• Panel at International CES in Las Vegas Draws Air Travel Enthusiasts from Around the Country

New York | February 3, 2014– Rarely is the topic of portable devices on planes the focus of as much public attention as right now – making front-page national news and changing the way we look at our portable electronic and smartphone capabilities and the passenger experience overall. The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), is leading the national conversation by illuminating trends in passenger thinking while closely examining public policy. A joint APEX/CEA session at the International CES January in Las Vegas captivated an audience of air travel enthusiasts eager for more information  on how new regulations are shaping the industry.

The joint session follows a collaborative effort between APEX and CEA to gauge public sentiment on portable electronic devices (PEDs) inflight. The joint survey was presented to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) leading up to the FAA’s announcement last fall that properly tested aircraft may allow PED use below the previous 10,000-feet threshold and during all phases of flight.

“Once the FAA made its determination, airlines moved quickly. Within six weeks of the FAA announcement of new guidance, more than 60 percent of U.S. airlines, representing 86 percent of the U.S. ‘large carrier’ fleet, and carrying 95 percent of U.S. passengers, had determined that their aircraft are ‘PED tolerant’ through testing approved by the FAA,” said Michael Childers, APEX board member and a representative on the FAA ARC. “International airlines like British Airways and Lufthansa are following suit. Now that a solid majority of U.S. airlines have implemented PED-friendly policies, we’re really able to explore what this means for the passenger experience.”

The panel comprised industry and government heavyweights, including Chuck Cook, manager, Fleet Programs and Technology, JetBlue Airways; Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir; Bill de Groh, chairman, Aircraft Design and Operations Group, Air Line Pilots Association, International; Julius Knapp, chief, Office of Engineering and Technology, Federal Communications Commission (FCC); Timothy Shaver, branch manager, Avionics Maintenance Branch, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); and Kirk Thornburg, managing director, Engineering, Quality, Technology & Training, Delta Air Lines and the ARC Chairman. The panel was moderated by Gautham Nagesh, technology Policy Reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

The panel discussed ongoing issues that have resulted from the FAA decision. For example, the expanded use of PEDs has raised concerns about how they are secured during takeoff and landing, even if they do not have to be turned off. APEX representatives were among the PED ARC members who expressed concerns on this issue. During the panel discussion, the FAA acknowledged that it is still monitoring PED stowage policy, and airlines on the panel said that stowage policies are still being discussed in an effort to harmonize them.

In addition to looking at new regulations, the panel delved into the subject of potential policy changes related to inflight phone calls, a topic that has the close attention of the traveling public and airlines alike. For example, the panel revealed that inflight device usage is broken down to 60 percent email use, 30 percent texting and 10 percent voice calls – showing only weak interest in voice calls, OnAir’s Dawkins said.

“So that’s a very small part of it,” he said during the panel discussion. “The voice calls we have are less than 2 minutes, and they tend to be not long after takeoff when the systems are switched on (above 10,000 feet) or just before the system is switched off.”

Panelists also covered ways in which airlines have responded to the changing regulations and trends in securing WiFi on U.S. aircraft. The full session is available for viewing at http://www.cesweb.org/News/CES-TV/IPS-Videos.


The Closed Caption Working Group (CCWG) of the APEX Technology Committee will have until 25 August 2014 to issue its final comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on that agency’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) requiring the use of closed captions on inflight video, according to announcements made at the APEX Technology Conference held in Newport Beach, California, on 19-20 November by CCWG chair Jonathan Norris and APEX TC chair Michael Childers.

This was one of a wide range of topics covered by the Technology Committee at its annual fall conference. Additional topics included a keynote address by Doug Johnson, VP technology of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA); a final report from the APEX representatives to the Federal Aviation Administration’s  (FAA’s) Portable Electronic Device (PED) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC); a Seat and IFE Integration Workshop; a DO-307 Tutorial on Front Door and Back Door PED Emission Testing; a report on the Entertainment Identifier Registry Association (EIDR) by the Metadata Working Group; an update by the HD Working Group on APEX 0403 1080p standardization; a report on off-aircraft and inflight connectivity; an update from the ARINC Cabin Systems Subcommittee; and a report on how social media is helping to shape Southwest’s inflight Wi-Fi strategy.

The APEX Closed Caption Working Group (CCWG) is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to represent the IFE industry’s issues as the DOT decides on the scope of the requirements, and the technologies that might be codified by the agency, CCWG chair Jonathan Norris, and APEX TC chair and APEX board member Michael Childers told IFExpress.

The DOT’s original NPRM requiring closed captions on all videos on aircraft flying in and out of the U.S. was issued in 2006, but was tabled in early 2009 after the DOT and APEX (then WAEA) reviewed the state of closed caption technology as of that time. Referring to the reports of APEX, IATA, and the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), DOT concluded that closed caption technology circa 2006-2009 could not be implemented practically in IFE.

However, citing a timeline provided to the agency by APEX in 2006, DOT followed up for the maturation of these technologies with the result that the NPRM has been re-issued and APEX has once again engaged with DOT. The biggest difference between the state of closed captioning in 2006 versus today, according to Norris and Childers, is that new IFE installations today are based on MPEG-4 platforms that support Timed Text captions versus the MPEG-1/2 platforms of a decade ago that began supporting bitmap (“rendered image”) captions around 2007.

Among the issues, according to the CCWG report, is that while most of today’s IFE installations are MPEG-4, there are still more MPEG-1/2 files delivered today in IFE because of the preponderance of legacy systems. Therefore the CCWG will seek to ensure that the current APEX 0403 bitmap closed captioning standard is at least grandfathered, while Timed Text may also be included.

Other closed captioning issues include:

  • Since closed captions are more plentiful in North America than in certain other regions, the CCWG is considering a proposal that allows for closed captions to be required on an agreed percentage of content—particularly on non-US carriers—rather than on all content.
  • Certain kinds of short content—like ads and movie trailers—are generally not closed captioned in other markets, so the CCWG will seek a category of content to be excluded from the rule.
  • The definition of captioning is the conversion of audio dialogue into text dialogue in the same language, plus descriptions of certain non-dialogue sounds. The CCWG will seek clarification that there is not an expectation that non-English languages be converted to English.

Just prior to the TC Conference, the DOT confirmed to the TC that it has changed its NPRM Publication Date to 26 June 2014 and the end of the comment period to 25 August 2014. This will allow the WG more time to prepare its recommendations and to further engage with DOT.

High Definition Working Group

In a report from the High Definition Working Group (HDWG), Bryan Rusenko, formerly of Technicolor, announced that additional work was needed to reach consensus on a security solution for 1080p, with the result that this modification to APEX 0403 was not voted on during the TC Conference. Rusenko, and HDWG co-chair Pierre Schuberth of Thales, will attempt to find consensus by the May TC Conference.

Consumer Electronics

In his keynote address to the TC Conference, CEA VP Technology, Doug Johnson, said that CEA predicts that the percentage of adults buying technology gifts during the 2013 holiday season will be 64 percent, the highest ever and up from 62 percent in 2012. As recently as 2010 his number was just 49 percent. He also said that the number of mobile devices purchased in this category will continue to grow, and that 50 percent of consumers will use a mobile device to help them shop for tech this year.

Johnson also said that the hottest trends at the 2014 CES in January will be wireless & wireless devices, integrated home/connected home technologies, and lifestyle electronics.

DO-307 Tutorial

One of the best-received presentations at the TC Conference was an RTCA D0-307 Tutorial by Billy Martin, Principal Engineer, at Cessna Aircraft Company, a member of the FAA PED ARC along with Rich Salter and Michael Childers of APEX. Martin explained that all electronic devices have spurious RF emissions and that interference with aircraft receivers is possible if:

  • The RF emissions have high enough amplitude
  • The RF emissions occur at the aircraft radio tuned frequency
  • The path loss between the PED and the antenna is low

He also explained that any electronic device can have RF emissions (these are not due to intentional transmitters), and that they can affect sensitive aircraft radio receivers through their antennas. This is called “front-door coupling.” DO-307 defines minimum (or Target) Interference Path loss between PEDs and the aircraft antenna connector at the radio receiver. Aircraft that demonstrate Target Interference Path Loss (Target IPL) have tolerance to PED front-door interference.

As for “back door interference,” Martin explained that a tabulation of all equipment and qualification D0-160 Categories or HIRF Certification can be reviewed and maintained. This listing can be used to compare with other installations and be used to approve the equipment to backdoor tolerance.

Southwest reports on entertainment portal, social media

Angelo Vargo, Manager Product Development, at Southwest Airlines, used the occasion to announce that Southwest has begun permitting the use of PEDs from gate-to-gate. Southwest currently has 440 Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft via Row 44, consisting of 75 percent of its fleet. Over 2 million passengers visit the Southwest portal each month to use Wi-Fi, live TV, VOD and messaging.
Thats the Spirit! “I’ve made friends at airports because I carry with me a cheap $4 extension cord with multiple outlets (5). I can plug it into one of those charging stations and power up my own laptop and then share the rest of the outlets with other travelers. Makes for interesting conversations at times. Best $4 Home Depot investment I have made to date.” – Ken Lew, Thales.

– CEA/APEX study reveals importance, use of devices in-flight

Arlington, VA | May 9, 2013– Ninety-nine percent of adult airline passengers who travel with a portable electronic device (PED) – such as a smartphone or tablet – carried at least one PED onboard with them while traveling in the past 12 months, with seven in ten (69 percent) reporting they used their devices during flight, according to a new joint study released today by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®. The study, Portable Electronic Devices on Aircraft, gauges consumer usage and awareness concerning PEDs on airplanes. The results of this study have been shared with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as it reviews its policies for inflight PED use.

“Airline passengers have come to rely on their smartphones, tablets and e-readers as essential travel companions,” said Doug Johnson, vice president, technology policy, CEA. “Understanding the attitudes and behaviors of passengers that are using electronic devices while traveling will help the FAA make informed decisions.”

Almost one-third (30 percent) of passengers report they have accidently left a PED turned on during a flight. The study found that when asked to turn off their electronic devices, 59 percent of passengers say they always turn their devices completely off, 21 percent of passengers say they switch their devices to “airplane mode,” and five percent say they sometimes turn their devices completely off. Of those passengers who accidently left their PED turned on in-flight, 61 percent said the device was a smartphone.

“This study showed us that most travelers are using their PEDs as often as possible while traveling, and many would like even more opportunities to use their devices” said Russell A. Lemieux, APEX executive director. Four in 10 passengers would like to use their devices during all phases of flight, including take-off and landing, according to the survey. “The data in the study reveals important insights into actual passenger behavior, which we hope the FAA will find useful as it deliberates on this issue,” Lemieux said.

According to the APEX/CEA study, the most commonly used PED during flights are smartphones (28 percent); laptop computers (25 percent); tablets (23 percent); digital audio or MP3 players (23 percent); and e-readers (13 percent).
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) formed a Portable Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PED ARC) with representatives from the airlines, along with pilots, flight attendants, electronics and avionics manufactures. Representatives from the FAA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were also included on the committee. The PED ARC is tasked with making recommendations by July 2013 on expansion of PED use while maintaining the highest levels of safety for the passengers and without compromising the continued safe operation of aircrafts.

Portable Electronic Devices on Aircraft (2013) was conducted between December 14–18, 2012. The study was designed and formulated jointly by Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Please cite any information to the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®. The complete study is available free to APEX members here and CEA member companies at members.CE.org.