Rules for devices on planes may ease

06/21/2013 7:55 PM

06/21/2013 7:57 PM

An industry working group assigned by the Federal Aviation Administration to research the use of electronics on airplanes is expected to recommend relaxing the ban on portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

One member of the group, who asked for anonymity because the panel is not allowed to speak publicly about internal discussions, said a document is being drafted that will recommend a wider use of devices during takeoff and landing, including tablets and smartphones used only for data (like email) but not talking.

One of the recommendations under consideration in the document would be to allow “gate-to-gate” use of electronics, meaning that devices could be left on, in a limited “airplane mode,” from the moment the gate door closes on the tarmac until the plane arrives at the gate of its destination.

But the person, who has seen a draft of the report, said there are still concerns about passengers’ electronics during landing, where the use of flight instruments is paramount, indicating the recommendation could still change.

The advisory group was supposed to deliver its findings by July 31, but has asked for an extension until September. Both were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

In a statement released by the FAA, the agency said it had agreed to extend the date for the report to September and acknowledged the increased consumer interest surrounding the use of devices on airplanes.

“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 statement said. “We will wait for the group to finish its work before we determine next steps.”

Last year, the FAA announced the creation of the working group to study the use of electronics during takeoff and landing. The group, which first met in January, comprises people from various industries, including, the Consumer Electronics Association, Boeing, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Federal Communications Commission and aircraft makers.

The group has several goals, including ensuring that whatever rules the agency announces apply to devices that are not yet on the market.

A study recently released by two industry groups, the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association, found that as many as 30 percent of all passengers said they had accidentally left a device on during takeoff or landing.

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