Finally Flying with WiFi? FAA Says Yes

Recently, an FAA advisory committee reported findings that WiFi is safe to use during all phases of flight. For the millions of commercial flyers this means-- you may not have to wait until 10,000 feet to use electronics in flight. And many pilots are left saying -- it’s about time.

For decades the FAA has advised that our small personal electronic devices -- PEDs-- would interfere with the avionics of a multi-million dollar, 394,000 lb., 747 passenger jet(and that’s the empty weight never mind fully loaded).   Meanwhile, most pilots of smaller airplanes already use their iPad in the cockpit for navigation reasons. Shouldn’t someone tell them their 2,500 lb. Cessna 172 can’t handle the PED emissions? 

You may recall the rule to power off all PEDs during takeoff and landing was implemented as many “thought” the signals would interfere with a plane’s equipment and air traffic control.  Remember when we couldn’t use cell phones in hospitals for the same reason? We can use them now. When the healthcare industry innovates faster than the FAA, that’s saying something. But shocking new findings from a recent report finds that electronic devices in fact don’t interfere with a plane’s performance and gate-to-gate use of electronics in flight will become a reality. 

So next time you board a flight you can sit down, buckle up, and power on those noise-cancelling headphones, right? Surely you know better…Not so fast.  Reports suggest these rules ‘could take as long as a year to implement,’ as airlines are still required to prove through testing their fleet is safe from PED emissions.


What implications does this have on current pilots -- if any?

You guessed it. None.

As mentioned, most pilots of smaller aircraft already use iPads in the cockpit. And in late 2011 the FAA approved the use of iPads in the cockpit of commercial airlines.  So, while these recent findings shouldn’t make much of a difference for general aviation pilots it brings to light a more productive conversation about the use of technology in flight. 


Technology in flight

Technology isn’t going anywhere and it is high time that the flight training industry embraced it and made it work to their benefit.  We’ve talked before about implementing the iPad in the cockpit. How can you as a flight educator utilize the same asset to better your training program?

Well, first off, if you are not using a tablet already shame on you.  So for those of you behind the technology curve, here is a little insight into the benefit of such a device...The tablet can be used to keep copies of flight books, electronic copies of pilot and aircraft manuals, applications and spreadsheets that enable simple calculations of weight distribution and fuel capacities.  More than that the iPad has the ability with its updated processor to house and interact with all of the charts that were previously kept on the aircraft in paper form.  Now trainers and students can look at charts on the fly as well as current weather and weather forecast mid flight, all without a lot of processor lag time.  On top of that, with 4G connectivity pilots can file flight plans and go through the preflight checklist all in the same place making it a much less cumbersome process.

While technology in the cockpit shouldn’t replace the necessary training it should be used as a training enhancement tool to improve student learning via applications as well as prepare a student for a career as a pilot in the twenty first century.  The burgeoning use of electronic devices in our everyday lives made it hard to ignore any longer.  So while commercial passengers will be thankful the FAA finally caught up with modern technology, general aviation pilots shouldn’t notice much of a change as many have already embraced the role technology plays in modern flight.

What are your thoughts on the new FAA recommendations for use of electronics in flight and the use of technology in student training? Leave your thoughts in the comments.