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New FAA rule keeps pilots from using personal electronics in the cockpit

New FAA rule keeps pilots from using personal electronics in the cockpit

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While recent changes to Federal Aviation Administration laws meant airline passengers could use their personal electronic devices more freely during all phases of a flight, it's done just the opposite within the cockpit. A new rule that goes into effect two months from now means pilots can no longer use electronics devices like cell phones, tablets, or computers for "personal use," reports The Wall Street Journal. Those devices can still be used in order to conduct their job, the FAA says, something that's now very clearly spelled out in the new requirements.

Electronic devices for work still OK

The new rule is an expansion of one enacted in 1981, known as the "sterile cockpit," designed to keep "the environment on the flight deck was free from potentially dangerous distractions." Prior to today's changes, personal use of devices was still considered covered under that rule, but not when aircraft went above 10,000 feet. Now the FAA says this policy extends to all phases of flight.

The FAA notes that "several" incidents led Congress to push it to update the sterile cockpit rule. That includes a Northwest Airlines flight in 2009 that overshot its destination airport by 150 miles, and where the pilots said they were distracted by an airline scheduling program on their computer. The report also cites separate incidents involving pilots texting during pre-takeoff taxiing, along with a helicopter crash that involved "frequent" personal texting.