FAA May Ease Electronic Restrictions on Aircrafts

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More airlines are encouraging passengers to bring their own entertainment, but federal regulations restrict the use of electronic devices during take-offs and landings.

This week a Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel is discussing ways to ease restrictions on personal electronics.

In a statement, the FAA said the panel discussions are in response to travelers who've voiced their concerns loud and clear.

"The FAA recognizes consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft. That is why we tasked a government industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions," the FAA said.

Currently, electronics can only be used above 10,000 feet because of concerns such devices could interfere with the plane's communication systems at lower altitudes.

"These devices have the potential to interfere with airplane systems and airplane radios during flight," Kenny Kirchoff, Boeing cabin systems research and development engineer, said.
   
But many people don't see that potential, especially as flight crews are increasingly using portable electronics.

Sen. Claire MccCaskill, D-Mo., is among the advocates for easing regulations.

"It's good to see the FAA may be on the verge of acknowledging that current rules are arbitrary and lack real justification," she said.    

The FAA wants to ease regulations without compromising safety, but any changes will only apply to devices other than cell phones.

That's because their use is prohibited by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), not the FAA, so passengers still won't be able to use their cell phones to send emails or make phone calls.

But crew members say allowing some electronics while banning others would be difficult to enforce.

Final guideline suggestions are expected by the end of the month. Any changes will likely become effective starting next year.   

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