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Mobile communication and other electronic devices are a distraction to all types of operators, including pilots and other aviation crew members.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), recent incidents and accidents have revealed pilots using personal electronic devices, including laptop computers and mobile telephones, for personal activities unrelated to the duties and responsibilities required for conduct of a flight.

On April 26, 2010, in response to safety concerns related to these distractions, the FAA called on air carrier operators to create and enforce policies that limit distractions in the cockpit and keep pilots focused on transporting passengers safely.

The Information for Operations (InFO) guidance reminds crew members and air carriers that any cockpit distraction that diverts attention from required duties can constitute a safety risk. This includes the use of personal electronic devices for activities unrelated to flight.

FAA’s "Sterile Cockpit" rule prohibits pilots from engaging in any type of distracting behavior during critical phases of flight, including take-off and landing. While this rule is applicable only to Part 121 (Scheduled Air Carrier) and Part 135 (Commercial Operators), a pilot of any aircraft flying under Part 91 (noncommercial general aviation) rules could be charged with careless and reckless operation per FAR 91.13 should an accident occur as a result of a distraction due to idle chatter or other nonessential activity during a critical flight segment .

In the InFO, FAA asks air carrier to address the issue of distraction through their crew training programs and create a safety culture to control cockpit distractions.

Legislation pending before Congress to reauthorize FAA programs contains a provision that would bar flight crews from using personal electronic devices in the cockpit. For further information about FAA safety rules and the reauthorization bills, visit: www.faa.gov.