FAA advisory committee to recommend loosened electronics restrictions
After a close-door meeting on Thursday, an FAA advisory committee is set to recommend that the FAA loosen restrictions on electronic devices, allowing their use during the takeoff and landing portions of flights. These devices, which include smartphones, tablets and e-book readers, are currently required to be turned off while planes are below 10,000 feet.
The advisory committee is expected to send its recommendation to the FAA on Monday, according to the AP.
The fight for expanded electronic device usage has been underway for years. Critics of the FAA’s current policy have long argued that devices like iPhones, iPads and Kindles in “airplane mode” — which turns off Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity — do not interfere with vital cockpit instruments. Echoing this sentiment, Delta Airlines said in a letter to the FAA last year that out of 2.3 million flights in a two year period, there were only 27 reports suggesting potential interference from personal electronics. In each case, it was not proven that personal electronics were the culprits.
Should the FAA allow personal electronics to be used during takeoffs and landings, it likely would not allow unfettered use. It’s expected that smartphones and tablets with cellular connectivity would still have to turn off their cellular radios, though the presence of Wi-Fi on some flights means that those who need Internet access could still connect if hotspots are provided by their airline.
The FAA’s ban on electronics during takeoff and landing has been a great source of comedy in recent years. In a famous 2011 incident, Alec Baldwin was reportedly kicked off of an airplane after refusing to turn off his smartphone during a game of Words With Friends. Should the FAA choose to implement the recommendations of its advisory committee, which is expected, Mr. Baldwin — a critic of the FAA’s current policy — could be a Wi-Fi-enabled flight away from uninterrupted play.
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