FAA Reportedly Mulls Change on Device Policy

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is reportedly considering changes to its no-gadget policy during taxi, take-off or landing on flights in the U.S. Writing for The New York Times, Nick Bilton reported that a recent query to the FAA on the issue resulted in an answer that may signal a change in the agency’s stance.

Dreaming of a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow

Dreaming of a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow

Laura J. Brown, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs for the FAA, told Mr. Bilton that her agency was taking a “fresh look” at the issue. The reporter, who has a jones for the issue, had frequently asked about the subject, and this was the first time the FAA has indicated that a policy shift was even possible.

According to Ms. Brown, the FAA will test today’s e-readers, tablet, and other devices for use on planes. If approved, this would replace the current rules that allow individual airlines to request exemptions for devices, exemptions based on onerous testing that simply doesn’t get done.

The FAA last looked at the issue in 2006, when e-readers were just beginning and tablets were computers running some version of Windows. Today, Amazon sells Kindles by the million, while Apple sells iPads in the tens of millions, and that’s not counting the explosion of smartphones that the FAA is not planning on reconsidering just now.

“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 aircraft,” Ms. Brown said.

The testing is likely to take some time, in part because the FAA is still trying to work out how to actually do the testing and who is going to pay for it.

The current rules, for instance, stipulate that an airline would have to test every iteration of a device (for instance, the iPad, the iPad 2, and the new iPad, or the Kindle, the Kindle Fire, the Kindle Touch, etc.) on separate flights with no passengers. Compounding the problem, each airline would have to do this individually. The money, time, and resources required make it a lot easier for airlines to just say no because the FAA said no.

In any event, any possible changes in the (rather absurd) rules preventing the use of these devices will take some time before you can continue reading your book or watching your video while your plane lands. On the other hand, a change is at least possible.