Find: FAA to revisit the use of certain personal electronics on flights

About time!

Ars Technica

Laura J. Brown, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs for the Federal Aviation Administration, told the New York Times the agency will take a “fresh look” at electronics use on planes.

Bits Blog writer Nick Bilton called the F.A.A. last week ready to pester them about travelers' inability to use personal electronic devices during take-off, taxi, and landing. Instead Brown revealed the FAA will revisit their policy—which last had the necessary testing in 2006 (well before 2010's unveiling of the iPad). "With the advent of new and evolving electronic technology, and because the airlines have not conducted the testing necessary to approve the use of new devices, the FAA is taking a fresh look at the use of personal electronic devices, other than cellphones, on aircraft,” she said.


Even without the inclusion of smart phones, this revisit could benefit the masses. According to Forrester Research, more than 40 million e-readers and 60 million iPads and other tablets will have been purchased by the end of 2012.

Current FAA regulations allow airlines to request the use of electronic devices “once the airline demonstrated the devices would not interfere with aircraft avionics.” But, naturally, it costs a good deal of money to create that research. Bilton reached out to Abby Lunardini, vice president of corporate communications at Virgin America, who explained the current guidelines required for an airline when testing devices.

Each version of a single device must be tested before it can be approved by the FAA. Each airline would need to test the original iPad, the iPad 2 and the new third generation iPad before receiving approval, and each airline needs to test every plane model in its fleet. The tests would need to each be done on a separate flight with no passengers on the plane. (Imagine the scale of each airline testing with each iteration of each device, ugh).

It may take some time and resources, but if e-readers, tablets, laptops, etc. gain approval it would be a welcomed addition for all. Should the FAA pursue testing (or make it easier for airlines to do so), we could finally see some additions to the FAA's list of electric devices approved during take-off and landing—currently including electric razors and audio recorders.