The FAA have a gadget policy change on the horizon and airline passengers in the United States may soon be allowed to use their electronic gadgets during takeoff and landing, according to a draft report from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Regulators are set to allow wider use of gadgets in flight which would bring some airline passengers irritated at having to turn off their devices some reprieve.  The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to relax the ban on using some types of personal-electronic devices at low altitudes, allowing passengers an amount of leeway during taxiing, takeoffs and landings, according to industry officials and draft recommendations prepared by a high-level advisory panel to the agency.  For fliers, the new rules would likely mean an end to the usual requests to turn off and stow away all electronic devices. Cell phone calls are expected to continue to remain off limits, however as the draft doesn’t make any recommendations regarding phone use because the FAA didn’t authorize the panel to advise in that area.

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Details are still being debated by the group and inside the FAA and could change. The draft report does indicate however, a consensus that the existing rules, essentially unchanged since their implementation in the 1960s, have been overtaken by dramatic changes in technology.

“As the consumer electronics industry has exploded,” the report says, the FAA’s traditional stance of giving individual airlines leeway to evaluate the safety of specific devices before allowing them to remain on at low altitude “has become untenable.”  In practice, airlines follow the FAA’s guidance and use a blanket prohibition on all devices until planes climb to 10,000 feet.  The FAA may be forced to act due to the number of passengers flouting today’s regulations. The experts who wrote the draft referred to recent industry research showing that nearly one-third of passengers reported that, at least once, accidentally left some device on throughout a flight.

Expanding WiFi

The impending changes also offer business opportunities for airlines, which are scrambling to satisfy customer demand for faster airborne connections along with expanded Wi-Fi entertainment and business applications.  The worldwide market for such offerings already is close to an estimated $3 billion annually, with as many as 20,000 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft are to be modified for onboard connectivity over the next ten years.The debate also has international ramifications, since rules for Wi-Fi systems, and cell phone usage, vary among countries and airlines.  ”It would be much more convenient for us” to have a single global standard, according to Alexandre de Juniac, chairman and chief executive of Air France. “Right now, it’s a nightmare,” he said, figuring out airspace where cell phone calls from planes are prohibited.  The debate amongst both airlines and their governing bodies, still remains a hot topic and the law still may remain, for now anyway.

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SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323300004578557683978941640.html