crewmember safety 
briefings and instructions. In addition, PED usage may have an adverse 
impact on flight and cabin crew responsibilities and duties. In 2005, 
the FCC \8\ solicited comments on the potential to expand the use of 
cellular phones in flight and received responses from passengers 
concerned about the use of cell phones by other passengers. One of the 
main concerns expressed by the public comment was the fear of passenger 
disruptions caused by cell phone use in a crowded public conveyance.

    \8\ Federal Communications Commission's Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking (NPRM), FCC 04-288, in WT Docket No. 04-435, adopted 
December 15, 2004, and released February 15, 2005.

     If some PEDs are found to be compatible with aircraft 
systems, should there be restrictions on the use of PEDs for other 
     Should voice communications using other technologies such 
as voice over IP be limited or restricted?
     Should aircraft operators be required to publish their PED 
    (6) PED article retention risk considerations. Personal belongings 
must be stowed for take-off, approach and landing, to reduce the risk 
of injury from projectiles and to ensure rapid egress in the event of 
an emergency. Some PEDs are large enough to be of concern for egress, 
while smaller handheld devices may have risks comparable to a small 
     If some PEDs are found to be compatible with aircraft 
systems, should requirements to stow PEDs for takeoff, approach, 
landing and abnormal conditions exist nonetheless to prevent personal 
    (7) Active monitoring for harmful interference. A handheld device 
or installed system could be used by the crewmembers to detect harmful 
interference from PEDs. This could allow the crewmembers to identify 
problems and instruct passengers to disable devices when they generate 
harmful signals.
     Should the FAA consider working with industry to develop 
standards for an active PED monitoring system?
    (8) Technical Challenges.
     What are the technical, operation, and regulatory 
challenges commercial aircraft operators face in expanding their PED 
usage policy?
     What are the technical challenges the aircraft 
manufacturers, modifiers, and avionics equipment manufacturers see with 
further PED usage allowance?
     What data and support can they provide to commercial 
aircraft operators to address these technical challenges?
    (9) Operational Challenges.
     What are the operational, safety and security challenges 
and concerns associated with expanding PED usage policy?
     What is needed to alleviate those concerns?

Again, this information must be submitted by October 30, 2012.

Comments Invited

    The FAA invites interested persons to submit written comments, 
data, or views. The agency also invites comments relating to the 
economic, environmental, energy, or federalism impacts that might 
result from changes in our current policy. The most helpful comments 
reference a specific area of concern, explain the reason for any 
recommended change, and include supporting data. To ensure the docket 
does not contain duplicate comments, commenters should send only one 
copy of written comments, or if comments are filed electronically, 
commenters should submit only one time.
    The FAA will file in the docket a summary of all comments it 
receives. The FAA will consider all comments it receives on or before 
the closing date for comments. The FAA will consider comments filed 
after the comment period has closed if it is possible to do so without 
incurring expense or delay.
    Proprietary or Confidential Business Information: Commenters should 
not file proprietary or confidential business information in the 
docket. Such information must be sent or delivered directly to the 
person identified in the

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document, and marked as 
proprietary or confidential. If submitting information on a disk or CD 
ROM, mark the outside of the disk or CD ROM as proprietary or 
confidential, and identify electronically within the disk or CD ROM the 
specific information that is proprietary or confidential.
    Under 14 CFR 11.35(b), if the FAA is aware of proprietary 
information filed with a comment, the Agency does not place it in the 
docket. It is held in a separate file to which the public does not have 
access, and the FAA places a note in the docket that it has received 
it. If the FAA receives a request to examine or copy this information, 
it treats it as any other request under the Freedom of Information Act 
(5 U.S.C. 552). The FAA processes such a request under Department of 
Transportation procedures found in 49 CFR part 7.

    Issued in Washington, DC on August 28, 2012.
Susan J.M. Cabler,
Asst. Manager, Aircraft Engineering Division, Aircraft Certification 
[FR Doc. 2012-21577 Filed 8-30-12; 8:45 am]