f you’ve been at a loss for what to do between the time the door closes and when the airplane reaches 10,000 feet, this may be the news you’ve been waiting for. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to ease the ban on use of electronic devices at low altitudes. That’s good news for every Angry-Bird-playing, MP3 listening, eReading, final-document-revisioning one of us.
Several factors, including increased use of electronic devices, better technology, and passengers’ tendency to ignore the order to turn off electronic devices, have convinced the FAA to have the issue studied by an advisory panel. This topic has been rehashed several times since the ban’s imposition in 1966, when it was set in place over fears of FM radio receiver interference.
The panel, made up of government and industry stakeholders, is not necessarily looking to make a policy change; though that may happen. Rather, they are interested in providing the best information possible to air carriers, who will then make their own decisions. According to Michael Huerta, FAA Administrator, “We’re looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today’s aircraft.” “Safety is our highest priority, and we must set appropriate standards as we help the industry consider when passengers can use the latest technologies safely during a flight,” said Department of Transportation secretary Ray LaHood.
The panel has found that modern aircraft cockpits are less likely to experience interference from electronic devices. Also, today’s devices use much weaker signals than their forerunners, maintaining a tighter frequency range—thus becoming less of a safety concern. Add to that, travelers’ increasing demand for in-flight WiFi and opportunities begin to look green for commercial carriers.
The final version of the report is expected near the end of September and will likely take some time for FAA review. There will be no change in standards until then.
If you’re waiting for the news that you can continue your phone call, you’ll have to keep waiting. Cell phones use a much stronger signal and still create concern over interference. So, you can keep trying to think of a word that uses those 3 E’s on your Words With Friendsrack, but you’ll still have to hold that call.