Government May Soon Allow Electronics on Planes

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We're always told to shut off our devices for takeoff, but the Federal Aviation Administration seems ready to change the rules.

A New York Times blog, citing an anonymous government official, says the FAA might finally figure out what “airplane mode” is for.

According to people who work with an industry working group that the Federal Aviation Administration set up last year to study the use of portable electronics on planes, the agency hopes to announce by the end of this year that it will relax the rules for reading devices during takeoff and landing. The change would not include cellphones.

Officially, the FAA isn’t commenting. But we’ve seen plenty of belligerent flyers – remember the Alec Baldwin incident? – get kicked off of planes for using their electronics. Airline unions and travel agencies are also pushing for change.

And Senator Clair McCaskill is mad as heck and not going to take it anymore. She told the Times, ““So it’s O.K. to have iPads in the cockpit; it’s O.K. for flight attendants — and they are not in a panic — yet it’s not O.K. for the traveling public. A flying copy of ‘War and Peace’ is more dangerous than a Kindle.” Other arms of the government, including the FCC, want change too.

The new rules will have to plan for the increasing use of devices, including new things not out yet but on the horizon, like the iWatch and Google Glass. Until we see them, we can’t say exactly what devices are included and excluded. But I bet there will still be fights over phone use.

Stacy Johnson

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