Australia’s air safety regulator has concluded it is no longer unsafe for mobile phones and tablet computers to be switched on during take-off and landing.
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has granted permission for air travellers to use small mobile devices from gate to gate as part of revised guidelines [pdf].
As long as airlines meet new regulatory hurdles, air travellers will be allowed to use electronic devices weighing less than a kilogram in offline mode from gate to gate without needing to turn them off from as soon as next month, according to the guidelines, first reported by Crikey.
The devices will need to remain in flight mode and cannot be used for calls, text or data from gate-to-gate.
Previously, passengers were required to turn off their devices at take-off and landing due to concerns around the effects of electro-magnetic interference on navigation systems.
Following the lead of counterparts in the US and Europe, CASA investigated whether such fears were still relevant.
“The bottom line is electro-magnetic interference is not an issue for all the new aircraft,” CASA spokesperson Peter Gibson told iTnews.
“It’s only the older ones, and there’s very few of those left in service. The bulk of Australia’s aircraft are relatively new, 10 years or less, so all the aircraft on all the major airlines would have no issues.”
Before passengers are able to keep their devices running, airline operators will need to meet a set of CASA-directed safety criteria, which stipulates that cabin crew must be trained in how to deal with fires arising from device batteries, among other things.
Airlines will also need to satisfy CASA that they have policies and procedures in place to ensure the devices are properly secured or stored, and that they have operational procedures in place to recognise, respond to and record events of electromagnetic interference.
Qantas looks to leap first
Gibson said Qantas had been the first Australian airline to apply for approval under the new guidelines, and was currently going through the safety checklist process with CASA.
He expected Qantas to be approved and passengers to begin reaping the benefits within the next six to eight weeks.
Two other major Australian airlines were also currently in the compliance process with CASA, he said.
The new guidelines relate only to personal electronic devices weighing less than 1kg. Larger personal electronic devices weighing over 1kg, such as laptops, will need to remain stowed in a passenger’s luggage. CASA said its investigations had found a loose device weighing more than 1kg could be dangerous during times of turbulence.
The CASA guidelines bring Australia in line with policies already in place in some of the world’s largest airlines.
Both the United States and European air regulators last year expanded guidelines governing the use of electronic devices after finding the radio interference signals from mobile phones and tablets on board aircraft were tolerable.