Restrictions on using electronic devices during takeoff and landing could be lifted, after a regulatory committee told the FAA to loosen its guidelines on when gadgets like iPads, Kindles, and other hardware can be turned on. The recommendation by the Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which comes after a year-long investigation into the potential safety issues, is believed to include select smaller gadgets, while laptops and other larger hardware would still need to be stowed, albeit for physical reasons of potential crash danger, rather than because of whatever electrical signals they might give out.
According to Reuters, devices such as tablets and ereaders would, if the new guidelines are accepted by the Federal Aviation Authority, be permitted at altitudes under 10,000 feet. They would, however, still have to be switched into "airplane mode" or otherwise have their wireless radios deactivated.
Laptops, DVD players, and other larger hardware would need to be stowed in hand luggage until the plane had reached 10,000 feet, as usual, however. That's because should a crash take place, the bulkier equipment could present more of a safety danger moving around the cabin, the ARC suggests.
The report is the latest in a long line of arguments over the relative safety of electronics during flight. While many passengers believe that there is no good reason for their devices to be shut down during takeoff and landing, that assumption is not actually the case, the ARC discovered.
In fact, wireless radios can interfere with more rudimentary fly-by-wire systems, while sensitive navigation and radio equipment can be impacted by "spurious radio frequency emissions" it's said. The perils predominantly affect older planes, however; commercial airliners in regular use today are hardened against wireless overspill.
The end result is likely to be a split set of guidelines, in which planes of newer stock will allow for electronic device use, while older models or those yet to have all the upgrades will not. The FAA is supposedly not expected to instigate a program of device testing, instead looking to whether the planes themselves will handle the extra electronic strain.
Although being allowed to catch up on digital reading or play Angry Birds while you wait for a runway spot is likely to cheer up frequent travelers and those with children, there's another gem in the FAA's guidelines. The agency has not been including cellphone calls under the new proposals, and there's no intention to allow them during flight.