FAA Taking Fresh Look at In-Flight Electronics

10:06 AM, Mar 21, 2012   |    comments
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Washington, DC (USA Today) --  "The government is taking a tentative step toward making it easier for airlines to allow passengers to use personal electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers and music players during takeoffs and landings."

That's from The Associated Press, which reports the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday said it will take a new look at the issue. Currently, the agency's rules prohibit the use of such electronic devices at altitudes below 10,000 feet unless they are proven not to affect aircraft controls.

Mobile phones and smartphone devices will not be part of the agency's re-think on the issue.

As for other electronic devices, the FAA technically already allows them during take-off and landing - but only if an individual airline bears the burden of proving a device's safety. However, the process is cumbersome and expensive -- making the effort impractical for commercial carriers.

The New York Times explains, writing that to certify the safety of an electronic device for safe for use below 10,000 feet, an airline would have to test "each version of a single device before it can be approved by the FAA. For example, if the airline wanted to get approval for the iPad, it would have to test the first iPad, iPad 2 and the new iPad, each on a separate flight, with no passengers on the plane." The same would hold true for each version of an e-reader, music player and so on.

Given that process, "few airlines have done that because there are so many devices that testing them all - or even many - isn't practical," AP writes.

Now the FAA says it's considering taking the lead on certifying the safety of electronic devices.

"With the advent of new and evolving electronic technology, and because the airlines have not conducted the testing necessary to approve the use of new devices, the FAA is taking a fresh look at the use of personal electronic devices, other than cellphones, on aircraft," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown says to the Times.

"We recognize that this is an area of consumer interest and our goal is to bring together these key stakeholders to help facilitate a discussion," the agency adds to Bloomberg News.

For now, there's no change. And the FAA says there won't be any until the safety of such devices during takeoff and landing is proven.

Scott McCartney of The Wall Street Journal writes:

One path might be for manufacturers to pay for certification testing and come to agreement with aircraft avionics experts on what levels of emissions from devices are considered safe.

Stay tuned ...

By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

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