FAA moves to block flight crews from using cellphones

Federal regulators are looking to combat a new wave of distracted flying from pilots and other members of the flight crew.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Tuesday it is moving forward with a plan to block members of flight crews from using their cellphones or laptops for personal use while operating an aircraft.

The FAA said it is concerned that pilots could become distracted with their cellphones and laptops and lose "situational awareness."


In one case, the agency noted, two pilots were using their laptops during a flight and ended up traveling 150 miles beyond their destination. In another example, a pilot sent a text message while a flight was being taxied.

"These incidents illustrate the potential for such devices to create a hazardous distraction during critical phases of the flight," the FAA writes.

The new rules do carve out an exemption for crew members who are using their cellphones and laptops as part of their jobs or in the case of an emergency, the agency noted.

This comes as lawmakers and regulators have turned their attention to rules surrounding in-flight phone calls. The Federal Communications Commission plans to lift a ban on in-flight phone calls for travelers, but the plan faces resistance from other regulatory agencies and congressional committees.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also on Tuesday moved forward with a bill that would ban cellphone calls during flights.

The FAA's push to ban distracted flying comes in response to the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act that Congress passed in 2012, which makes it "unlawful for a flightcrew member of an aircraft used to provide air transportation...to use a personal wireless communications device or laptop computer while at the flightcrew member's duty station on the flight deck of such an aircraft while the aircraft is being operated."

The FAA proposed the rule in January 2013, and plans to publish a final version in Wednesday's edition of the Federal Register. It will go into effect in two months.