US Dept. of Transportation and FAA yesterday called on airlines "to create and enforce policies that will limit distractions in the cockpit [including use of PEDs] and keep pilots focused on transporting passengers safely."

The step comes in response to the widely reported incident last October in which the pilots of a Northwest Airlines A320 overflew their destination by 150 mi. and lost radio contact with air traffic controllers because they were using their laptop computers while engaged in a discussion about their crew scheduling system (ATWOnline, March 19).

In the "Information for Operators" guidance published yesterday, FAA cited two other recent instances involving crew distractions: In one, a pilot was texting after the aircraft pushed back from the gate and before the takeoff sequence and in another an FAA inspector in the jump seat overheard a crewmember’s mobile phone ring during the takeoff roll.

"Every aviation professional needs to take the issue of distractions in the cockpit seriously," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "And when there are two or more professionals on the flight deck, they must hold each other to the highest safety standards. Allowing distractions is unacceptable."

The InFO says operators "should create a safety culture that clearly establishes guidance, expectations and requirements to control cockpit distractions, including use of PEDs, during flight operations."