The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could soon be easing the restrictions on which gadgets can be switched on and used by travelers in flight, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The group is reportedly still in discussions over the finer details, but is expected to relax the current ban that covers a number of devices such as e-readers when the plane is at a low altitude, as well as during takeoff and landings. Exactly which devices will be permitted is not clear yet, although the WSJ reports that calls from a mobile phone will still be out-of-bounds.
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A draft of the new report being drawn up by a 28-member industry and government panel says that the FAA’s current position, which has remained resolute since 1966, “has become untenable.”
Under current FAA guidance, airlines are supposed to prohibit all devices until a plane climbs above 10,000 feet. The historical argument was that these could interfere with the plane’s own electronics and navigation system, although in recent years the policy seems to have been relaxed by a number of airlines.
The panel has also cited recent research which suggests that a third of passengers have admitted to accidentally leaving a device switched on throughout the entire duration of their flight. We expect that in truth, that number should be considerably higher.
The final version of the advisory panel’s report won’t be submitted until the end of September, so a final decision from the FAA is still a long way off. Regardless, it’s a promising sign that such stringent policies could soon change, allowing passengers to use e-readers, tablets and handheld gaming devices for the entire duration of their trip.
A statement issued by a FAA spokesperson said that the agency “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.”
Image Credit: ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images