The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled against a case filed by the Association of Flight Attendants seeking review of the Federal Aviation Administration 2013 release on the use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs).
The AFA, an association with 700,000 members, challenged a court decision in favor of the FAA, which sent out a directive allowing passengers to use electronic devices during takeoff and landing.
The AFA did not believe it was safe to let passengers use their gadgets during those crucial moments. The association argued that electronic devices such as cellphones can prove to be harmful projectiles during turbulence and that the signals emitted by these gadgets can interfere with plane announcements.
FAA Went Too Far
Large PED, such as full-size laptops, must be safely stowed so as not to present a hazard in the event of severe turbulence, crash forces, or emergency egress.
PED policy should define “small PEDs” and describe how these items may safely remain powered on, as long as they are secure (not loose) during takeoff and landing. For example, the passenger may have a small PED secured in-hand, in a belt or arm holster or in a pant pocket.
PED cords or accessories must not impede emergency egress. FAA N8900.240, (JA 274).
In 2013, the FAA issued a memo expanding the use of PEDs in flights. This extension included takeoffs and landings. In the petition, AFA strongly argued that the FAA went too far in creating and issuing N8900.240. It went further by saying:
In doing so, the FAA impermissibly and substantially altered and effectively amended 14 C.F.R. § 121.589, the regulation that pertains to carry-on baggage on an aircraft. Section 706 of the APA allows a reviewing court to set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be “not in accordance with law” or “without observance of procedure as required by law.” Because N8900.240 is arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of an existing, valid regulation, and the regulatory change was issued without the appropriate notice and comment requirement of § 553 of the APA, N8900.240 must be set aside as to the offending provisions regarding stowage of PEDs during takeoff and landing on a flight.
FAA Was Right
The appellate court ruled against the AFA. According to a report from Star Tribune, “But the appeals court said the FAA has always had discretion on how to handle issues such as portable electronics and was free to change its interpretation of the rules. FAA officials said that cellphones and other small electronic devices were no more dangerous than books that passengers have been allowed to keep out.”
With this development, the FAA has been granted the power to allow airline operators to let passengers use PEDs as long as the “plane is properly protected from electronic interference” and that cellphones will still be in airplane mode throughout the flight.
There is still no public copy of the case available as of press time.