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U.S. lifts restrictions on electronic devices on aircraft

Nov. 1, 2013, Washington, D.C. - Airline passengers will be able to use their electronic devices gate to gate to read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music — but not talk on their cellphones — under new guidelines by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.


November 1, 2013
By CBC News

But passengers shouldn't expect changes to happen immediately. How
fast the change is implemented will vary by the airline, FAA
Administrator Michael Huerta said at a news conference.

 

Airlines will have to show the FAA how their airplanes meet the new
guidelines and that they've updated their flight crew training manuals
and rules for stowing devices to reflect the new guidelines. Delta said
it was submitting a plan to implement the new policy.

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Currently, passengers are required to turn off their smartphones,
tablets and other devices once a plane's door closes. They're not
supposed to restart them until the planes reach 10,000 feet and the
captain gives the go-ahead. Passengers are supposed to turn their
devices off again as the plane descends to land and not restart them
until the plane is on the ground.

 

Under the new guidelines, airlines whose planes are properly
protected from electronic interference may allow passengers to use the
devices during takeoffs, landings and taxiing, the FAA said. Most new
airliners and other planes that have been modified so that passengers
can use Wifi at higher altitudes are expected to meet the criteria.

 

But connecting to the internet to surf, exchange emails, text or
download data will still be prohibited below 10,000 feet (3,000 meters),
the agency said. Passengers will be told to switch their smartphones,
tablets and other devices to airplane mode. So, still no Words With
Friends, the online Scrabble-type game that actor Alec Baldwin was
playing on his
smartphone in 2011 when he was famously
booted off an American Airlines jet for refusing to turn off the device
while the plane was parked at the gate.

Laptops must still be stowed

And heavier devices such as laptops will continue to have to be
stowed because of concern they might injure someone if they go flying
around the cabin.

 

In-flight cellphone calls also will continue to be prohibited.
Regulatory authority over phone calls belongs to the Federal
Communications Commission, not the FAA. The communications commission
prohibits the calls because of concern that phones on planes flying at
hundreds of miles per hour could strain the ability of cellular networks
to keep up as the devices keep trying to connect with cellphone towers,
interfering with service to users on the ground.

 

An industry advisory committee created by the FAA to examine the
issue recommended last month that the government permit greater use of
personal electronic devices.

 

Pressure has been building on the FAA in recent years to ease
restrictions on their use. Critics such as Sen. Claire McCaskill, a
Democrat, contend there is no valid safety reason for the prohibitions.
The restrictions have also become increasingly difficult to enforce as
use of the devices has become ubiquitous. Some studies indicate as many
as a third of passengers forget or ignore directions to turn off their
devices.

Similar to Canadian rules

In Canada, federal rules on portable electronic devices state
that the devices aren't permitted for use when they might "impair the
functioning of the aircraft's systems or equipment," but that they can
be used with the permission of the operator of the aircraft.


Transport Canada told CBC News late Thursday afternoon that it has not yet reviewed the details of the FAA announcement.


Currently, in Canada, the use of electronic devices is only
allowed in the cruise portion of the flight, between takeoff and
landing, and calls are only allowed as the planes are taxiing toward the
gate after landing.


However, Canadian regulations would theoretically permit the
use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing if an airline could
demonstrate that such use wouldn't negatively affect the operation of
their aircraft, said Transport Canada's Andrea Moritz in an email. That
is similar to what the new U.S. rules allow.

 

Moritz added that such a demonstration "can be challenging and costly" and so far, no Canadian airline has done it.