FAA Committee Could Alter Rules Regarding Electronics on Planes

Posted on August 30, 2012

Anyone who’s traveled on a commercial airline has likely either wondered or griped about the fact that all approved electronic devices must be stowed when the plane is getting ready to head out.  Then, when that same plane is about ready to touch down for the landing, it’s time to repeat the drill.  The exact ramifications of leaving an electronic device on have yet to be accurately deduced, but nevertheless, it’s still an important step whenever boarding a plane.  However, that could all change come March of next year if a Federal Aviation Administration committee decides the rules are due for an update.

First, a brief background on why this rule is around in the first place.  It might come as a shock to hear that electronics are not actually banned by the FAA from being used during the landing and takeoff of flights.  That comes with the caveat, though, that for an airline to permit their use, they must first submit every different device to tests meant to ensure that they don’t interfere with the cockpit or other onboard electronics systems.  With the continued proliferation of Smart phones, tablets, MP3 players, and more, it would be next to impossible to test every device, so airlines opt to just ban their usage outright at the aforementioned times.

But whether due to the grumblings of passengers or a change in the way the rule is perceived, the FAA now plans to revisit the ordinance to see if alterations could be made that would theoretically allow electronic usage during landing and takeoff.  The FAA announced their intentions in March, but it was only earlier this week that they said they would be convening a committee to look into the issue for half a year.

There is no word yet on who is going to be on that committee, but in addition to calling upon the public to give their opinion, the FAA is expected to bring together pilots, flight attendants, and representatives from passenger associations, mobile device makers and carriers, airlines, and airplane manufacturers.

Although the exact people haven’t been picked, once they are, the group will meet to discuss the issue up until March of next year, at which part they will announce their findings.  But before you start arguing with a flight attendant that the FAA is changing the rules and you’re within your rights to play Angry Birds at takeoff, keep in mind that this committee could very well decide that the directive should stand as is.

People should also realize that one thing not being considered is allowing passengers to begin using cellphones in mid-flight.  We’re still a long way off from that brave new world, if it ever gets here at all.

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