US aviation regulators have begun considering how to let airplane passengers make greater use of laptops, tablets and e-readers on board, while still ensuring the devices don't compromise flight safety.
The suggestions, contained in a long-awaited report, are a hot-button issue for passengers, many of whom have chafed under strict rules that require portable electronic devices be turned off for takeoff and landing.
Some passengers fear their devices will imperil a flight by disrupting navigation or radio signals. Others consider the risks remote and leave devices on during those critical phases of flight when planes are most prone to accidents.
The report by an industry-government committee recommends allowing tablets and e-readers to remain on at altitudes below 10,000 feet on newer planes that are designed to resist electronic interference, but says larger devices such as laptops or DVD players should still be stowed for takeoff and landing so they don't pose a physical hazard, according to people familiar with the matter.
There are no recommendations to alter the devices themselves; however, older aircraft may need further checks to ensure they won't be affected by interference, these people said. Personal cell phone calls weren't considered by the committee, and would still be banned during flights.
The recommendations arose amid intense interest from the public and some members of
The committee began work in January aiming to conclude in six months. In July it got a two-month extension to come up with guidance on how airlines can assess the safety risks posed to critical flight systems and develop a policy on stowing devices that would work with expanded use of the devices.
OLD PLANES, NEW DEVICES
Restrictions on portable electronics on flights have simmered for decades. The
Many of the older aircraft remain in use and "are as susceptible today as they were 45 years ago," the
The switch to electrical aircraft steering mechanisms from older systems of pulleys, cables and hydraulics posed further risk to the plane, since those critical flight controls, known as "fly-by-wire" systems, added to the components that could be affected by electrical interference.
Current commercial airplanes models, made by
But some older fly-by-wire planes don't have such protection, the
Meanwhile, portable electronics have been revolutionised. Many emit cellular, Bluetooth and internet signals and even those that don't can put out low-power signals that move on radio frequencies, the
So far, the
Private jets follow the same
Some electronic device makers have taken their own steps to prove their devices are safe. In 2011,
"Frankly," he added, "it's about time." - Reuters
Most Popular Stories
- NSA Defends Global Cellphone Tracking Legality
- Ad Counts Rise in 2013 for Hispanic Magazines
- Top Websites for U.S. Hispanics
- Networks Vie for U.S. Hispanic TV Viewers
- Saab Gets Back into the Game; U.S. Auto Sales Soar
- Apple Activates Customer-Tracking iBeacon
- Dell Offers Undisclosed Number of Employee Buyouts
- 2013 Tech Gift Guide: iPad Mini Still Hot; Chromecast a Great Low-Cost Option
- A Biography of Jonathan Ive, Apple's Creative Chief
- Authorities Close to Deal with JPMorgan Chase over Madoff Response