FAA revisiting airplane electronics restrictions


— 11:04 AM on March 19, 2012

Airline travel can be frustrating. In addition to the long security lines, painfully cramped seats, and lousy food, there's the annoyance of having to shut down your notebook, tablet, smartphone, and anything else with an electronic pulse before take-off and landing. Putting devices in "airplane mode" isn't sufficient, and I've even been told that having headphones hanging loosely around my neck, with the attached MP3 player turned off completely, is against some kind of safety regulation.

The New York Times' Nick Bilton got in touch the Federal Aviation Administration responsible for setting electronics guidelines, and he learned that travelers might see those restrictions relaxed—one day. The FAA is reportedly taking a "fresh look" at the issue, although regulations are already in place allowing airlines to request that specific devices be approved for flight. Those devices must be tested extensively to prove they don't interfere with airplane electronics, a purportedly costly process that must be shouldered by the airlines.

The FAA says it wants to bring together all the parties involved, from electronics makers and airplane manufacturers to pilots and passengers, to figure things out. Extensive testing will surely remain a requirement, but it's possible the cost could be shared between the device makers and airlines, if not the airplane manufacturers, as well. I wouldn't even mind paying a bit of a premium myself, whether it's attached to an airplane ticket or an actual device.

There are quite a lot of different airplanes and gadgets, so the prospect of being able to use any device on any flight seems unlikely. I wouldn't bet on an easing of restrictions anytime soon, either, but the FAA seems to at least have an understanding that the issue needs to be addressed.

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