As of today, Virgin America is allowing travelers unrestricted use of most portable electronic devices (PEDs) from “gate-to-gate” on all phases of flights on all of its aircraft within U.S. airspace. Although some carriers have already lifted the restriction of PED use on many aircraft and during certain categories of flight, Virgin America’s fleet of 53 new Airbus A320-family aircraft is the first cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for PED usage during all categories of flight – even during CAT II and CAT III precision approaches and landings.
A typical CAT I landing requires a minimum visual range of 1,800 feet, while CAT II and CAT III approaches in limited visibility require more precise navigation equipment. A CAT IIIc landing – the most technically complicated — allows for a completely automated landing where the ceiling and visual range both are 0 feet. (To read more from the FAA, see here).
In order to get this approval, Virgin America’s Engineering staff conducted a series of tests to ensure that PED usage would not interfere with radio frequencies used by complex cockpit navigation communication equipment. The FAA mandated tests that included using a spectrum analyzer and a signal generator to simulate radio frequency emissions that might come from PEDs. The interference – or lack of interference – these frequencies had on cockpit navigation systems was then evaluated to ensure safe operation during flight. Our staff moved the equipment throughout the cabin to bombard navigational equipment from all angles that were likely to come from expanded use of PEDs.
Through these tests, we were able to determine that PED use would not degrade the signal strength of Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) used at most airports.
So what does that mean for our guests? Behind the jargon, this means Virgin America guests now can use their approved PEDs from the moment they board to the moment they deplane on flights within U.S. airspace. So you won’t have to take off your Google Glass! Of course, the in-flight crew has the final say on what is permitted on each flight, but for the most part, you won’t have to put that e-reader down!