The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the use of Apple iPads in the cockpits of commercial aircraft. The electronic devices
take the place of pilots’ paper flight manuals and have been dubbed electronic flight bags, or EFB, by the FAA.
The new rule takes effect Friday (Dec. 16), according to a report from the New York Times. The FAA began testing iPads
earlier this year in cooperation with Apple and software maker Jeppeson and found no interference with flight controls. It granted approval to American Airlines for use on its Boeing 777. The FAA requires operators to apply for permission based on specific devices and aircraft. United, Delta and Alaska Air have also been granted approval for iPads as EFBs.
At any other time, the new ruling might have gone unnoticed. But coming just a week after actor Alec Baldwin’s
highly publicized removal from an American Airlines flight for refusing to turn off his iPhone on the runway, has raised the question: If pilots can do it, why not passengers?
The FAA said it’s a matter of quantity. Only two iPads are allowed in the cockpit, one for each pilot. “This involves a significantly different scenario for potential interference than unlimited passenger use, which could involve dozens or even hundreds of devices at the same time,” the FAA said in the statement.
For now, the passenger rule stands. “Passengers may turn on most personal electronic devices
after the plane reaches 10,000 feet,” FAA documentation reads. “At a lower altitude, any potential interference could be more of a safety hazard as the cockpit crew focuses on critical arrival and departure duties.”
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