You are here:

Aviation/Flying/Is there any evidence that a passenger using a GPS unit on an airplane is dangerous?


I emailed Delta Airlines about their GPS policy for passengers. They said it's okay at cruising heights, but not take off or landing.

I understand that since they're a private company, from a moral perspective they can make whatever rules they want. It's just that I'm curious if they make that their policy just to be on the safe side, or if there is actual physical evidence it's dangerous?

Just curious.


My GPS unit


The use of any electronic device by passegers on all U.S. carriers (abroad it can be different) has been prohibted below 10,000ft by the FAA and FCC, regardless if the device could cause instrument interference or not. Devices such as iPods or MP3 players which don't transmit like cell phones are considered a distraction for passengers. If a situation or emergency were to arrise during takeoff or landing, it is possible a passenger could be distracted by the device and not be aware or informed about what is going on.

Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations; Part § 91.21
Portable electronic devices.

(a) 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.
(b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to—
(1) Portable voice recorders;
(2) Hearing aids;
(3) Heart pacemakers;
(4) Electric shavers; or
(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.
(c) 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.

Regarding GPS units:
They emit electromagnetic waves, which could possibly interfere with an aircraft's electronics. The possibility may be slim, but in the process of receiving, receivers "transmit" a low-level radio frequency signal that could be a source of interference. Thus they are prohibited.

Here is a piece about an electrical engineer who did a Garmin study, and who believes they pose no threat at all-
(Maybe he should tell it to the FAA/FCC?)

This link has a wealth of info specific to GPS units and why you can or can't use the device-

It probably won't be in the next year or two, but there is a push for rule relaxation-

A bit of history on the events that causd the FAA & FCC regulation-

Hope this helps!


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


D. Norkus


I can address questions about airline pilot employment & entry level airline careers in the United States, women pilots, flight training, pilot certification, U.S. flight scholarships (mostly for women), aviation & airline safety topics, aviation accident investigation and airline operations. ***Please note, I cannot address flight training & career queries from outside the United States, or aero engineering degree programs/careers, aviation management topics. ****


Airline captain with 15 years past experience in airline ground operations. I have previously flown as a commercial skydive pilot & ferry pilot and majored in Aviation Science

International Organization of Women Pilots- The Ninety-Nines, charter member of Women In Aviation International, Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association, Air Line Pilots Association.

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; Aviation Safety/Accident investigation

©2016 All rights reserved.