Since news broke regarding a possible change in the Law regarding using gadgets during flights, airline passengers in the United States are eager to be able to start using their electronic devices on board aircraft but will have months to wait until new rules are ironed out.

After Washington’s anticipated endorsement of the expanded use of Wi-Fi devices such as tablets and e-readers during taxi, takeoff and landing, everyday changes in the cabin are expected to be phased in gradually over a longer period of time, according to preliminary conclusions by a federal advisory panel.


The draft report, mentioned in our previous article, which was prepared for the Federal Aviation Administration, essentially concludes that easing the current ban on electronics under 10,000 feet is well overdue, from a scientific standpoint, but it envisions what is likely to be months of testing to identify individual aircraft models most vulnerable to potential electromagnetic interference from personal electronic devices in the cabin.  The report doesn’t estimate a specific timeline for easing current in-flight restrictions affecting devices.

Once the FAA opts for new rules, according to the report, the move will require additional FAA safety assessments, crew training and closer coordination with foreign regulators so that U.S. rules track those in other countries.  The report’s conclusions could change before it is due to be delivered to the agency this coming September and the FAA may opt to amend or slow down any implementation of recommended changes. At this point the panel appears to agree that in most cases safety risks are “small due to the number of redundant systems” found on most planes.  Last week the FAA said “we will wait for the group to finish its work before we determine next steps.” Which had previously indicated it was eagerly awaiting the final recommendations and would act on them accordingly.

The draft spells out a phased approach to easing the current ban against using portable electronics during taxi, takeoff and landing. Without specifying which devices should be permitted or precisely when, the document repeatedly urges expanded uses of onboard gadgets to bring FAA rules into harmony with the latest scientific data and changing behaviour of travellers. The draft still doesn’t include recommendations affecting the U.S. ban on cell phones because the FAA didn’t ask the advisory panel for suggestions in that area.  We look forward to clarification on these issues, but as usual delays hold us back, yet again.

[Image via zastrotron]