The Federal Aviation Administration looks set to lift the ban on the use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) during taxiing, take-off and landing, with new rules coming into force possibly before year-end.
The new rules would apply to devices such as tablets, notebooks, e-readers and portable media players, while mobile phones would remain banned during critical phases of a flight.
If you’re fine with the printed pages of a newspaper or magazine as you prepare for take-off, or content looking out of the window for a Google Earth experience as you head towards the clouds, then the expected rule change is unlikely to bother you too much. If, on the other hand, you’re the type of person who really must have access to your PEDs at all times, like Alec Baldwin, then it looks like the days of staring in seething frustration at the blank screen of your switched-off device will soon be over.
News of the expected change comes courtesy of the New York Times, which on Sunday reported that the industry group set up last year to investigate the use of PEDs on planes during take-off and landing is likely to recommend a loosening of the rules when it reports the findings of its study at the end of July. The group is made up of representatives from Amazon, the Consumer Electronics Association, Boeing, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Federal Communications Commission and a number of aircraft makers.
The Times said its two sources – a member of the industry group and an FAA official – both said the FAA was “under tremendous pressure to let people use reading devices on planes, or to provide solid scientific evidence why they cannot.”
As the report points out, there has long been confusion about the rules surrounding the use of PEDs on commercial aircraft, with electric razors and audio recorders – which give off more electronic emissions than e-readers – allowed to be used during all phases of flight, while the FAA also allows pilots to use tablets as flight manuals during any part of a flight. So, yes, it’s basically a case of if those in charge of a plane can use a tablet while hurtling down a runway at 180mph, why can’t the rest of us?
The journey to allowing passengers to use PEDS on planes during take-off and landing is certainly a slow one, but this latest report suggests the day when gadget-loving fliers can use their devices from gate to gate without restriction isn’t so far away.