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FAA May Lift Ban on Portable Electronic Devices Like eReaders

Kindle eReader

Announcements about turning off portable electronic devices before takeoff and landing may be a thing of the past as CNBC reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will “relax the ban on devices that now need to be completely shut off before a flight takes off or lands.” Even though cell phones will be off limits, other devices such as eReaders would be permitted for use throughout the flight.

“It’s about time,” said Taner Halicioglu, a computer science and engineering lecturer at University of California, San Diego, who summed up the general sentiment of other air travelers.

While airline passengers have long questioned the effectiveness of turning off all portable electronics, a May 2013 study by the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA) found that 30% of passengers accidentally leave them on, making users question the 1960s policy against onboard electronics. Kelly Tirman is one of the 99% of adults that travel with a portable electronics device, but admits to being one of the 30% of people does not always turn off her device during takeoff and landing. One of the most common devices to accidentally leave on? Smartphones. CEA found that 61% of devices accidentally left on were smartphones.

What about airplane mode? Many adults admit to leaving their phone in airplane mode and if you’re like me, you use it, tuck it in your bag, and forget about it until you go to turn it on upon landing only to realize it’s been on the entire time. Oops!

What prompted these changes and why now? According to CNBC, a 28-person government industry group advisory panel has been studying the impact of electronic devices on flight safety. One of the findings indicates today’s planes are more secure against electronic interference and “devices are designed to work within a tighter frequency range.”

Even with that, Today.com reported that 60% of the passengers surveyed by CEA said they were concerned about the potential for interference from gizmos being left on during takeoff and landing. On the flip side, upon hearing that the restriction on eReaders could disappear, Sarah Walker Caron, of Sarah’s Cucina Bella and Sarah by the Sea, was comforted. “As someone who hates flying and loves to read, I would be so appreciative if I could use my eReader throughout the flight — instead of having to stow it during the hardest moments of flying.”

As a parent whose kids each own Kindles, this is welcome news since it means that I won’t have to ask my kids to turn off their device and thumb through the germ infested airplane magazine or SkyMall catalog (ew!) while they wait for the plane to ascend and descend. Rebecca Levey of Kidvuz agreed saying, “The worst thing ever for parents is having to shut down the device and still have 20 minutes to landing. Makes kids crazy!!”

The FAA issued a statement saying, “The FAA recognizes consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft, [and] that is why we tasked a government-industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions.”

As the FAA’s industry group advisory panel completes their work, they will assess findings and determine next steps, with changes that might come before the busy holiday travel season.

“If the FAA is certain that it’s safe, then it’s fine with me,” said Ellen Thorp from ThriftStoreMama.com.

At the same time, one regulation that consumers hope the FAA will keep in place are regulations in regards to cell phones on planes. Noisy talkers pre-takeoff are not welcome in the skies either. As someone who likes to put on noise canceling headphones and write while flying, I relish the white noise that comes from the hum of the engines. Napping passengers and  parents who are trying to preserve schedules despite time zone changes would also appreciate the continued quiet of the cabin that isn’t disrupted by having to overhear half of a conversation.

“Please no,” pleaded Erin Sunde, who works for the United States Embassy in Oslo, Norway. “There is almost nothing so important on your device that can’t wait…”

Image courtesy of Amazon

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