U.S. air travelers may soon be allowed to use a wider range of electronic devices during their flights, even during takeoffs and landings.
According to the New York Times, a Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel will meet this month to recommend that the agency expand the number of personal electronic items approved for use during flights, particularly takeoff and landing. The panel is expected to recommend new guidelines to the FAA by the end of the month. If the FAA adopts the policy, which is likely, it will enter into effect sometime next year.
Currently, airlines and the FAA ban a wide variety of digital devices based on largely anecdotal evidence of electronics interfering with flight equipment. In an increasingly wired society, however, the FAA is ready to reexamine its stance at passengers’ behest.
“The FAA recognizes consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft. That is why we tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions,” the FAA said in a statement. “We will wait for the group to finish its work before we determine next steps.”
Insiders at the FAA advisory panel say the new guidelines will allow use of ebooks, laptops and mobile devices during the takeoff and landing portions of flights, as long as the devices are in “airplane mode” throughout the duration. However, airlines will still prohibit sending phone calls and text messaging at any time during the flight, and the ban on the use of Wi-fi during takeoffs and landings will remain in place as well.
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“One reason” why, explains New York Times writer Nick Bilton, “is that the Federal Communications Commission has requested the ban, because phones trying to connect to cell towers while traveling at hundreds of miles per hour causes too much strain on the cellular network.”