The US Federal Aviation Administration is hoping to announce looser restrictions on in-flight use of portable electronics by the end of 2013, according to sources for the New York Times. The people belong to an industry working group set up by the FAA, and add that the latter is specifically considering allowing reading devices during takeoff and landing, including tablets and e-readers. Devices may still have to be set to Airplane mode, though, and cellphones are expected to remain off-limits.
At issue is that while there has been no proof the devices’ wireless receivers affect airplane systems, flight attendants regularly ask passengers to shut readers off for takeoff and landing in an age when digital reading is extremely common. The FAA working group is comprised of parties like Amazon, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Federal Communications Commission, and aircraft makers such as Boeing. Findings on the safety of electronics on planes are due by July 31st.
A leaked document indicates that the group also has more specific objectives, the Times reports. These include deciding what Airplane mode means, making sure attendants don’t have to police which devices are acceptable, and ensuring that any rules announced this year will apply to future hardware. As side goal, the group is aiming to replace multiple regulations with a single set.
Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, tells the Times she is planning to introduce legislation to ensure that the FAA does relax rules. She specifically complains that since iPads are now regularly used by pilots and attendants, it makes little sense to prevent passengers from using them. The FAA is facing pressure from a number of other groups as well, including pilot unions, and travel coalitions and agencies. Outgoing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski recently sent the FAA a letter urging change, and has met with McCaskill.