Uli Seit New York Times file, 2012 The flight attendant's admonition to "turn off your portable electronic devices"may become a thing of the past if the Federal Aviation Administration adopts an advisory panel's expected recommendation to relax the ban.

FAA panel considers easing limits on in-flight electronics

Published: Saturday, Jun. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B

An industry working group assigned by the Federal Aviation Administration to research the use of electronics on airplanes is expected to recommend relaxing the ban on portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

One member of the group, who asked for anonymity because the panel is not allowed to speak publicly about internal discussions, said a document is being drafted that will recommend wider use of devices during takeoff and landing, including tablets and smartphones used for data (like email) but not talking.

One of the recommendations under consideration would be to allow "gate-to-gate" use of electronics, meaning that devices could be left on, in a limited "airplane mode," from the moment the gate door closes on the tarmac until the plane arrives at the gate of its destination.

But the person, who has seen a draft of the report, said there are still concerns about passengers' electronics during landing, where the use of flight instruments is paramount, indicating the recommendation could still change.

The advisory group was supposed to deliver its findings by July 31, but has asked for an extension until September. Both were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The FAA released a statement saying it had agreed to extend the date for the report to September and acknowledged the increased consumer interest in the use of devices on airplanes.

"The FAA recognizes consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft, that is why we tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions," the statement said. "We will wait for the group to finish its work before we determine next steps."

Last year, the FAA announced the creation of the working group to study the use of electronics during takeoff and landing. The group, which first met in January, comprises people from various industries, including Amazon.com, the Consumer Electronics Association, Boeing, the Association of Flight Attendants, the Federal Communications Commission and aircraft makers.

The group has several goals, including ensuring that whatever rules the agency announces apply to devices that are not yet on the market.

Last year, the FAA began approving the use of iPads in the cockpit for pilots in lieu of paper navigation charts and manuals.

Under the current FAA guidelines, travelers are told to turn off their tablets and e-readers for takeoff and landing. The FAA permits passengers to use electric razors and audio recorders during all phases of flight.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Nick Bilton



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