US rethinks take-off and landing gadget bans in aircraft
- 2 October 2013
- From the section Technology
The US air travel regulator has taken a step closer to allowing tablets, e-book readers and other gadgets to be used during take-offs and landings.
A special committee set up by the Federal Aviation Administration has recommended lifting a ban preventing the devices being used in aircraft when below 10,000ft (3,000m).
However, it added that larger items - such as laptops and DVD players - should still be stowed away.
The FAA now plans to review the report.
Use of the devices is currently restricted in US airspace because there had been fears that their wi-fi, Bluetooth and other radio chips might cause problems for planes' navigation equipment.
However, the committee said newer planes - which are designed to be resistant to electronic interference in order to be able to offer their own wi-fi networks - should not be at risk.
But it indicated that older aircraft might still have to pass a test to demonstrate their cockpit readouts would not be affected.
Flights might also be required to order passengers to shut down the devices in poor weather to ensure that malfunctioning gadgets, which can emit a stronger than normal signal, do not interfere with guidance systems relied on to locate runways when visibility is poor.
Even if the FAA accepts the recommendations, passengers would still be prevented from making calls or accessing the internet via a network other than the aircraft's own wi-fi system.
This is because the actions are governed by another organisation - the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - which banned them on the grounds they might interfere with equipment on the ground.
However, the Wall Street Journal reported that a representative from Amazon who sat on the committee said it had urged the two regulators to work together to resolve this issue.
The FAA itself could not be reached for comment because it is involved in the US government shutdown caused by Congress's failure to agree a new budget.
Rules on the use of electronic devices have already started to be relaxed in the UK.
In July, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) began allowing British Airways passengers to switch on their mobile phones and other devices just after landing.
However, a ban on their use during take-off remains in force.