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FAA vows rethink of rules on electronics during flight

updated 04:35 pm EDT, Mon March 19, 2012

FAA may relax rules on devices during approach

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a rare promise to reexamine its controversial device rules. Deputy Assistant Administrator Laura Brown explained to the New York Times that a "fresh look" was coming for rules that prevented device use during takeoff or landing. "New and evolving" technology and a lack of testing demanded it, she said.

Brown didn't say when, but it bucked a policy of the FAA flatly refusing any challenge to the rule.

She admitted that a change for testing methodology was desirable. The current method requires that every version of a given device has to be tested on a flight without passengers, which would make it virtually impossible to keep up with technology without disrupting flights or very high costs. It wasn't apparent how things would change, but Brown hoped to "bring together" both home and aviation electronics makers as well as industry groups and airplane crews.

The FAA's regulations on electronics on flights has remained unchanged for 15 years and has been criticized not just for its questionable scientific foundation but for apparent double standards. Engineers outside of the agency have noted that even a cabin full of devices would be unlikely to create problems, and that the rules around takeoff and landing are arbitrary as any interference would be a major problem.

Many have pointed out that the FAA has no issues clearing in-flight Wi-Fi based on 3G links to the ground or of having aircraft where every seat has a built-in display and mini computer that, if they were in passengers' hands, would be banned from use under altitudes of 10,000 feet. Air crews themselves are allowed to carry iPads that the FAA is aware might be used outside of the same terms.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Jan 2007


    Or that dig they got

    from Alec Baldwin in a recent commercial. heehee!
    "Not on the runway!"

  1. chas_m



    Nice, but

    I think it's fine that the FAA is trying to have a more realistic attitude towards consumer electronics, but I am totally okay with them forcing devices to be turned off during takeoff and landing. This is the period when safety instructions are given, and the period when planes are most likely to develop problems. You can live without Facebook and Angry Birds for five minutes during these periods, really you can.

  1. DaJoNel

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2010



    If airplanes are so sensitive that my little phone can compromise millions of dollars worth of equipment, then no one should be flying. The fact is, the FAA wants phones off so that people are more likely to listen to the safety instructions.

  1. driven

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: May 2001


    What's the big deal?

    I'm one of the most gadget addicted guys on the planet, and even I don't mind shutting down for 10 minutes during the take-off and landing.

  1. Flyonzewall

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2010



    How many cell phones would you estimate are either accidentally or intentionally left on during take off and landing during every single flight, every single day? Have any of those phones ever caused a problem?

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