FAA to pilots: Turn off those electronic devices

A new FAA  proposal would limit airline pilots' use of personal electronics during a flight.

Story highlights

  • Proposed rule would bar use of personal electronics throughout flight
  • Plan stems partly from incident involving airline pilots who overflew destination
  • Current rules bar use of electronics during takeoff and landing periods

The U.S. government is aggressively trying to curb distracted driving and is now launching an effort aimed at distracted flying.

Airline pilots would be prohibited from using personal electronics at any time during a flight, except if it directly relates to the operation of the plane, according to a new Federal Aviation Administration proposal.

A longstanding "sterile cockpit" rule currently bars the use of any personal gadgets during critical phases of flight. This usually means operations related to takeoff and landing.

The new plan ordered by Congress last year is a direct result of an infamous 2009 incident involving a Northwest Airlines crew who overflew Minneapolis by 150 miles.

The pilots later said they were distracted as they reviewed a work schedule on a personal computer.

The FAA also cited the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, a commuter plane that slammed into a house near Buffalo, also in 2009. A pilot aboard the ill-fated flight sent a text message on her personal cell phone just before takeoff.

While it was unrelated to the cause of the crash, transportation safety investigators used the example of crew texting in recommending regulators ban all personal electronics during flight.

"These incidents illustrate the potential for such devices to create a hazardous distraction during critical phases of flight," the proposed FAA measure said.

But the new prohibition, if finalized, would represent a near-blanket prohibition of electronic devices.

Pilots would be able to use laptops, tablets and other devices for flying the plane or for safety reasons only.

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