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You may soon be able to use your gadgets during takeoff and landing

We’ve heard it before, but now it might actually come true: Using your gadgets during takeoff and landing on commercial flights may soon be allowed.

On Thursday, an FAA advisory panel officially voted to recommend that the agency lift restrictions on the use of smartphones, tablets, ebook readers, and other gadgets when a flight is below 10,000 feet, reports the Associated Press. Users would still have to keep their devices in airplane mode – meaning no phone calls, texts, or Web browsing during the start and end of flights – but basically any activity that doesn’t involve transmitting information wirelessly would be permitted, if the FAA follows the panel’s recommendations.

The advisory panel’s hearing was closed to the public, and the AP’s report on its recommendations are based on unnamed sources. This follows a similar report from The New York Times earlier this week, which was also based on anonymous sources. But we should have public confirmation soon, with the panel expected to deliver its findings to FAA leadership on Monday.

The panel’s vote to lift the ban on gadget use follows months of testing, with help from companies like Amazon. Company spokesman Drew Herdener told the AP that the panel’s findings are “a big win for customers, and frankly, it’s about time.”

The findings also have the support of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who has long fought for a change to the FAA’s policy on gadget usage. “These devices are not dangerous. Your Kindle isn’t dangerous. Your iPad that is on airplane mode is perfectly safe,” she told the AP.

Others are not as pleased with the potential change in policy. Some pilots have warned that they noticed interference with their airplane flight systems due to onboard gadgets – a potentially dangerous situation, if confirmed, especially during the crucial takeoff and landing phases of flights. Delta Airlines, however, told the FAA in a letter last year that out of 2.3 million flights, the airline received just 27 reports of “possible device interference,” according to the AP. But none of those instances were confirmed.

The gadget ban is not yet over, however. And it is possible that the FAA will choose not to follow the panel’s recommendations. To help ensure that the agency moves forward, McCaskill has warned FAA officials to “ask swiftly,” or she will introduce legislation that requires them to allow fliers to play Angry Birds anytime they like.

(Image courtesy Australian Business Traveller)

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