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New FAA Rule Bars Personal Use of Mobile Phones and Computers in Cockpit

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a regulation that prohibits pilots from using mobile phones, tablets, or laptops for personal use while on duty. The final rule, which was released Tuesday, goes into effect in two months..... ( More...

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Ken Hardy 7
On long intercontinental flights, these guys are either going to doze or use their laptops/iPads, it will always be the captains choice on how the ship is run and the FAA knows as much so its a CYA rule.
Jason Feldman 1
The article says that flight crews may not use personal electronics while on DUTY, funny it didn't say while flying the aircraft. Technically you are on duty while deadheading, or on duty while on ready reserve... sure it's splitting hairs but my guess is that the article isn't all that accurate - and this small mistake is just proof of that.

It also says for personal use - so if you have an EFB or your company requires text messages for out-off-on-in times for example you can still use the device perhaps- I haven't read the NPRM or new rule yet - thats my fault, maybe I should have read it first, but the FAA is probably just CYA'ing - we've heard of flight crews falling asleep- whats worse? - Just like you said

it's all idiotic, they can pass a rule about not thinking of girls while flying - so what= life goes on.
Jeff Lewis 1
I just read the entry at It reads: "...for personal use while at their duty station on the flight deck while the aircraft is being operated..."

Yes, this is FAA-CYA. Frankly, one is hard-pressed to find any FAA rule that is not driven almost entirely by CYA. Just as one is hard-pressed to find any new FAA rule that did not (a) emerge after an extraordinary amount of delay and resistance, and (b) emerge in a form loaded with ambiguity, imprecision and spectacular loopholes. For example, look at how poorly FAA has handled the fatigue issues for pilots and controllers; they essentially have done nothing for decades, blowing off even NTSB recommendations, thus sustaining the authority of FAA managers (for ATC) and airline managers (for pilots, mechanics, etc.) to assign work into schedules that virtually guarantee on-the-job dozing. Yes, for DECADES. Is the regulator asleep at the switch, or worse, is the regulator just providing 'cover' for the industry???

It is very interesting to see the comments on this thread from those who 'pilot' locomotives. The Metrolink commuter train crash at Chatsworth, CA on 9/12/08 is mentioned in the Federal Register announcement. Had that locomotive engineer not been texting, 25 deaths and 135 injuries (and a mess of destruction) would not have happened. Just as Korean 801 (Guam 1997) and Comair 5191 (Lexington 2006) would not have happened if the pilot's "extra set of eyes via ATC" had not been distracted and/or fatigued to the point where they did not see what they were paid to see; they failed to see what was slowly setting up then speak up to 'save' it.

Yes, it is all idiotic.

The link at FedReg...
PhotoFinish 2
Not sure what any of these examples on the ground have anything to do with operating a plane at cruise altitude for hours at a time. Flying on auto at high altitude doesn't have any of the grade crossings and curves of a train track, nor the busyness of the approach and takeoff segments of a flight.
Jason King 1
We both have the potential to cause a great deal of destruction if we're distracted. You're hauling a few hundred pax around, while I'm hauling 20,000 tons of everything, including the kitchen sink. If we aren't alert and focused, then there's the potential for disaster.

Besides, if the government agencies weren't out here making new rules and regulations, then there wouldn't be a need for those government agencies. I guess it's job security, along with CYA.
PhotoFinish 1
While he examples and resulting regulations make sense for both trains in motion, as well as planes at or near airports, hear same examples and regulations seem completely unrelated to the reality of hours and cruise altitude without changes in speed, altitude and heading.
The real question is how much distraction does certain apps provide without loosing situational awareness. It is proven in some studies that periodic game type stimulation will improve overall alertness. I do feel that personal calls and emails, can be mentally taxing and possibly emotionally impairing. I wish that the FAA would just follow the rule making process to get the most information possible, and always do a cost benefit analysis.
Jason Malak 1
I agree with you. Who knows They have in mind another way to give us stimulation.
Robert Larson 1
Does this affect Part 91 private pilots? I can't use my cell phone to call ahead to the field restaurant to get my burger ready or the FBO to bring my car around?
sparkie624 1
I doubt it does... But unless it is an emergency, even a part 91 pilot should not use the cell phone in flight.
Robert Larson 1
really? where is that written. I guess I missed that rule.
sparkie624 1
I just said that I doubt it... When you are flying for yourself things are a little more liberal...
Robert Larson 1
Oh, ok. Sure I see what you mean now. I was scared for a sec that I was misunderstanding the FARs. Sometimes using a phone is just way easier than making radio contact. Clearances on the ground for one thing. But also useful to make sure a taxi gets ordered when you're still an hour out from some new field.
lsharpe69 1
So one must assume the Ipad EFB apps in common use by commercial aviation are not off limits here. The rule is basically 'no texting while flying'? How original! Oddly they did not specify the sterile cockpit. Regarding in flight use of mobile devices by paying pax, 'I' think the real issue here is wi-fi network security. Any self-respecting hacker(not an evil term) can detect and possible infiltrate any wi-fi network whether the SSID is broadcasting or not. Not good news for wi-fi connected cockpit interfaces on a separate and 'secure' network. Here in lies the problem. Any handheld portable device can conceivably wreak havoc on any wireless network within range,e.g. session hijacking. Simply put, if smart people design a system, people who are as smart (or smarter) can reverse engineer the system and discover vulnerabilities. If it is possible? It will be done (by someone). Banning the use of mobile devices on commercial flights by pax will not solve this problem. Even screening pax for mobile devices (as possible weapons) will not solve the problem in the long term as smart devices are becoming ever smaller. 'I' believe Internet access or cell phone use on commercial flights poses no immediate threat to airline safety in itself. The threat lies in those with ill intent. This is a complex issue and I am in no way an expert. I did find an excellent source online for anyone who wishes to learn more: (copy/paste to your browser as URL is quite long){ } --> Fly often, fly safe, and 'never' text while flying (it can wait!). <--
lsharpe69 1
Did not realize hyperlinks would automatically appear as links. Excellent source here though with links to other references. Be sure to note the links to free software tools in sect.10-7 (and their capabilities) In short, the Internet is about as secure as an old fashioned telephone party line or CB radio. We tend to throw things out there as if we were being as safe as having a private conversation with our attorney. Think again! Have you ever wondered how the NSA can easily decode our 'secure' messages? Consider they were involved during the development of the standard and actually made it less secure than recommended as to introduce back doors. In addition The Cyberspace Electronic Security Act of 1999 gives law enforcement the ability to gain access to encryption keys and cryptography methods. So your secure data can be essentially tapped. I personally hope they are recording my every word, every post and email, and every aspect of my boring life! Not worth the hard drive it's stored on!
jason johnson 1
Does this include private or not for profit pilots?
yulie A 1
what kind of penalty if they using the cell phone?
rabaize 1
Good, no more calling maintenance on my PERSONAL phone. It's the law. They will have to give me a DUTY phone if they want me to make any calls from now on because my PERSONAL phone will be off prior to cockpit entry. I guess the new SOP rewrite will state, "leave cockpit, stand on gantry, let the PAX here you discuss with MX...

Just kidding, relax!
sparkie624 0
Read on.. that is not to be used for Personal Usage... You can still call me (your personal Maintenance Controller) when you have a problem... Sorry Charlie... No tuna this time.
peter clapham -1
I thought the USA was the land of the free. So a small number abuse the use and the FAA keeps all the class back
Yazoo 0
The article did not mention what part of the FARs does this apply. (PART 91, 135, 121) For part 121 operations, the "personal use" condition essentially means that it is business as usual in the cockpit when it comes to electronic devices. However it opens the door for crews to use personal electronic devices for work related duties. I.E. if you're aircraft has WIFI, and your company does not have other restrictions, you could now use your device enroute to check weather, volcano ash reports, etc. You could also use your device to check your schedule (especially now with the new FAR 117 complicated restrictions). Prior to this you could only use a company provided and FAA approved device.

The other issue is what constitutes "while on duty"? I am technically on duty at the gate prior to boarding. Does that me I can't check in with family?
Jason King 0
I'm a locomotive engineer and we're banned from using cell phones, or numerous other electronic devices while on duty. Several fatal accidents have been the result of train crews texting, playing games, or making phone calls, so the FRA has banned their use.

Obviously, exceptions apply, such as emergencies or when/if a locomotive radio becomes inoperable. Also, deadheading crews are allowed to use electronic devices as long as they're not in the controlling locomotive cab of a train.

Have any aviation accidents/incidents been the result of flight crews using phones, laptops, mp3 players, etc?
Jeff Lewis 2
Flight crews have a large stake in the game (their lives!), so when they are in the phases of flight where they have a density of tasks to perform, mostly in the areas within 20-miles of so of the airports, they would not even think of using a personal electronic device. In the more distant areas, ATC has generally routed flights to not conflictd with other flights, thus if the flight crews let down their guard, the risks are actually quite low. Frankly, in commercial IFR flight, at least during the en route phase, pilots can get away with not looking for traffic and will likely stay out of trouble so long as they keep their ears attuned to comply with altitude, heading and speed changes as ATC may need to issue. So, the odds of an actual fatal accident or at least a near-midair are very low in the situations where flight crews might be tempted to play. Having said that, read up on Air France Flight 447, which entered a stall while cruising at FL380 and crashed into the Atlantic on 6/1/09. An eleven hour flight, with a 3-hr plus stretch crossing the ocean likely with no other potential air traffic. The odds of the pilots recreationally using electronic devices seem quite high. The crash was right around midnight; 228 died.

On the other hand, ATC has many of the same fatigue/boredom issues, but their butt is not on the line. And, as we all know, there have been some high profile incidents involving TV-or movie distractions of controllers. A huge news story happened in April 2011, and prompted the resignation of ATO COO Hank Krakowski at FAA. Two months earlier was the controller in Knoxville who made a bed and ignored his flights for a few hours.

The August 1997 KAL B747 crash in Guam could have been saved had either the approach controller or the tower controller monitored the flight's descent profile, which happened at 1:42AM. The MSAW alerts had been disabled by ATC; 224 died. In August 2006, when 49 died in the Comair crash at Lexington, the tower controller had nearly a full minute to look out the tower and see the flight was lining up on the wrong runway. He failed, and if he was pressured by FAA and NATCA to conceal his failure, well, heaven help him for the hell he must feel inside.

IMHO, the odds are extremely high that there have been numerous ATC incidents, some fatal, for which electronics distractions were a significant contributing factor. I worked as an FAA controller from late 1986 until 2009. I spoke up about a TV set in an Oregon tower cab that caused a near midair at nearby Portland Airport. It was a Saturday in March 1989, and when I came upstairs from my lunch break I heard the Portland controller yelling over a speaker, "Are you talking to that Cherokee? He damned near took out my Dash 8!" I hurried up the stairs to find my coworker staring at his radar presentation, looking puzzled like he was trying to figure out what happened. He let me handle the shout-line call from the distressed Portland Controller. We quickly determined that my coworker had cleared the Cherokee as an inbound arrival from the east, but failed to see the Cherokee fly right over then set up to land ten miles further to the west, at Portland International ... at the same time that a Horizon Dash-8 was also setting up to land. And this all got swept under the rug....

Oh, the other thing I saw as I came into the tower cab that day: my coworker was watching the NCAA basketball playoffs when this happened. We had a portable color TV wired into a cabinet (with power and roof antenna feed) so we could watch it during the more boring stretches. Just pull the cabinet door open, pull the on/off knob, turn the rotary channel selector (yeah, this was 1980's technology!); it was much more convenient then hauling TV sets up and down the tower stairs, as happened occasionally at the three other towers where I worked (KSLE, KBJC, KRHV). Heaven help the person who would even think to speak up about this! (oh, yeah, that was me; I was the whistleblower who did speak up and endured all sorts of retaliation, then was eventually forced to retire at earliest eligibility!)

It's a crazy world, Jason. I hope FAA and NATCA have their act together now, better than they have in the past.
PhotoFinish 2
The regulator function and the ATC function should be handled by separate agencies. Just like investigations is handled by NTSB, which is also separate from FAA.
That's what should happen from long time
sparkie624 -5
This I do not quite understand...They already are not supposed to use them in the Air.... Now the Captain is off the gate, at the end of the runway and a problem arises and he cannot use his phone... How is he going to call maintenance to help get his problem fixed or reset.. Many times working with a crew on the phone I can get their plane taken care off without a gate return... But if they cannot use their phones that is going to severely affect that... Many times BAT Phone (A/C to call on the phone via aircraft radio via arinc to phone call dispatch and or maintenance control) does not work.
PhotoFinish 13
They can use their phones and laptops. Just not for personal reasons. Calling the airline ops center or maintenance would qualify and work related.

My concern is that on long cruise distances on transcontinental or intercontinental flights, they don't want the pilots to sleep. They also don't want them to be occupied with pleasant, mindless activities to keep their minds alert.

One or the other will give, eventually.
In other industries, the ban on personal use is far stricter for use of electronic devices. This included calculators, cell phones, i-pads, computers, electronic readers, One may use such a device only if it is in the course of one's duty, safety sensitive activity is ceased, and the use is logged and initialed by the crew. Said logs are checked on a very regular basis, and enforcement is quite strict. Devices are to remain off during tour of duty, with certain listed exceptions and restrictions.

If found in violation, your Federal Certification is revoked, and depending upon the severity of the violation, fines levied against the employee of up to $25,000 (employer also faces fines). In case of injury or death, the cell phone/internet/device records and logs will be used as part of any investigation.

The FAA ruling seems a bit more relaxed, and harder to validate compliance. And I rather doubt cockpit facing cameras will be installed unlike other modes of transport.
Jason King 1
Absolutely correct. I'm subject to personal fines and loss of employment if I am found using just about any personal electronic device. Even if you're not using it, having a device powered 'on' is a violation.

We now have inward facing cameras on our locomotives, along with devices which detect cellular signals and wi-fi. Still, some people continue to use their cell phones while on duty.
Jeff Lewis 1
That is very interesting ... that two modes of transportation, both with fatal accident histories documented by NTSB, would produce such a different outcome by FRA vs FAA. I found the analogous rule banning personal electronics, promulgated by FRA in 2010 for locomotives, at:

So, after Metrolink/Chatsworth in 2008, t took FRA 2-years to post a final rule; after Comair/Lexington in 2006, it took FAA 7.5-years to post a final rule.

In both cases, the serious accidents happened, followed by the same pattern of Public and Congressional outrage, then yielding two very similar pieces of legislation directing the Dept of Transportation unit to 'fix this safety problem'. The rail operators ended up losing the right to use their cellphone to snap a photo of a safety concern, but they were allowed to carry a camera-only device to do so. The rail operators were also subjected to forward-facing video and other devices that can catch their improper texting or other activities. Meanwhile, FAA delayed and sidestepped other/related safety issues such as schedule/fatigue matters, then produced yet another ambiguous rule that mostly just serves as CYA for FAA and management. Huh...

Personally, I would not be bothered in the least if, while working in my control tower (or if I was being paid to fly Part 121 or Part 135), FAA had a strict rule ensuring a video device was monitoring my work environment to ensure no improper distractions. Each of us should expect, if we do idiotic things like personal texting while performing real safety duties, we ought to face quick and substantial discipline.
Carl Guenther 2
It does say PERSONAL USE
The article used the phrase "for personal reasons" several times. Nothing was said by the FAA or the article I cited about the situation you mention.


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