FAA to weigh easing limits on electronic devices
The 28-member FAA advisory committee voted to recommend the change during a closed-door meeting Thursday, said industry officials familiar with the deliberations. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the government asked them not to talk publicly about their deliberations.
The recommendation will be sent Monday to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has final say on whether to ease restrictions on the use of personal electronic devices on planes.
If the panel's advice is followed, passengers would have greater opportunity to use most devices below 10,000 feet, although some devices would have to be switched to airplane mode. Downloading data, surfing the Web, and talking on the phone would remain prohibited.
Passengers are required to turn off phones and other electronic devices while planes are below 10,000 feet to prevent interference with sensitive cockpit equipment. Takeoffs and landings are the most critical phases of flight. But newer aircraft are better equipped to prevent electronic interference, and critics long have complained that the safety concerns behind the regulations are groundless.
"These devices are not dangerous. Your Kindle isn't dangerous. Your iPad that is on airplane mode is perfectly safe," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), who has been pressing the FAA to lift the restrictions, said in an interview.
Not everyone agrees. There have been many reports from pilots over the years of electronic interference that appeared to have been caused by passenger use of devices. Technical panels that have looked into the issue concluded evidence that the devices were safe wasn't sufficient to merit lifting restrictions.
The FAA doesn't have the authority to lift restrictions on cellphone calls. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the cellphone industry, has opposed allowing passengers on fast-moving planes to make phone calls, citing potential interference with cellular networks as phones in the sky skip from cell tower to cell tower faster than networks can keep up.