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FAA May Stop Making You Power Off Those Electronics

Sep 30, 2013
Originally published on September 30, 2013 10:09 pm

It's news many airline passengers have waited to hear: The Federal Aviation Administration may allow smartphones, tablets and other personal electronic devices to be used throughout an entire flight — including takeoff and landing.

Frequent flier Barbara Reilly, a health care consultant from Atlanta, is like many airline passengers: She boards her flights with a laptop, an iPad and a cellphone, and "I used them all ... continuously, until the very moment I had to turn them off. And the second I could turn them back on, they were all back on," she says.

Reilly says she would love to see the rule requiring the powering down of all electronic devices during takeoff and landing go away.

Monday, an advisory committee made up of pilots, mechanics, engineers, airline executives and other industry experts recommended that the federal government change its rules to allow many electronics to be used during an entire flight.

While this will be welcome news to passengers deep in a book on their e-reader or lost in video or music on their tablet or smartphone, there are limitations. Sending and receiving texts and emails or using Wi-Fi during takeoffs and landings would still be prohibited under these recommendations, says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst, as will talking on cellphones during flight.

Some flights attendants are less enthusiastic than many passengers about the recommended changes. They're concerned that customers glued to their devices won't be able to hear important announcements during an emergency.

And don't count on powering up your tablet right away. A spokesman for the FAA says the recommendations are now under review. If the agency agrees to change the rules, it might not be until next year.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

I'm Melissa Block. And it's time for All Tech Considered.

We're talking about our relationships with mobile technology in our tech segment today. And we start with news that many air travelers have been waiting for. The FAA may soon allow smartphones, tablets and the like to be used throughout an entire flight, including takeoff and landing. A committee recommended that change today, as NPR's David Schaper reports from Chicago.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Barbara Reilly is a frequent flier and a busy one at that.

BARBARA REILLY: On today's plane, I brought a computer, an iPad, a cellphone. I used them all, used them continuously until the very moment I had to turn them off and then the second I could turn them all on, they were all back on.

SCHAPER: The healthcare consultant from Atlanta passing through Chicago's O'Hare airport says she doesn't like the FAA rule that requires passengers to turn off all of their personal electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

REILLY: I would love to see that rule go away. If it's not really helping anything and it's just a rule to have a rule, then I would love to see it go away.

SCHAPER: Reilly may soon get her wish. An advisory committee made up of pilots, mechanics, engineers, airline executives, and other industry experts finds that personal electronic devices do not interfere with airplane communications and navigation systems. And today that panel is recommending that the federal government change its rules to allow many electronics to be used throughout the entire flight. Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt says this will be welcome news to passengers deep in a book on their e-reader, lost in a guitar solo on their iPod, or watching video on their tablet or smartphone.

HENRY HARTEVELDT: If you're a parent with a small kid traveling, it means that you don't have to deprive your child of that entertainment. If you're in the middle of watching an episode of your favorite TV show or a favorite movie, you don't have to put that away.

SCHAPER: But Harteveldt says sending and receiving texts and emails, or using Wi-Fi during takeoffs and landings would still be prohibited. Also, talking on cellphones during flights will still be banned. Some flights attendants are concerned that passengers glued to their devices won't be able to hear important announcements during an emergency. A spokesman for the FAA says the recommendations are under review, and if the agency agrees to change the rules, it might not be until next year. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.