Proposed In-Flight Electronics Standards Land at FAA

Working with an advisory panel, the FAA is expected to approve a new set of regulations on the use of electronics during take-offs and landings. But there will be some limitations.

Good news for Kindle fans, iPad users, and all other tech addicts in general: Your in-flight dreams are looking more likely than ever to come true.

The Federal Aviation Administration is set to decide whether to allow the use of electronics during takeoffs and landings, taking into account the recommendations of an FAA advisory panel. But even if adopted, the proposed standards wouldn’t allow every device to be used. Here’s what could be coming.

The proposal

After months of debate and research, the agency panel has recommended allowing operation of certain types of personal electronic devices (PEDs) on planes during takeoff and landing—a significant policy shift that could change the dynamic of flying for millions of people.

The recommendations of the Portable Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee include limitations, however. Don’t expect to download data or make a phone call while you’re waiting for your flight to take off. But if you’ve already downloaded an episode of Louie onto your iPad, you’d be free to watch it.

Use of certain classes of devices—laptops, for example—still wouldn’t be allowed during takeoffs and landings, and phones would have to remain in airplane mode.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the recommendations were expected to go to the FAA on Monday.

A step forward

The committee held itself to dealing with offline devices (it refused a request from the Consumer Travel Alliance to allow internet connections below 10,000 feet), but advocates by and large say the proposed allowances are a big step forward. Some passenger aircraft would have to be analyzed to see how their instruments handle interference from the devices, but many planes already underwent that testing before airlines launched in-cabin WiFi service, The New York Times notes.

The Consumer Electronics Association—whose vice president of technology policy, Doug Johnson, sat on the panel—supports the proposed rules.

“There has been widespread passenger use of PEDs aboard airplanes for several years with no significant interference incidents during tens of millions of flights,” the association said in a press release. The CEA statement also noted that nearly a third of passengers in a survey said they have accidentally left on personal electronics during flights.

unanswered Questions

At least one association is raising concerns about what the recommended rules could mean for travelers. Kelly Skyles, national safety and security coordinator for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, says that if new guidelines aren’t clear enough, they could be problematic.

“It’s going to become more challenging to determine whose device is OK and whose isn’t,” she told NBC News. “My greatest concern is that it’s going to put flight attendants at risk for more confrontations.”

With the latest electronic devices often gaining new functionality, the lines may begin to blur for both consumers and flight attendants trying to help get a flight off the ground, Skyles says.

Don’t expect the FAA to make a decision anytime soon. As The Hill notes, aviation rulemaking—not considered an essential government function—has been put on hold due to the federal government shutdown.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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