Finally – Federal Aviation Administration looks ready to loosen restrictions on tablet use in airplanes

March 25, 2013
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The change could be announced as soon as the end of this year. The FAA set up an industry working group last year to study the use of portable electronics on airplanes, though, as the New York Times reports, any changes would not include cellphones.

Although the current policy is designed to shield the plane’s instrumentation from radio interference, there is no proof tablets pose such a risk. As the Times’ points out, the FAA already lets passengers use electric razors and audio recorders during the full flight (including takeoffs and landings), even though those give off more electronic emissions than eReaders.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said in a phone interview with the Times that she has grown frustrated with the FAA’s regulations after learning iPads are allowed as flight manuals in the cockpit and also been given to some flight attendants to use.

“So it’s O.K. to have iPads in the cockpit; it’s O.K. for flight attendants — and they are not in a panic — yet it’s not O.K. for the traveling public,” she said. “A flying copy of ‘War and Peace’ is more dangerous than a Kindle.”

The chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, also sent a letter to the FAA pushing the agency to allow more electronics on planes. 

According to internal documents reviewed by the Times, the working group has additional objectives, such as making sure flight attendants don't have to become social police to determine which devices are acceptable during a flight and trying to determine what "airplane mode" really means. 

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