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Scanning on an Airplane


Categorically, the FAA (for the United States) prohibits the operation of a Personal Electronic Device (PED) on an aircraft unless the airline has determined that the device will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft. (See FAA rules 14 CFR 91.21, 121.306 and 135.144) These rules do not apply to private planes flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR).

Additionally, the FAA published Advisory Circular (AC) 91.21-1 in 1993 to help airline/aircraft operators comply with FAA regulations. The AC recommended that the use of PEDs be prohibited during the takeoff and landing phases of flight below 10,000 feet. As justification, the FAA cites both the potential for electronic interference with aircraft systems and the potential for passengers to miss safety announcements.

Since the FAA in a blanket statement says that all PEDs are prohibited items unless the airline agrees to the device .. airline policies generally divide PEDs into three categories:

  1. those that may never be used: Examples of these are AM/FM radios, television sets, two-way pagers, two-way radios (CB, VHF, et cetera). Southwest Airlines includes scanners in this category.
  2. those that may always be used: hearing aids, pacemakers, electronic watches, and one-way pagers.
  3. those that may be used only at certain times: CD players, laptop computers, electronic video games, and GPS navigation sets.

There is an incorrect notion that Captain of the aircraft has the final say on what can or cannot be allowed.

A commercial airliner is operated under an "air carrier operating certificate" and the "operator" of the aircraft is the airline, which holds said certificate, not the Captain. So, it's up to the airline whether a passenger (or crew) may use any electronic devices. A Captain who permits passengers to use scanners in flight without the clear authorization of his airline is in violation of both the FAR and his own company rules.

As far as listening to air traffic control while in flight, United is the only US carrier that offers this service via its on-board audio entertainment system. It can be found on channel 9.

Thanks to Crayon for the above.



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