Back in the old days all we had was an obscure statement in each regulation (91, 121, 125, and 135) that said hearing aids, pacemakers, portable voice recorders, and shavers were okay, anything else had to be approved by the operator. So in Part 91 operations the PIC, with or without any technical expertise, made the call. For commercial operators, it was up to the company. Those CFRs were first put into writing in 1966 and have been pretty much unchanged until 2013.
In 1993 things got a little better with the publication of Advisory Circular 91.21-1 which has been revised several times until its current edition, Advisory Circular 91.21-1D, which provided the once industry-wide standard of keeping everything shut off until 10,000 feet.
In 2013 the FAA commissioned an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to provide further guidance on allowing additional Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) and they issued a report that did just that. The report does a very good job of detailing the level of interference expected on various aircraft systems. Here's a quick summary:
This gives us all, Part 91 and commercial operators, a better basis for making risk assessments and setting PED policies. I've included our company's policies, Incognito Air, as an example. We borrowed heavily from Delta Airlines in an attempt to achieve requirement 5 above. Our focus when it comes to allowing PED usage on the airplane is:
Everything here is from the references shown below, with a few comments in an alternate color.
Cartoon: iPhone App, from Chris Manno.
[14 CFR 91, §91.21] Portable electronic devices.
If you are flying for a commercial operator, your company makes the determination of what is okay and what isn't. If you are operating under 14 CFR 91, it is up to the pilot in command. Keep in mind you may be asked what qualifications you have to make that determination.
[47 CFR 22, §22.925] Prohibition on airborne operation of cellular telephones. Cellular telephones installed in or carried aboard airplanes, balloons or any other type of aircraft must not be operated while such aircraft are airborne (not touching the ground). When any aircraft leaves the ground, all cellular telephones on board that aircraft must be turned off. The following notice must be posted on or near each cellular telephone installed in any aircraft: "The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is airborne is prohibited by FCC rules, and the violation of this rule could result in suspension of service and/or a fine. The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is on the ground is subject to FAA regulations."
There is talk that this prohibition may be adjusted but as of March 2014, it is still in place.
This report can seem a bit daunting in places but the good news is it provides rationale for aircraft that do not have a manufacturer's statement of PED tolerance. In short, Appendix F says "Some aircraft have wireless connectivity systems installed for passenger use. During certification of these systems, specific tests were performed to ensure that back-door interference from PEDs communicating with the wireless connectivity system does not occur." In other words, if your aicraft came with a passenger WiFi system, your aircraft is PED tolerant.
[ARC Report, page ix.]
Much of the report is devoted to requiring airplanes and their avionics be made more PED tolerant and for an update to AC 91-21.1B, Use of PEDs Aboard Aircraft.
[ARC Report, page 3.] A Portable Electronic Device (PED) is any piece of lightweight, electrically-powered equipment. These devices are typically consumer electronics devices functionally capable of communications, data processing and/or utility. Examples of PEDs include, but are not limited to, the following commonly manufactured devices: laptop computers; personal communication devices such as hand-held smart phones, tablet computers, media players, e-readers, and personal digital assistants; gaming and entertainment devices; medical and other healthcare assistive devices such as pacemakers and hearing aids; asset trackers; data collection and monitoring devices; inventory management and point-of-sale devices; wearable computers and other devices that may or may not incorporate wireless transmitters and receivers.
[ARC Report, page 25.] The ARC recommends that in revising AC 91-21.1B (and any associated guidance), the FAA adopt the following methodology for expanding PED usage by passengers to all phases of flight. In particular, the FAA should immediately amend/revise current regulatory guidance documents to provide a methodology by which operators can permit PED usage by passengers during all phases of flight, using one of the following two methods:
A "back door" effect is when interference enters the system through aircraft cables, wires, and other possible entrances other than the antennas. A "front door" effect is when the PED is emitting on the same frequencies aircraft systems are receiving.
Figure: Phase of Flight, from ARC Report, Figure 2.
[ARC Report, page 26.] Pursuant to this method, operators may permit passenger use of typical PEDs as follows:
These are recommendations that you can adopt, but you need to do a risk assessment first. More on that below.
[ARC Report, page 34.]
[ARC Report, Appendix G, ¶1.4.] To stow an item, according to one dictionary definition, is "to put (something that is not being used) in a place where it is available, where it can be kept safely, etc."52 Stowage, therefore, is simply a "space especially on a ship or airplane for stowing things."53 For purposes of this report, a stowage location on an airplane is generally one that is approved for stowage by the operator, and placarded with a maximum weight restriction. If an item is located in a place that lacks formal operator approval or a maximum weight placard, but where it is considered, in the judgment of the operator, that in a survivable incident (e.g., severe turbulence during a critical phase of flight) the item is unlikely to threaten any occupant's safety (e.g., restricting egress from a seat during an emergency evacuation) or lead to one or more injuries, this report refers to that item's condition as "secure". Some factors that help determine the relative safety of a secure location include the size, shape, and weight of the passenger's item, as well as the holding properties of the location itself.
[ARC Report, Appendix G, ¶2.2.6.] FAA Policy Statement No. ANM–02–115–20, dated November 21, 2002, consolidates and clarifies "certification policy for addressing potential hazards associated with the installation of corded electrical devices used in the passenger cabin." 65 Specific sections of 14 CFR Part 25 design regulations are cited that require passageways leading from main aisles to various types of exit doors, between individual passenger areas, and cross aisles between main aisles, be unobstructed.
[ARC Report, Appendix F.] The ARC has determined that in order to expand PED use to certain phases of flight, an assessment of the risks must be made. To assist operators in making the safety determination, the FAA will develop a risk assessment based on the information and data available at this time. This paper outlines the approach used to establish the safety risk assessment, documents the assumptions and provides operators with a base lined risk assessment that they can use when developing their PED allowance usage policy.
Conducting a technical risk assessment is certainly beyond the scope of most corporate operators. Appendix F of the ARC Report does give some guidance, however, when it comes to setting an operator's policy on the phases of flight PED usage can be considered safe.
[ARC Report, Appendix F, ¶4] Hazard Identification
If your aircraft has manufacturer or STC installed WiFi systems, you have already been tested.
Appendix 2 of the ARC Report lists mitigation requirements for various levels (coupled/uncoupled, VMC/IMC, Category I/II/III) of ILS. You can refer to that for your operation's requirements. For Incognito Air, we are allowing PED usage coupled, IMC, Category I. The following are excerpts of just the mitigation steps we have chosen. There are other options, you need to study this Appendix to make your own decisions.
[ARC Report, Appendix 2, Page F-41] Misleading information during CAT I precision approach. Coupled to autopilot. Mitigations. Option 3.
Appendix 2 of the ARC Report lists mitigation requirements for VOR approaches.
[ARC Report, Appendix 2, Page F-44]
If you are flying a straight VOR approach without a GPS back up, you might want to consider requiring all PED usage be discontinued.
Appendix 2 of the ARC Report states "No additional mitigation required due to classification of failure. Pilot will follow appropriate procedures.
The latest version of this advisory circular eliminates much of the minutaiae of early versions and brings some clarity into what is and isn't "PED-tolerant." The ARC report leads you to believe that if you have an onboard WiFi system you are PED tolerant. This AC narrows the scope and says you are PED tolerant for the PEDs used with the installed system.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.1] Aircraft Designed and Certified PED Tolerant. Aircraft manufacturers with access to aircraft electronic system qualifications and aircraft radio receiver antenna installation data can easily demonstrate an aircraft meets the requirements of RTCA DO-307A. Operators may obtain statements of such demonstrations from an aircraft manufacturer to substantiate PED tolerance of the aircraft. Operators can also use the RTCA DO-307A methods in demonstrating PED tolerance of their aircraft. RTCA DO-307A separates demonstration methods for tolerance to intentional transmissions from PEDs versus tolerance to spurious emissions from PEDs. Aircraft with an FAA-approved system—such as an Onboard Mobile Telecommunications System (OMTS), Wireless Fidelity (WiFi), airborne access systems (AASs), or Network Control Units (NCUs)—are considered PED-tolerant for PEDs used with the installed system. If an aircraft model has demonstrated tolerance for both transmitting and non-transmitting PEDs, the operator may allow PED use during all phases of flight on this aircraft model.
If your aircraft is certified "PED Tolerant" you are good to go.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.2] Aircraft Not Designed and Certified PED Tolerant. An operator may choose to conduct a safety risk assessment following the process in RTCA DO-363 if it 1) does not have a designed and certified PED-tolerant aircraft, and 2) chooses not to test its aircraft fleet types according to RTCA DO-307A or obtain supporting documentation from an aircraft manufacturer. The operator’s assessment must evaluate the avionics configuration of its fleet and failure modes of communication, navigation, surveillance, and other electronic systems with respect to electromagnetic interference. This assessment ultimately outlines mitigations and controls the operator needs to adopt to expand PED use into various phases of flight.
I've not heard of any corporate operator who has gone through this process.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.3] Aircraft Not Demonstrated PED Tolerant. If the operator has not demonstrated PED tolerance for their aircraft, they may allow PED operation during cruise flight. If interference to aircraft systems from PEDs is experienced during cruise flight, the devices causing interference should be isolated, and applicable conditions recorded. The device responsible for the interference should be turned off.
Unless your aircraft is PED tolerant or you have done an RTCA DO-363 risk assessment, this is what you are left with: you can only allow PED use during cruise flight.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.1] Operator Procedures. If an operator allows PEDs aboard its aircraft or the aircraft being operated, procedures should be established to control PED use during aircraft operations. RCTA DO-363 section 7.5 and InFO 13010SUP provide further guidance on what to include in the operator’s policies, procedures, and training programs. In general, the procedures should address:
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.2] Passenger Communication. This paragraph outlines methods to inform passengers of permissible times, conditions, and limitations of PED usage. These methods may be accomplished through the departure briefing; passenger information cards; flightcrew, flight attendant (F/A), or prerecorded announcements; or other methods deemed appropriate by the operator. Operators should inform passengers of PED use restrictions, such as prior to departure, after takeoff (at 10,000 feet), prior to landing (at 10,000 feet), and after landing. For air carrier operations conducted under part 121 or 135, the limitations, at a minimum, should state the use of all such devices—except medical electronic devices such as heart pacemakers or portable oxygen concentrators (POC)—is prohibited during phases of operation when they could interfere with communication or navigation equipment onboard the aircraft or the ability of the flightcrew to give instructions in the event of an emergency. Methods of passenger communication may include:
Can you use PEDs on your aircraft? Well that depends on your aircraft and the PEDs. The answer for many of us is yes, provided we are in aircraft that are "PED-tolerant" and are using well behaved PEDs. Is an EFB any different? Yes, it has to be able to survive a rapid depressurization and cannot interfere with any cockpit avionics.
[AC 120-76D, ¶6] An EFB is any device, or combination of devices, actively displaying EFB applications. EFBs are characterized by the following:
That iPad of yours is an EFB if you are using it for cockpit related duties.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.3] Use of a PED as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). An EFB is any device, or combination of devices, actively displaying EFB applications authorized per AC 120-76, Authorization for Use of Electronic Flight Bags. EFB applications may be displayed on a PED. Additional guidance for part 91 operations can be found in AC 91-78, Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.3.1] If an aircraft is eligible for passenger PED use in all phases of flight without restriction, the same eligibility may apply to PEDs authorized as EFBs per OpSpec/MSpec/LOA A061, Use of Electronic Flight Bag.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.3.2] If an aircraft is not eligible for PED use for all phases of operation, then operators should follow guidance in paragraph 7.2.2 or AC 120-76 for other EFB PED test methods.
[AC 120-76D, ¶9] HARDWARE SUPPORTING EFB APPLICATIONS. In the context of this AC, EFB equipment components supporting EFB applications are “installed” when they are incorporated into aircraft type design under 14 CFR part 21, or as a proper alteration under 14 CFR part 43, § 43.3. All other components supporting EFB functionality are considered “portable,” regardless of how often they are removed from the aircraft. In order for portable EFB hardware to support EFB applications, installation of at least some EFB components may be required, depending on requirements for positional integrity (e.g., installed mounts), continuity of power (e.g., dedicated primary power port), and data connectivity (e.g., Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi®), and Ethernet). Airworthiness regulations do not apply to portable EFB components other than for specifications associated with the installed components (i.e., mounting (size and weight), power (maximum electrical load, voltage, and current frequency), and data connectivity (input/output (I/O) data specifications and security)). Regardless, this AC is applicable to any portable EFB components (e.g., mount, display, external Global Positioning System (GPS), cables/cords/adapters, and portable wireless transmitters) supporting an applicant’s authorization for use. Display of EFB applications on installed displays may require differentiation to enable the flightcrew member to distinguish between the installed avionics display and the supplemental or “secondary” EFB display. For guidance on the design of installed components supporting EFB functionality, refer to AC 20-173.
[AC 120-76D, ¶9.1] Portable EFB Hardward Components:
Connecting the GPS to a power source is no problem. Connecting data or antenna ports is possible, yes, but complicates things greatly.
[AC 120-76D, ¶10.1] Portable EFB Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Demonstration.
This is the Holy Grail to green lighting the use of PEDs on your aircraft. If your aircraft has documentation that says it is PED tolerant in accordance with RTCA DO-307, you are good to go. If you don't have that and don't have a qualified risk assessment, you are probably restricted to using your PEDs only during cruise flight.
I think this is a long and involved process, but I don't know of any operators who have done this.
This option seems even more involved. See the referenced section for more details.
[AC 120-76D, ¶10.2.2] Rapid decompression testing must be accomplished for authorization of EFBs in pressurized aircraft in order to confirm the representative sample is safe during a rapid decompression event in close proximity to the flightcrew member and remains available for operational use. The information from the rapid decompression test is used to establish the procedural requirements for the use of the EFB in a pressurized aircraft. Rapid decompression testing must comply with RTCA DO-160, Section 4, Temperature and Altitude, guidelines for rapid decompression testing up to the maximum operating altitude of the aircraft in which the EFB is to be used. Similarity of a particular EFB make and model to a unit already tested may be used to comply with this requirement. It is the responsibility of the operator to provide the rationale for the similarity.
Back in the days we had tablet computers for EFBs, manufacturers would go through the trouble of doing these tests, which is why it often cost you $4,000 for that tablet computer that could be found in the non-aviation market for less than half that. That industry has pretty much gone extinct because of the proliferation of Apple's iPad, which is vastly superior. Apple, surprisingly, doesn't do this.
But Jeppesen does. If you are a Jeppesen customer, call their customer support number and they will send you a copy. Just ask for the "Rapid Decompression Test Results of iPad."
Does this apply to most of us in the corporate world? No, not really. But you should consider it.
We instituted this policy based on the avionics suite of our aircraft (WiFi installed demonstrates RTCA DO-307 compliance), triple FMS backed up with GPS avionics) and our single aisle configuration with no seat blocked by another. We aligned the policy as best we could with Delta Airlines just as a measure of standardization so our passengers would be not be surprised by our policies.
* DVD players, laptop computers, and other devices that exceed 2 lbs. must be stowed for taxi, takeoff and landing.
** Medical devices including the following items may be used during all phases of flight: hearing aids; heart monitors; heart pacemakers and other implanted medical devices; insulin pumps; nebulizers/vaporizers; approved portable oxygen concentrators; approved respirators/ventilators; approved sleep apnea machines.
14 CFR 1, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Definitions and Abbreviations, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
14 CFR 91, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, General Operating and Flight Rules, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
14 CFR 121, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Operating Requirements: Domestic, Flag, and Supplemental Operations, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
14 CFR 125, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Certification and Operations: Airplanes Having a Seating Capacity of 20 or More Passengers or a Maximum Payload Capacity of 6,000 Pounds or More; and Rules Governing Persons on Board Such Aircraft, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
14 CFR 135, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Operating Requirements: Commuter and On Demand Operations and Rules Governing Persons on Board Such Aircraft, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
47 CFR 22, Tile 47: Telecommunication, Federal Communications Commission
Advisory Circular 91.21-1D, Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft, 10/27/17, Department of Transportation
Advisory Circular 120-76D, Authorization for use of Electronic Flight Bags, 10/27/17, Department of Transportation
Information for Operators (InFO) 13010 Expanding Use of Passenger Portable Electronic Devices (PED), 10/31/13, U.S. Department of Transportation
Information for Operators (InFO) Supplement 13010, FAA Aid to Operators for the Expanded Use of Passenger PEDs, June 9, 2014, Department of Transportation
Information for Operators (InFO) 14006 Prohibition on Personal Use of Electronic Devices on the Flight Deck, 5/20/14, U.S. Department of Transportation
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