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FAA Rethinks Restrictions on Electronic Devices in the Air

Air passengers are required to turn off all electronic devices during takeoff and landing. This exasperating rule, however, could soon be a thing of the past. The FAA has formed a government-industry group to study whether its long-time ban on use of consumer electronics during some or all phases of a flight makes sense—or is necessary. In apparent response to the almost-universal use of smartphones, PDAs, and computers, the group will take a hard look at the use of electronics in flight.

Don’t hold your breath until the rules change, however. The committee won’t finish its work until well into next year, and even then, there may not be any new rules put into place right away. Instead, the agency may leave it up to individual airlines to create their own regulations.

Many of you will probably say, “It’s about time.” As far as I can tell, the technological foundation for the bans is not at all clear, with policy based on extreme technical conservatism rather than known risk. Certainly, nobody wants to compromise air safety, even a little. But if the committee finds that the existing rules are unnecessarily restrictive, you could see some relaxation starting next summer.

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