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Summary:

Sick of staring at the seat in front of you during your flight’s takeoff and landing because all you have is a book on an e-reader? Well, the FAA is asking whether or not portable electronic devices might be okay to use during the entire flight.

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The Federal Aviation Administration is asking for opinions on the use of portable electronic devices on flights — including during an airplane’s take off and landing. The agency released a document today asking the public and other interested parties to comment on the use of devices that might include iPads, Kindles (a amzn) and other gadgets — a topic that has become more pressing as more people rely on such devices while traveling.

The FAA is seeking comment from passengers, airlines, flight attendants and the makers of electronic devices on a variety of topics such as procedures for testing and gathering data about how portable electronic devices interact with aircraft systems, how to build avionics systems and aircraft that don’t react to Kindles or iPads, and how to build gadget that wouldn’t cause such interference. The agency also wants passengers to weigh in on topics like whether or not voice calls on aircraft would be distracting or staring at your e-reader might make you less likely to pay attention to the safety briefings at the beginning of each flight.

There were a few notes in the filing that surprised me like the fact that along with pacemakers and hearing aids, one can apparently use an electronic shaver during flights. Also, it turns out many makers of aircraft system have already certified their equipment works when portable electronic devices are turned on. In that case the FAA wants to know if these manufacturers should provide that data to the airline operators.

Don’t think this means the FAA is going to soften its stance in the near term — or maybe even ever. Safety is still the agency’s main concern — no matter how much you want to finish that game of Words with Friends. From the FAA’s filing:

In today’s avionics, there are various systems—global positioning, traffic collision and avoidance, transponder, automatic flight guidance and control, and many other advanced avionics systems— that depend on signals transmitted from the ground, other aircraft, and satellites for proper operation. In addition, there are advanced flight management systems that use these avionics as a critical component for performing precision operational procedures. Many of these systems are also essential to realize the capabilities and operational improvements envisioned in the Next Generation airspace system. As such, harmful interference from PEDs cannot be tolerated.

So for those who want to comments, the FAA also tells you how to do it. Send comments identified by docket number FAA-2012-0752 using any of the following methods:

  • Email: Submit your comments via email to PEDcomment@faa.gov.
  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.
  • Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
  • Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.
  1. Regulations.gov does not have the information available. I tried a myriad of different search terms without any luck.

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    1. Bob, it looks like the filing has to be entered into the Federal Register first, before folks will be able to find the document referenced in (and uploaded to) the story. So you may have to hold off on comments until that happens. I’ll try to find out when that might be and update the story.

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  2. Thank god I can use my electric shaver during takeoff.

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  3. The argument seems rather simple IMO. If pilots can use iPads for flight-critical navigation charts, there’s no reason passenger electronics should be banned. If the concern is interference with aircraft electronics, planes would already be crippled on the ground.

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    1. The first time I was asked to delete a picture I took walking to the plane, I just though the whole electronics rule was in case the pilots and crew screwed up so it wouldn’t exist any proof. Then again I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the plane of us nor even out of the window.

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  4. It’s always seemed more than a little strange to me that we’re requested to turn off our electronics gear but verification of compliance is pretty loose. By now the FAA should know whether passenger use of electronic on board aircraft involves a significant safety risk. If it does not, then passengers should be allowed to use their electronics at any time. If it does, then all passengers should be closely monitored throughout the flight to be sure their electronics are turned off. The way it’s being done implies that the FAA really isn’t sure whether there’s a risk or not, and that’s no way to deal with public safety.

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  5. Jack Crawford Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    I sure wouldn’t want the guy next to me carrying on an extended conversation in a loud voice, either on a phone or to the person next to him. But if there is no safety problem, then we all should have the right to use devices that allow us to read books or play games.

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  6. Speaking on behalf of the passengers, these rules about interference are stupid and of it was any they must redesign the systems as, the passenger’s comfort should comes first. Airplanes are uncomfortable and a little annoying as it is.

    Now on the other hand, a sizeable electronic such as a laptop or iPad, nevermind if it’s on or off, becomes a very fast moving and accelerating/decelerating object, that’s why you wear a seatbelt, to minimize damage in case of a sudden stop.

    Electronics should be allowed to be left on but not out during take off and landing. Maybe something small like an iPod touch, but when speed is involved, an object a tad heavier, like an iPhone, left unmanned in one’s lap or somewhere else becomes a flying hazard.

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  7. What is the point of requiring people to turn off devices when there is no enforcement? As often as not, the people next to me on planes are checking text messages on their cell phones throughout the flight. I used to ask them to turn them off, but now I don’t even bother because it so obviously happens all the time and so obviously makes no difference.

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