FAA taking a ‘fresh look’ at the use of personal electronics on planes

Kindles and iPads have moved into the mainstream, and by the end of 2012 it is predicted that more than 40 million eReaders and 60 million tablets will be owned in the United States. When it comes to traveling, unfortunately, consumers are often forced to use traditional forms of entertainment — physical books and magazines – due to the dated rules enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration. Those rules, however, may be about to change. Laura J. Brown, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs for the FAA, told The New York Times on Sunday that the agency has decided to take a “fresh look” at the use of personal electronics on planes. The last time the administration performed testing was in 2006, long before the iPad was introduced, and it does not plan to include smartphones in the possible revisions. Read on for more.

“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 aircrafts,” Brown said. The FAA said it’s trying to work with electronics vendors as well as aircraft and avionics manufacturers to figure out a way to allow passengers to use these new devices during takeoffs and landings.

According to Abby Lunardini, vice president of corporate communications at Virgin America, for a device to be approved each model must be tested at separate times on an empty flight with every plane in an airline’s fleet, and again for every airline that wants to allow the use of personal electronic devices. With thousands of different smartphone models, it is no wonder why the FAA has no plans to include them in the possible revisions — testing would take years and at completion, the phones tested would likely be obsolete.

Virgin America would like to perform these tests, but the current guidelines make it “prohibitively expensive, especially for an airline with a relatively small fleet that is always in the air on commercial flights like ours,” Lunardini said.

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