FAA reviewing device use on planes

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is re-examining its rules on using electronic devices in the air - but don't expect to be making voice calls mid-air any time soon.

It's formed a new group to study current policies and procedures,  including the testing methods aircraft operators use to determine which new technologies passengers can safely use, and when. It will also look at establishing technological standards for the use of portable electronic devices during each phase of flight.

It won't consider the airborne use of cell phones for voice communications during flight.

The group will, though, look at whether it's possible to relax the existing rules safely, for example by permitting more device usage when on the ground.

"We’re looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today’s aircraft," says acting FAA administrator Michael Huerta.

"We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow’s aircraft designs are protected from interference."

The government–industry group, created through an Aviation Rulemaking Committee, will be formally established this fall and will meet for six months before handing over its conclusions.

It will include representatives from the mobile technology and aviation manufacturing industries, pilot and flight attendant groups, airlines, and passenger associations.

"With so many different types of devices available, we recognize that this is an issue of consumer interest," says transportation secretary Ray LaHood.

"Safety is our highest priority, and we must set appropriate standards as we help the industry consider when passengers can use the latest technologies safely during a flight."