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31 October 2013

FAA to allow airlines to lift many mobile device restrictions

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on 31 October 2013 that it will allow passengers to use personal electronic devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with guidance for implementing these changes.

These changes will not happen immediately. Airlines will first have to review their fleets and prove to the FAA that that they can safety allow passengers to safely use their devices in all phases of flight. The FAA expects that many airlines will be able to do so by the end of the year.

As with most changes to FAA regulations, these changes happened only after extensive consultations with technical experts and other representatives from the experts from the airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and the consumer electronics industry, as well as representatives from pilot, passenger, and flight attendant organizations.

What this means for passengers
These upcoming changes mean that passengers will soon be able use smaller devices like iPads, mobile phones, handheld video games, and ebook readers on the ground or in the air, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items will have to be either held or placed the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing. The key rule changes that passengers should be aware of include the following:

  • Changes to PED policies will not happen immediately and will vary by airline, and may not apply to your particular aircraft. Check with your airline to see if and when you can use your PED.

  • Current PED policies remain in effect until an airline completes a safety assessment, gets FAA approval, and changes its PED policy.

  • Your airline may have a PED use policy that is more restrictive than the FAA policy.
  • While in flight, mobile phones and devices that can connect to the Internet will have to remain in airplane mode while in flight (the cellular connection must be disabled).

  • You may use the Internet connection on your device if your airline offers an in-flight wireless connection.

  • Even if your airline offers an in-flight wireless connection, it may not allow you to make voice calls using Skype or a similar Internet-based voice communication system.
  • Your airline may also allow you to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.

  • You will have to stow heavier devices like laptops under seats or in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing.

  • During the safety briefing, the airline will request that you pay attention to the safety briefing.

  • There may still be some situations where the airline may request that you not use your PED, and if this happens, follow crew instructions and immediately turn off your device.

Related resources

Photo credit: Anna Langova

17 October 2013

Lao Airlines ATR 72 crash kills all 49 on board

16 October 2013; Lao Airlines ATR 72-600; RDPL-34233; flight QV301; near Pakxe, Laos: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Vientiane, the capitol of Laos, to Pakxe in the southern part of the country. It crashed into the Mekong river during its approach and sank. The crash occurred about eight kilometers (five miles) from the airport. All five crew members and 44 passengers were killed.

About this aircraft
According to, this ATR 72 was the newest aircraft in the Lao Airlines fleet, having been delivered to the airline fewer than seven months ago.

About the ATR 72
This is the sixth crash of an ATR 72 passenger flight involving at least one fatality. The previous events were:

  1. 31 October 1994; American Eagle (Simmons Airlines) ATR 72-200; N401AM; flight 4184; near Roselawn, IN: This was a scheduled domestic flight from Indianapolis, IN and Chicago, IL. During descent, the crew activated the airframe deicing system. The crew was in a holding pattern at about 10,000 feet (3050 m) and while the aircraft was descending to 8,000 feet, the aircraft went out of control due to the effects of icing and crashed. The four crew members and 64 passengers were all killed. The icing occurred in areas of the wings that were beyond the area protected by the deicing system.
    Fatal American Airlines Events
    Wikipedia Entry for this Accident
    NTSB Accident Report Volume I  (Summary)
    NTSB Accident Report Volume II  (Summary)

  2. 6 August 2005; Tuninter ATR 72-200; near Palermo, Italy: The aircraft was on an unscheduled international flight from Bari, Italy to Djerba, Tunisia when the aircraft reportedly developed engine trouble. The crew ditched the aircraft off the coast of Palermo. The aircraft had been on a scheduled domestic flight from Kish Island in the Persian Gulf. Two of the four crew members and 14 of the 35 passengers were killed.
    Fatal Events for Airlines of the Middle East and Africa

  3. 4 August 2009; Bangkok Airways ATR 72-200; HS-PGL; flight 266, Koh Samui, Thailand: The aircraft was a scheduled domestic flight from Krabi to Koh Samui, Thailand, and skidded off the runway during the landing, hitting the control tower building. One of the four crew members was killed, but all 68 passengers survived.

  4. 4 November 2010; AeroCaribbean; CU-T1549; ATR 72-212; Flight 883; near Guasimal, Sancti Spiritus Province, Cuba: The aircraft was on a domestic flight from Santiago to Havana, Cuba. The crew reported an emergency situation shortly before the aircraft crashed in mountainous terrain. All seven crew members and 61 passengers were killed.
  5. 2 April 2012; UTair ATR 72-200; VP-BYZ;flight 120; Tyumen, Russia: The aircraft was on scheduled domestic flight from Tyumen to Surgut, Russia. The airplane crashed broke up, and caught fire in a field about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from the end of the departure runway. All four crew members and 27 of the 39 passengers were killed. This was the second fatal passenger jet crash involving this airline. The first was a 17 March 2007 crash of a UTair Tupolev Tu134A in Samara, Russia that killed six passengers.
    Fatal crashes of airlines of Russia and the former Soviet Union
    Additional information about this crash

Graphic: Central Intelligence Agency

02 October 2013

Review of the new fear of flying book from SOAR

The new book from long time pilot and therapist Captain Tom Bunn, Soar: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying, takes a unique approach when it comes to dealing with a fear of flying. In short, he brings the systematic and logical approach of an aviator to address anxieties and fears that make it difficult or impossible for some people to fly. Because of this systematic approach, Captain Bunn is able to explain the foundation for his methods for treating fear of flying in terms that make sense to the average passenger.

With this book, Captain Bunn has provided both fearful flyers and other airline passengers with three distinct benefits. The first was his development of a conceptual model of how the mind experiences and deals with fear, and explaining it in terms that are understandable to someone who is not an expert in psychology or sociology. His second benefit was to explain the basics of airline operations in ways that demystifies the mechanics of flight and gives an average passenger a very clear idea of how pilots can calmly deal with situations that can lead to debilitating anxiety in a fearful flyer.

Using his conceptual model of the mind as a foundation, Captain Bunn provided his third and most significant benefit for a fearful flyer by creating numerous resources and techniques that a passenger can use to overcome flying related fears, and showing how a person can systematically use his or her mind to consciously and unconsciously control fear.

The SOAR approach to regulating emotions
The basic SOAR approach is to first help a fearful flyer understand the basis of their fears and how their mind and body reacts to fear inducing stress, and then to show them how to automatically regulate and control their flight anxiety. The book, which is based on Captain Bunn's decades of experience helping thousands of fearful flyers, asks the reader to do two things, the intellectual task of reading the book, and the emotional task of working through numerous exercises that when completed will provide a fearful passenger with numerous tools and techniques to address their anxieties before, during, and after a flight.

Combining aviation with psychology
At first glance, it may seem that aviation and psychology don't have much in common, but Captain Bunn manages to combine elements of both worlds in his book. Like a pilot who has a combination of systems to fly a plane under normal and stressful conditions, so too does a human being have multiple systems to control emotions. As with an aircraft, there may be systems that run for the most part automatically or are used for routine situations, and others that come into play during stressful situations or when primary systems fail or are overwhelmed. So too with the mind, where an automated, unconsciously controlled system for dealing with fear is moderated by several other systems that can be consciously guided and controlled by any airline passenger.

What this book provides the reader
Just like the case with an airline pilot, having multiple sophisticated control systems at your fingertips won't give you any benefit unless you have a basic understanding of how they operate, and a good working knowledge of what procedures to use and when to use them. Just as a pilot doesn't have to become an aeronautical engineer to fly a plane, a fearful passenger does not have to become a psychologist to understand how to manage their emotions. Captain Bunn's greatest gift to the reader is the way that he has successfully combined a basic explanation of how the mind deals with fear with practical instructions for how to eliminate or manage that fear.

If you are a passenger who has anxieties about flying and don't know how you can deal with it, reading this book would be a good first step toward overcoming your fear of flying.

Additional resources
Buy the book
About the SOAR fear of flying program
Fear of flying basics
Fear of flying warning signs