FAA relaxing rules on gadgets while flying

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Soon, airlines will no longer have flight attendants or captains telling passengers to “Please power down your electronic devices during takeoff and landing.” The special panel the FAA appointed to look into whether handheld electronics can interfere with avionics has returned its findings and recommendations, and they are to stop asking people to shut things down.

Most airlines will probably ask that devices be put in “airplane mode” and the use of cellular communications (phones, data links) will still be restricted, but weary travelers tired of shutting down their e-readers, handheld games, and tablets will no longer be required to do so.

A 28-member panel set up by the FAA has returned its policy revision recommendations for electronics on aircraft. They’ve recommended that the rule be changed, finding that it was based on old, outdated information and had no bearing in today’s technology-laden world. Aircraft are required by law to have a very high resistance to electronic interference and the average gadget being used on a plane has so little of that, they say, that even if hundreds of them are being used at once, they are still far below the threshold required for aircraft designers to protect against.

Some lobbyists for change, such as Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, have said that the rule about electronics that everyone knows is bogus leads to them ignoring other, more important rules as well, leading to serious safety issues.

So when will the new rule take effect? It may be as long as a year before the FAA officially changes its policies, but at least we know the change is coming.


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