Report: FAA may loosen restrictions on passenger access to iPads, Kindles


The Federal Aviation Administration may relax rules preventing airline passengers from accessing tablets and e-readers during takeoff and landing, The New York Times reports.

Citing sources affiliated with an industry working group set up by the FAA to study the use of portable electronics on planes, the report states the agency hopes to announce looser restrictions later this year. One member of the group and an FAA official said the agency is under intense pressure to let passengers use reading devices on planes or to provide concrete scientific evidence why they cannot.

The working group, which includes representatives from Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Boeing, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Federal Communications Commission and the Association of Flight Attendants, plans to release its findings by July 31. The group also is expected to deliver a working definition of what the term "airplane mode" truly means as well as guidelines to guarantee that flight attendants must not act as "social police" determining which devices are acceptable during flight. Any resulting FAA policy change would not cover mobile phones, however.

According to the NYT report, there is no evidence that tablets like Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad and dedicated e-readers like Amazon's Kindle affect an aircraft's avionics, but travelers are still told to turn off these devices at the beginning and end of their flight. At the same time, the FAA permits use of electric razors and audio recorders during all phases of flight, even though studies indicate those products generate more electronic emissions than tablets.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told The New York Times she plans to introduce legislation to guarantee the FAA follows through with its promise to introduce new in-flight device access rules. McCaskill said her frustration with the agency's current stance has increased since she discovered iPads are now allowed as flight manuals in the cockpit and are distributed to some flight attendants as a resource for in-air procedures. 

"So it's OK to have iPads in the cockpit; it's OK for flight attendants--and they are not in a panic--yet it's not OK for the traveling public," McCaskill said. "A flying copy of War and Peace is more dangerous than a Kindle."

For more:
- read this New York Times article

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