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FAA may recommend easing of in-flight device rules this week

As soon as next year, airplane passengers may be able to use previously forbidden electronic devices when flying.

By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com
FAA may recommend easing of in-flight device rules this week
U.S. President Ronald Reagan talks on the phone from Air Force One, the presidential airplane, November 10, 1982. (UPI Photo/Files) | License Photo

The Federal Aviation Administration may be finally about to bend to pressure from tech-loving passengers, easing rules on which electronic devices can be used aboard airplanes, and when during the flight they will be allowed.

According to members of the panel, a decision to allow use of e-readers, mobile devices and laptops during takeoff and landing -- with internet connections disabled -- could come by the end of this month, and would go into effect by next year.

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Panel members, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not comment on recommendations, said the bans on sending and receiving emails and texts during takeoff and landing would remain, as would the ban on making phone calls in the flight.

The FAA's move is seen as a bending to pressure as the public has grown increasingly connected, and many airlines are moving to install WiFi on planes.

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While pilots have offered anecdotal evidence that such devices can interfere with flight instruments, research has been inconclusive. In order to ensure safety going forward, the FAA is expected to require airlines certify the planes will be able to handle interferences -- the same requirement for installing WiFi on board.

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Part of the push to make a change comes not just from passenger preferences, but because people simply forget -- or refuse -- to turn off their devices in flight.

“Every time I fly, when landing or right before we touch down, I hear pings, and bings and chirps, because people never turn off their phones in the first place,” said Capt. Sean P. Cassidy, the first vice president at the Air Line Pilots Association, and an Alaska Airlines pilot. “Rather than stick our head in the sand and expect people will modify their behavior, the F.A.A. is approaching this very methodically and purposefully.”

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