Back in the old days all we had was an obscure statement in each regulation (91, 121, 125, and 135) that said hearing aids, pacemakers, portable voice recorders, and shavers were okay, anything else had to be approved by the operator. So in Part 91 operations the PIC, with or without any technical expertise, made the call. For commercial operators, it was up to the company. Those CFRs were first put into writing in 1966 and have been pretty much unchanged until 2013.

— James Albright





iPhone App, from Chris Manno

In 1993 things got a little better with the publication of Advisory Circular 91.21-1 which has been revised several times until its current edition, Advisory Circular 91.21-1D, which provided the once industry-wide standard of keeping everything shut off until 10,000 feet.

In 2013 the FAA commissioned an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to provide further guidance on allowing additional Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) and they issued a report that did just that. The report does a very good job of detailing the level of interference expected on various aircraft systems. Here's a quick summary:

  1. If your aircraft has a manufacturer or STC installed WiFi system, aircraft system testing has already been completed.
  2. Most aircraft avionics — ADF, HF, datalink, marker beacons, DME, transponders, ADS-B, TCAS, GPS, SATCOM, radio altimeter, and weather radar — are very unlikely to suffer from PED interference.
  3. ILS and VOR systems are okay down to Cat I minimums if backed up by other navigation systems and the crew is trained to deal with possible interference (go around).
  4. Operators need to consider stowage requirements during some phases of flight.
  5. Operators need to standardize their policies to remove confusion among passengers.

This gives us all, Part 91 and commercial operators, a better basis for making risk assessments and setting PED policies. I've included an example policy. It borrows heavily from Delta Airlines in an attempt to achieve requirement 5 above. Our focus when it comes to allowing PED usage on the airplane is:

  1. The PED must not become a dangerous projectile or hinder egress from the aircraft in an emergency situation.
  2. The PED must not interfere with aircraft communications, navigation, or any other onboard electrical systems.
  3. The PED must adhere to current FAA and FCC regulations, the ban against transmitting in particular.

1 — U.S. regulations

2 — Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) report

3 — Advisory Circular 91.21-D

4 — EFBs and GPSs

5 — FAA updated (2013) recommendations

6 — Example PED policy



U.S. regulations

General Operating and Flight Rules

Portable electronic devices.

  1. Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any portable electronic device on any of the following U.S.-registered civil aircraft:
    1. Aircraft operated by a holder of an air carrier operating certificate or an operating certificate; or
    2. Any other aircraft while it is operated under IFR.
  2. Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to—
    1. Portable voice recorders;
    2. (2) Hearing aids;
    3. (3) Heart pacemakers;
    4. Electric shavers;
    5. Any other portable electronic device that the operator of the aircraft has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which it is to be used.
  3. In the case of an aircraft operated by a holder of an air carrier operating certificate or an operating certificate, the determination required by paragraph (b)(5) of this section shall be made by that operator of the aircraft on which the particular device is to be used. In the case of other aircraft, the determination may be made by the pilot in command or other operator of the aircraft.

Source: 14 CFR 91, §91.21

Note: there is similar language in 14 CFR 121, §121.306, 14 CFR 125, §125.204, and 14 CFR 135, §135.144.

If you are flying for a commercial operator, your company makes the determination of what is okay and what isn't. If you are operating under 14 CFR 91, it is up to the pilot in command. Keep in mind you may be asked what qualifications you have to make that determination.


Prohibition on airborne operation of cellular telephones. Cellular telephones installed in or carried aboard airplanes, balloons or any other type of aircraft must not be operated while such aircraft are airborne (not touching the ground). When any aircraft leaves the ground, all cellular telephones on board that aircraft must be turned off. The following notice must be posted on or near each cellular telephone installed in any aircraft: "The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is airborne is prohibited by FCC rules, and the violation of this rule could result in suspension of service and/or a fine. The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is on the ground is subject to FAA regulations."

Source: 47 CFR 22, §22.925

There is talk that this prohibition may be adjusted but as of March 2014, it is still in place.


Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) report

This report can seem a bit daunting in places but the good news is it provides rationale for aircraft that do not have a manufacturer's statement of PED tolerance. In short, Appendix F says "Some aircraft have wireless connectivity systems installed for passenger use. During certification of these systems, specific tests were performed to ensure that back-door interference from PEDs communicating with the wireless connectivity system does not occur." In other words, if your aircraft came with a passenger WiFi system, your aircraft is PED tolerant.


  • On January 7, 2013, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established the Portable Electronic Devices (PED) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) in order to provide a forum for the U.S. aviation community and PED manufacturers to review the comments received from the Notice of Policy/Request for Comments regarding PED policy and guidance published in the Federal Register. The ARC was tasked to make recommendations to further clarify and provide guidance on allowing additional PED usage without compromising the continued safe operation of the aircraft.
  • A Portable Electronic Device (PED) is any piece of lightweight, electrically-powered equipment. These devices are typically consumer electronics devices functionally capable of communications, data processing and/or utility.

Source: ARC Report, page ix.

Much of the report is devoted to requiring airplanes and their avionics be made more PED tolerant and for an update to AC 91-21.1B, Use of PEDs Aboard Aircraft.


A Portable Electronic Device (PED) is any piece of lightweight, electrically-powered equipment. These devices are typically consumer electronics devices functionally capable of communications, data processing and/or utility. Examples of PEDs include, but are not limited to, the following commonly manufactured devices: laptop computers; personal communication devices such as hand-held smart phones, tablet computers, media players, e-readers, and personal digital assistants; gaming and entertainment devices; medical and other healthcare assistive devices such as pacemakers and hearing aids; asset trackers; data collection and monitoring devices; inventory management and point-of-sale devices; wearable computers and other devices that may or may not incorporate wireless transmitters and receivers.

Source: ARC Report, page 3.

Risk Assessment

The ARC recommends that in revising AC 91-21.1B (and any associated guidance), the FAA adopt the following methodology for expanding PED usage by passengers to all phases of flight. In particular, the FAA should immediately amend/revise current regulatory guidance documents to provide a methodology by which operators can permit PED usage by passengers during all phases of flight, using one of the following two methods:

  • Method 1. The operator may perform PED tolerance testing, or the operator may document evidence of testing by an airplane manufacturer or other entity, that demonstrates airplanes are PED-tolerant in accordance with Sections 3 and 4 of RTCA DO-307.
  • Method 2. The operator may validate that its airplane and operations meet the requirements and limitations of the safety risk assessment proposed by the ARC for adoption by the FAA (attached as Appendix F to this report) for the phases of flight (identified as Phases 1-8 in Figure 2 below) in which the operator wants to allow expanded passenger PED use. The ARC's proposed FAA safety risk assessment addresses both back door and front door effects. Mitigations are supported by flight experience, analysis, and test data, and are provided for all failure condition classifications of Major and above, as well as for equipment required by operational rule. Back door effects are assumed to be covered by an airplane's HIRF certification of critical systems. If an airplane is not HIRF-certified, or has not had other back door interference testing completed, additional analysis and systems testing may be required.

Source: ARC Report, page 25.

A "back door" effect is when interference enters the system through aircraft cables, wires, and other possible entrances other than the antennas. A "front door" effect is when the PED is emitting on the same frequencies aircraft systems are receiving.


Phase of Flight, from ARC Report, Figure 2

Pursuant to this method, operators may permit passenger use of typical PEDs as follows:

  1. During any of the following phases:
    •  1  Parked: Passenger boarding and seating to door close.
    •  2  Taxi Out: Push back, taxi from gate to (but not including on) the runway.
    •  4  Climb: From 'transition to climb altitude' and/or gear retraction to en route altitude.
    •  5  Cruise: From en route altitude to beginning of descent with intent to land.
    •  6  Descent: From beginning of descent to the initiation of the approach.
    •  8  Landing and Taxi to Gate: Begins at airplane touchdown, and concludes when airplane is parked for passenger unloading.
  2.  3  Take-off and Departure: During this phase if a qualitative safety risk assessment is accomplished, and controls and mitigations are in place.
  3.  7  Approach: During this phase in visual approaches.
  4.  7  Approach: During this phase on instrument landings in visual meteorological conditions if a qualitative safety risk assessment is accomplished, and controls and mitigations are in place.
  5.  7  Approach: During this phase on instrument landings in CAT I conditions if qualitative safety risk assessment is accomplished, and controls and mitigations are in place.
  6.  7  Approach: During this phase on instrument landings in CAT II or CAT III conditions if testing and analysis shows that systems with Major, Hazardous, or Catastrophic failure conditions are determined PED tolerant.

Source: ARC Report, page 26.

These are recommendations that you can adopt, but you need to do a risk assessment first. More on that below.


  • The ARC recommends that the FAA and industry stakeholders develop standard content and timing for cabin and flight deck crewmember instructions to passengers on use and stowage of PEDs. The development process should include testing of the messaging with members of the traveling public.
  • The ARC recommends that to support standardized industry best practices for stowage related to PEDs, the FAA update stowage policy and guidance documents to incorporate expanded use of PEDs as necessary.

Source: ARC Report, page 34.

To stow an item, according to one dictionary definition, is "to put (something that is not being used) in a place where it is available, where it can be kept safely, etc."52 Stowage, therefore, is simply a "space especially on a ship or airplane for stowing things."53 For purposes of this report, a stowage location on an airplane is generally one that is approved for stowage by the operator, and placarded with a maximum weight restriction. If an item is located in a place that lacks formal operator approval or a maximum weight placard, but where it is considered, in the judgment of the operator, that in a survivable incident (e.g., severe turbulence during a critical phase of flight) the item is unlikely to threaten any occupant's safety (e.g., restricting egress from a seat during an emergency evacuation) or lead to one or more injuries, this report refers to that item's condition as "secure". Some factors that help determine the relative safety of a secure location include the size, shape, and weight of the passenger's item, as well as the holding properties of the location itself.

Source: ARC Report, Appendix G, ¶1.4.

FAA Policy Statement No. ANM–02–115–20, dated November 21, 2002, consolidates and clarifies "certification policy for addressing potential hazards associated with the installation of corded electrical devices used in the passenger cabin." 65 Specific sections of 14 CFR Part 25 design regulations are cited that require passageways leading from main aisles to various types of exit doors, between individual passenger areas, and cross aisles between main aisles, be unobstructed.

Source: ARC Report, Appendix G, ¶2.2.6.

Risk Assessment

The ARC has determined that in order to expand PED use to certain phases of flight, an assessment of the risks must be made. To assist operators in making the safety determination, the FAA will develop a risk assessment based on the information and data available at this time. This paper outlines the approach used to establish the safety risk assessment, documents the assumptions and provides operators with a base lined risk assessment that they can use when developing their PED allowance usage policy.

Source: ARC Report, Appendix F.

Conducting a technical risk assessment is certainly beyond the scope of most corporate operators. Appendix F of the ARC Report does give some guidance, however, when it comes to setting an operator's policy on the phases of flight PED usage can be considered safe.

Hazard Identification

  • Aircraft systems that comply with the design tolerance requirements established in RTCA DO-307 as discussed in FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 20-164 need no further systems level functional hazard safety risk analysis.
  • Some aircraft electrical and electronic systems are protected against the effects of electromagnetic interference, particularly against high intensity radiated fields (HIRF), and both the direct and indirect effects of lightning. The system tolerance to RF fields depends on the system criticality and its location in the aircraft. The aircraft system HIRF and lightning protection provide sufficient immunity to the back door effects of PEDs.
  • Some aircraft have wireless connectivity systems installed for passenger use. During certification of these systems, specific tests were performed to ensure that back-door interference from PEDs communicating with the wireless connectivity system does not occur.
  • Aircraft systems with major, hazardous and catastrophic failure conditions that have been tested during certification of wireless system installations and found to comply with backdoor interference requirement may use that testing in lieu of DO-307 certification as applicable.

Source: ARC Report, Appendix F, ¶4

If your aircraft has manufacturer or STC installed WiFi systems, you have already been tested.

  • Typical consumer PED design tends to be characterized as 'digital', rather than 'analog', which reduces the broadband emissions when compared to older electronic devices. Devices that contain certain design elements like a motor or DC-DC converter (e.g. CD players, older robotic toys) could produce fairly significant emissions and introduce a front door coupling issues.
  • ADF, HF and HF Datalink. The ADF, HF voice, and HF datalink radios, which operate at frequencies below 30 MHz, have been determined in RTCA DO-294 and DO-307 to have sufficient protection from PED emissions and does not require further analysis. This is because the physics of PED emissions in these frequency ranges preclude meaningful emissions at these frequencies. Since PEDs are physically small, they cannot radiate frequencies with wavelengths significantly larger than the dimension of the PED. For example, the wavelength of the upper frequency range of the HF voice transmitter (30 MHz) is 10 meters, resulting in a quarter wavelength of 2.5 meters and one- tenth wavelength (where radiators begin to act as transmission lines) of 1 meter, which is much larger than the typical PED.
  • Marker Beacon. The Marker Beacon system has been determined in RTCA DO-294 and DO- 307 to have sufficient protection from PED emissions and does not require further analysis. This is because the statistical PED emissions reported in RTCA DO-307, Table 4-5 are already significantly lower than the aggregate receiver interference threshold. Thus, the Marker Beacon system is not affected by PED-induced spurious emissions.
  • Instrument Landing System (ILS). This assessment does not address low visibility localizer take-off operations. If an operator chooses to allow PED use during these operations, they must assess the associated risks. The failure modes for the localizer function remain the same as in this assessment, however the hazard levels for the failures were not available when this assessment was completed and must be determined. The localizer and glide slope receivers are susceptible to noise- like interference and to single-frequency continuous wave (CW) interference from PED emissions. The localizer and glide slope receivers detect signals in 90 and 150 Hz sidebands around the carrier frequency and provide guidance signals based on the amplitude ratio for the 90 and 150 Hz sidebands. Noise-like interference and CW interference result in errors in the indicated guidance signals. CW interference can also result in the receiver locking on to the interfering signal instead of the intended carrier signal, again resulting in indicated guidance signal errors.

Source: ARC Report, Appendix F, ¶4

Appendix 2 of the ARC Report lists mitigation requirements for various levels (coupled/uncoupled, VMC/IMC, Category I/II/III) of ILS. You can refer to that for your operation's requirements. For Incognito Air, we are allowing PED usage coupled, IMC, Category I. The following are excerpts of just the mitigation steps we have chosen. There are other options, you need to study this Appendix to make your own decisions.

    Misleading information during CAT I precision approach. Coupled to autopilot. Mitigations. Option 3.

    • Crew cross checks using the radio altimeter and altimeter validates that the aircraft height at the final approach fix is correct.
    • Use of TAWS (EGPWS) based alerting would alert the pilots to terrain and obstacles (as equipped).
    • Crew cross checks using a FMS and/or GPS display of the desired track (lateral position) for the aircraft. Improper function of an ILS system would result in the aircraft not being on course, and the FMS and/or GPS display would show the discrepancy.
  • VHF Omnirange (VOR). The VOR receivers are susceptible to noise-like interference and to single-frequency continuous wave (CW) interference from PED emissions. The VOR systems detect the variation in signal phase and time to determine the correct course for the system. Noise- like interference and CW interference result in errors in the indicated guidance signals. CW interference can also result in the receiver locking on to the interfering signal instead of the intended carrier signal, again resulting in indicated guidance signal errors.

Source: ARC Report, Appendix 2, Page F-41

Appendix 2 of the ARC Report lists mitigation requirements for VOR approaches.

    • During non‐precision VOR approach, the crew would respond to this by executing a routine missed approach procedure. This would result in a slight increase in crew workload as they plan for an alternate approach procedure. — No additional mitigation required due to classification of 7 failure. Pilot will follow appropriate procedures.
    • During non‐precision VOR approach, crew could unknowingly lose accurate information relevant to the aircraft's location and flight path. This could result in disorientation near the ground and cause a considerable workload increase for the crew. — For aircraft equipped with other navigational references, the hazard is minor.

Source: ARC Report, Appendix 2, Page F-44

If you are flying a straight VOR approach without a GPS back up, you might want to consider requiring all PED usage be discontinued.

VHF Communications (including Voice and VDL Modes 2 and 3). Misleading information is not considered a viable failure mode. VHF Comm voice and data services provide audible and visual data to the pilots. EMI interference cannot introduce audible or data communications that are contrary to what is intended. While it may be argued that loss of individual parts of a voice string or blockage of individual data messages could result in misunderstanding of the desired communication, these faults are caused by denial or degradation of the receipt of the intended signal, not as a result of introduction of misleading information.

Source: ARC Report, Appendix 2, Page F-44

Appendix 2 of the ARC Report states "No additional mitigation required due to classification of failure. Pilot will follow appropriate procedures.

  • Distance Measuring Equipment (DME). In order for a PED EMI to cause misleading information, it would have to introduce a random combination of pulses that are the same shape and frequency of the intended signal. The introduced pulse then would have to be timed with the receipt of the interrogation replay. Finally, the timing of the pulsed paired separation would have to correlate with the specific equation that would cause the system to indicate consistent distance information. The probability for this type of failure to occur is so extremely low that this failure mode is not considered viable.
  • Transponder Systems (Including Mode A/C, Mode S, Universal Access Transceiver (UAT), and ADS-B). In order for a PED EMI to cause misleading information, it would have to introduce a random combination of pulses, synchronized in time with the receipt of the interrogation reply, that is formatted with the exact pulse amplitude and duration that correlates with the transponder desired information. The probability for this type of failure to occur is so extremely low that this failure mode is not considered viable.
  • Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) Interrogator Receiver. In order for a PED EMI to cause misleading information, it would have to introduce a random combination of pulses, synchronized in time with the receipt of the interrogation reply. Each pulse has very tight specifications for position, width, and rise and fall times. The transponder signal is complex and is difficult to create accidentally. The probability for this type of failure to occur is so extremely low that this failure mode is not considered viable.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)/Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). In order for a PED EMI to cause misleading information, it would have to introduce an error on the binary-coded messages from all of the received satellites. The probability for this type of failure to randomly occurring is so extremely low that this failure mode is not considered viable.
  • AMS(R)S SATCOM. The phase of flight that these systems are used is during cruise. Since the cruise phase of flight PED usage allowance is a long time accepted practice, no additional analysis of SATCOM was accomplished in the report. If an operator uses SATCOM during other phases of flight, the system criticality must be evaluated to determine if expanded PED use during that flight phase maintains an acceptable level of risk for that operation.
  • Radio Altimeter and Weather Radar. Each of these systems use a very directional antenna, limiting the coupling between the PED emission and the receiver. Furthermore, PED-induced increases in the receiver noise floor only affect receiver outputs at the far limits of coverage where the impact of such effects has minimal operational impact. Critical operation of such systems, e.g., wind shear detection or decision height determination only occur at close ranges where the received signal level is sufficient to overcome PED-induced increases in the noise floor.

Source: ARC Report, Appendix 2, Page F-44


Advisory Circular 91.21-D

The latest version of this advisory circular eliminates much of the minutiae of early versions and brings some clarity into what is and isn't "PED-tolerant." The ARC report leads you to believe that if you have an onboard WiFi system you are PED tolerant. This AC narrows the scope and says you are PED tolerant for the PEDs used with the installed system.

Aircraft Designed and Certified PED Tolerant. Aircraft manufacturers with access to aircraft electronic system qualifications and aircraft radio receiver antenna installation data can easily demonstrate an aircraft meets the requirements of RTCA DO-307A. Operators may obtain statements of such demonstrations from an aircraft manufacturer to substantiate PED tolerance of the aircraft. Operators can also use the RTCA DO-307A methods in demonstrating PED tolerance of their aircraft. RTCA DO-307A separates demonstration methods for tolerance to intentional transmissions from PEDs versus tolerance to spurious emissions from PEDs. Aircraft with an FAA-approved system—such as an Onboard Mobile Telecommunications System (OMTS), Wireless Fidelity (WiFi), airborne access systems (AASs), or Network Control Units (NCUs)—are considered PED-tolerant for PEDs used with the installed system. If an aircraft model has demonstrated tolerance for both transmitting and non-transmitting PEDs, the operator may allow PED use during all phases of flight on this aircraft model.

Source: AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.1

If your aircraft is certified "PED Tolerant" you are good to go.

Aircraft Not Designed and Certified PED Tolerant. An operator may choose to conduct a safety risk assessment following the process in RTCA DO-363 if it 1) does not have a designed and certified PED-tolerant aircraft, and 2) chooses not to test its aircraft fleet types according to RTCA DO-307A or obtain supporting documentation from an aircraft manufacturer. The operator’s assessment must evaluate the avionics configuration of its fleet and failure modes of communication, navigation, surveillance, and other electronic systems with respect to electromagnetic interference. This assessment ultimately outlines mitigations and controls the operator needs to adopt to expand PED use into various phases of flight.

Source: AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.2

I've not heard of any corporate operator who has gone through this process.

Aircraft Not Demonstrated PED Tolerant. If the operator has not demonstrated PED tolerance for their aircraft, they may allow PED operation during cruise flight. If interference to aircraft systems from PEDs is experienced during cruise flight, the devices causing interference should be isolated, and applicable conditions recorded. The device responsible for the interference should be turned off.

Source: AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.3

Unless your aircraft is PED tolerant or you have done an RTCA DO-363 risk assessment, this is what you are left with: you can only allow PED use during cruise flight.

Operator Procedures. If an operator allows PEDs aboard its aircraft or the aircraft being operated, procedures should be established to control PED use during aircraft operations. RCTA DO-363 section 7.5 and InFO 13010SUP provide further guidance on what to include in the operator’s policies, procedures, and training programs. In general, the procedures should address:

  1. PEDs approved for use onboard the aircraft;
  2. Times of approved PED operation;
  3. How and when PEDs must be secured or stowed;
  4. PED modes of operation used and not used;
  5. How and when to inform passengers of the aircraft operator’s PED policies and procedures; and
  6. How to manage scenarios such as suspected or confirmed electromagnetic interference, PED unit or battery smoke or fire, or other scenarios.

Source: AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.1

Passenger Communication. This paragraph outlines methods to inform passengers of permissible times, conditions, and limitations of PED usage. These methods may be accomplished through the departure briefing; passenger information cards; flightcrew, flight attendant (F/A), or prerecorded announcements; or other methods deemed appropriate by the operator. Operators should inform passengers of PED use restrictions, such as prior to departure, after takeoff (at 10,000 feet), prior to landing (at 10,000 feet), and after landing. For air carrier operations conducted under part 121 or 135, the limitations, at a minimum, should state the use of all such devices—except medical electronic devices such as heart pacemakers or portable oxygen concentrators (POC)—is prohibited during phases of operation when they could interfere with communication or navigation equipment onboard the aircraft or the ability of the flightcrew to give instructions in the event of an emergency. Methods of passenger communication may include:

  1. Procedures to terminate operation of PEDs suspected of causing interference with aircraft systems.
  2. Procedures for reporting PED interference to a responsible Flight Standards office.
  3. Procedures for cockpit-to-cabin coordination and cockpit flightcrew monitoring procedures.
  4. Procedures for determining acceptability of PEDs for operation aboard its aircraft. Acceptable PED identification should be clearly spelled out in oral departure briefings and by written material provided to passengers.
  5. Procedures for takeoff and landing preparation must be considered when allowing the PED operation during these phases of flight. Operators must recognize that the potential for personal injury to passengers is a crucial consideration, as well as the possibility of missing significant safety announcements during takeoff and landing. InFO 13010 and InFO 13010SUP provide guidance to address these considerations.

Source: AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.2


EFBs and GPSs

Can you use PEDs on your aircraft? Well that depends on your aircraft and the PEDs. The answer for many of us is yes, provided we are in aircraft that are "PED-tolerant" and are using well behaved PEDs. Is an EFB any different? Yes, it has to be able to survive a rapid depressurization and cannot interfere with any cockpit avionics.

What is an EFB?

An EFB is any device, or combination of devices, actively displaying EFB applications. EFBs are characterized by the following:

  • An EFB hosts applications, which are generally replacing conventional paper products and tools, traditionally carried in the pilot’s flight bag. EFB applications include natural extensions of traditional flight bag contents, such as replacing paper copies of weather with access to near-real-time weather information.
  • In order to qualify as an EFB application, the failure effect must be considered a minor hazard or have no safety effect.
  • Acceptable EFB applications are listed in Appendices A and B. These EFB applications may be overlaid or integrated.
  • EFBs cannot replace any installed equipment required by operational or airworthiness regulations.
  • EFB applications have no certification requirements for installation under aircraft type design (refer to AC 20-173).

Source: AC 120-76D, ¶6

That iPad of yours is an EFB if you are using it for cockpit related duties.

Does an EFB qualify as a PED?

Use of a PED as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). An EFB is any device, or combination of devices, actively displaying EFB applications authorized per AC 120-76, Authorization for Use of Electronic Flight Bags. EFB applications may be displayed on a PED. Additional guidance for part 91 operations can be found in AC 91-78, Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).

Source: AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.3

If an aircraft is eligible for passenger PED use in all phases of flight without restriction, the same eligibility may apply to PEDs authorized as EFBs per OpSpec/MSpec/LOA A061, Use of Electronic Flight Bag.

Source: AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.3.1

If an aircraft is not eligible for PED use for all phases of operation, then operators should follow guidance in paragraph 7.2.2 or AC 120-76 for other EFB PED test methods.

Source: AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.3.2

How is a portable GPS classified?

HARDWARE SUPPORTING EFB APPLICATIONS. In the context of this AC, EFB equipment components supporting EFB applications are “installed” when they are incorporated into aircraft type design under 14 CFR part 21, or as a proper alteration under 14 CFR part 43, § 43.3. All other components supporting EFB functionality are considered “portable,” regardless of how often they are removed from the aircraft. In order for portable EFB hardware to support EFB applications, installation of at least some EFB components may be required, depending on requirements for positional integrity (e.g., installed mounts), continuity of power (e.g., dedicated primary power port), and data connectivity (e.g., Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi®), and Ethernet). Airworthiness regulations do not apply to portable EFB components other than for specifications associated with the installed components (i.e., mounting (size and weight), power (maximum electrical load, voltage, and current frequency), and data connectivity (input/output (I/O) data specifications and security)). Regardless, this AC is applicable to any portable EFB components (e.g., mount, display, external Global Positioning System (GPS), cables/cords/adapters, and portable wireless transmitters) supporting an applicant’s authorization for use. Display of EFB applications on installed displays may require differentiation to enable the flightcrew member to distinguish between the installed avionics display and the supplemental or “secondary” EFB display. For guidance on the design of installed components supporting EFB functionality, refer to AC 20-173.

Source: AC 120-76D, ¶9

Can the portable GPS be wired into the aircraft?

Portable EFB Hardware Components:

  • Must be capable of being easily removed from or attached to their mounts by flightcrew member personnel without tools or maintenance action.
  • Can be temporarily connected to an existing aircraft power port for battery recharging.
  • May connect to aircraft power, data ports (wired or wireless), or installed antennas, provided those connections are installed in accordance with AC 20-173.
  • Connecting the GPS to a power source is no problem. Connecting data or antenna ports is possible, yes, but complicates things greatly.

Source: AC 120-76D, ¶9.1

Does the portable EFB meet Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) requirements?

The certificate holder/operator must demonstrate all portable EFB components, including cords/cables for data or power, are electromagnetically compatible with aircraft navigation and communication systems. One of the following three methods in paragraphs 10.1.1, 10.1.2, or 10.1.3 must be accomplished to demonstrate portable EFB EMC with aircraft for all phases of flight.

10.1.1 PED-Tolerant Aircraft (Method 1). Aircraft demonstrated as PED-tolerant for both transmitting and nontransmitting PEDs do not require specific aircraft EMC ground or flight tests. Aircraft PED tolerance may be demonstrated using guidance in AC 20-164, Designing and Demonstrating Aircraft Tolerance to Portable Electronic Devices. The aircraft PED tolerance determination under AC 20-164 must be based on data approved by an Aircraft Certification Office (ACO). Aircraft operators who have performed a PED safety risk assessment in accordance with RTCA DO-363, Guidance for the Development of Portable Electronic Devices (PED) Tolerance for Civil Aircraft, and determined specific aircraft models were certified as PED-tolerant in accordance with RTCA DO-307, Aircraft Design and Certification for Portable Electronic Device (PED) Tolerance, require no further portable EFB EMC ground or flight tests for those aircraft.

Source: AC 120-76D, ¶10.1

Portable EFB Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Demonstration.

This is the Holy Grail to green lighting the use of PEDs on your aircraft. If your aircraft has documentation that says it is PED tolerant in accordance with RTCA DO-307, you are good to go. If you don't have that and don't have a qualified risk assessment, you are probably restricted to using your PEDs only during cruise flight.

Aircraft Operator PED Safety Risk Assessment (Method 2). Aircraft operators may choose to expand their policies covering the use of PEDs for all phases of flight in accordance with RTCA DO-363. Aircraft operators who have successfully completed the PED safety risk assessment in RTCA DO-363 and allow unrestricted PED use throughout all phases of flight do not have to complete portable EFB EMC-specific ground or flight tests.

Source: AC 120-76D, ¶10.1.2

I think this is a long and involved process, but I don't know of any operators who have done this.

Aircraft EMC Tests (Method 3). The certificate holder/operator must use this method if the operator’s aircraft are not determined to be PED-tolerant in paragraph 10.1.1 or the aircraft operator’s PED safety risk assessment.

Source: AC 120-76D, ¶10.1.3

This option seems even more involved. See the referenced section for more details.

Does the portable EFB meet rapid decompression testing requirements?

Rapid decompression testing must be accomplished for authorization of EFBs in pressurized aircraft in order to confirm the representative sample is safe during a rapid decompression event in close proximity to the flightcrew member and remains available for operational use. The information from the rapid decompression test is used to establish the procedural requirements for the use of the EFB in a pressurized aircraft. Rapid decompression testing must comply with RTCA DO-160, Section 4, Temperature and Altitude, guidelines for rapid decompression testing up to the maximum operating altitude of the aircraft in which the EFB is to be used. Similarity of a particular EFB make and model to a unit already tested may be used to comply with this requirement. It is the responsibility of the operator to provide the rationale for the similarity.

Source: AC 120-76D, ¶10.2.2

Back in the days we had tablet computers for EFBs, manufacturers would go through the trouble of doing these tests, which is why it often cost you $4,000 for that tablet computer that could be found in the non-aviation market for less than half that. That industry has pretty much gone extinct because of the proliferation of Apple's iPad, which is vastly superior. Apple, surprisingly, doesn't do this.

But Jeppesen does. If you are a Jeppesen customer, call their customer support number and they will send you a copy. Just ask for the "Rapid Decompression Test Results of iPad."

If you are not a Jeppesen customer, you can buy a copy of an older report from for $10. This was from 2011 for something called the "Apple iPad 2." Does it really apply to the current crop of iPads? I don't know, but it seems the industry now assumes the iPad has been tested without proof.


FAA updated (2013) recommendations

  • The operator should continue to require passengers to place their PEDs in "Airplane Mode" (cellular transmitters off) from the time the aircraft takes off until it lands. If the aircraft is equipped with on-board wireless services, the operator should address the acceptable times for when the passengers may turn on their PEDs and connect to the wireless services. Aircraft equipped with wireless systems have been tested to ensure that they will not interfere with the aircraft's avionics.
  • An operator must provide instructions for stowing or securing PED items during critical phases of flight.
  • Identify in guidance to passengers what PEDs may be used during takeoff and landing. To prevent personal injury from projectiles and to ensure passenger egress, the instructions should consider the size and weight of PEDs that are acceptable to be secured either on their person or in an approved stowage location. The operator should identify and encourage the stowage of all loose items during the take-off or landing (as applicable) phases of flight. These instructions should provide clear, concise descriptions of the acceptable PEDs that can be used. An operator must take into consideration seat design and stowage compartment weight limitations when establishing the acceptable size/weight limitations for stowage in those areas.
  • Items that do not meet an operator's acceptance criteria for use during takeoff and landing must be stowed in accordance with their approved carry-on baggage program.
  • An operator should make a passenger announcement, prior to takeoff and landing, instructing passengers to secure PEDs and other loose items, in a bag under their seat or on their person. These items should remain stowed or secured until the aircraft is airborne, approximately 2-3 minutes after takeoff or after landing during taxi in to the gate.

Source: InFO 13010

  • Part 121 § 121.542 (d) (effective 4/14/14) prohibits flightcrew members from using a personal wireless communications device or laptop computer for personal use while at their duty station on the flight deck while the aircraft is being operated, unless it is in accordance with FAA approved operational procedures. This prohibition is intended to ensure that non-essential activities do not affect flight deck task management or cause a loss of situational awareness during aircraft operation.
  • This prohibition includes any personal use by flightcrew members of these devices, including, but not limited to, talking, texting, bidding for schedules, reading or accessing the Internet. In other words, all personal use is prohibited, whether or not the device is in "airplane mode".
  • "FAA approved operational procedures" (e.g., use of electronic flight bags, digitized charts or manuals) are those procedures that have been developed by the air carrier and have been approved/accepted, as appropriate, by the FAA.
  • This prohibition does not apply to a person occupying a flight deck jumpseat.
  • This prohibition on personal use of electronic devices on the flight deck in the final rule is applicable only to operations under part 121. However, Directors of Safety and training managers for all operators under parts 135 and 125, as well as part 91K, are encouraged to include operating procedures in their manuals and crewmember training programs prohibiting flightcrew members from using such devices for personal use during aircraft operation.

Source: InFO 13010

Does this apply to most of us in the corporate world? No, not really. But you should consider it.


Example PED policy

My last flight department instituted this policy based on the avionics suite of our aircraft (WiFi installed demonstrates RTCA DO-307 compliance), triple FMS backed up with GPS avionics) and our single aisle configuration with no seat blocked by another. We aligned the policy as best we could with Delta Airlines just as a measure of standardization so our passengers would be not be surprised by our policies.

  • A portable electronic device (PED) is a lightweight, electrically or battery-powered piece of equipment. These devices are typically consumer electronic devices capable of communications and data processing, such as a tablet, e-reader or handheld computer games. Please note that mobile phones are not considered PEDs in this context and thus may be used only when the boarding door is open and during taxi to the gate after landing.
  • Approved PEDs now may be used from gate to gate on all flights operating within the U.S. On flights operating outside of the U.S., all PEDs must be turned off and stowed prior to pushback and while the aircraft is below 10,000 feet. The following PEDs are approved from gate to gate:
    • AM/FM or satellite radios
    • digital and video cameras
    • calculators
    • Gulfstream-installed equipment such as in-flight entertainment systems
    • DVD players*
    • e-readers
    • electric shavers
    • electronic/digital watches
    • global positioning system (GPS) receivers
    • handheld computer games
    • headphones
    • laptop computers*
    • medical devices**
    • noise reduction headphones
    • portable media players*
    • pagers
    • smartphones and any device with cellular network service must be turned off or in airplane mode
    • tablets and wireless keyboards or mouse

    * DVD players, laptop computers, and other devices that exceed 2 lbs. must be stowed for taxi, takeoff and landing.

    ** Medical devices including the following items may be used during all phases of flight: hearing aids; heart monitors; heart pacemakers and other implanted medical devices; insulin pumps; nebulizers/vaporizers; approved portable oxygen concentrators; approved respirators/ventilators; approved sleep apnea machines.

  • PED use on the ground and during takeoff and landing should be limited to small, lightweight devices less than 2 lbs. These devices should be of a size that could easily be secured and not impede emergency egress to the aisle.
  • The following devices cannot be used: e-cigarettes; personal air purifiers; remote control toys; televisions; transmitters (amateur, citizens band (CB), two-way radios or walkie-talkies); VHF scanner receivers and any device with cellular network service enabled. PLEASE NOTE: Mobile phones may be used only when the boarding door is open and during taxi in to the gate after landing.
  • Cameras (digital, film and video) may be used during all phases of flight if they do not exceed the size/weight restrictions. Devices that exceed size/weight must be stowed for taxi, takeoff and landing.
  • When flying outside the United States, usage of these PEDs must be discontinued from taxi to takeoff until 10,000 feet, and then again from 10,000 feet until landing. The captain may also announce other times when PED usage must be discontinued, depending on the airport navigation facilities and weather.


(Source material)

14 CFR 1, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Definitions and Abbreviations, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation

14 CFR 91, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, General Operating and Flight Rules, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation

14 CFR 121, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Operating Requirements: Domestic, Flag, and Supplemental Operations, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation

14 CFR 125, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Certification and Operations: Airplanes Having a Seating Capacity of 20 or More Passengers or a Maximum Payload Capacity of 6,000 Pounds or More; and Rules Governing Persons on Board Such Aircraft, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation

14 CFR 135, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Operating Requirements: Commuter and On Demand Operations and Rules Governing Persons on Board Such Aircraft, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation

47 CFR 22, Tile 47: Telecommunication, Federal Communications Commission

A Report from the Portable Electronic Devices (PED) Aviation Rule Making Committee (ARC) to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), September 30, 2013

Advisory Circular 91.21-1D, Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft, 10/27/17, Department of Transportation

Advisory Circular 120-76D, Authorization for use of Electronic Flight Bags, 10/27/17, Department of Transportation

Delta Airlines Personal Electronic Devices Policy

Information for Operators (InFO) 13010, Expanding Use of Passenger Portable Electronic Devices (PED), 10/31/13, U.S. Department of Transportation

Information for Operators (InFO) Supplement 13010, FAA Aid to Operators for the Expanded Use of Passenger PEDs, June 9, 2014, Department of Transportation

Information for Operators (InFO) 14006, Prohibition on Personal Use of Electronic Devices on the Flight Deck, 5/20/14, U.S. Department of Transportation