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Shutdown 2013: FAA Furloughs Delay Work on Easing Mobile Device Restrictions

Oct 05, 2013 7:00 am

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Nothing ever moves quickly in Washington, and the government shutdown has set back decision on easing airline restrictions on mobile devices even further.

— Dennis Schaal

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If you’ve been looking forward to the day airlines ease the restrictions on the use of portable electronic devices on planes, you will have to wait a bit longer.

A panel of representatives from the aviation and electronics industries submitted a plan Monday to the Federal Aviation Administration for lifting the limits on when you can power up electronic readers, tablets and other gadgets during commercial flights.

But the FAA says it can’t begin to work on adopting the recommendations because key FAA staffers have been furloughed by the partial government shutdown.

“The FAA staff that would advise the administrator on this report, as well as work on the potential execution or implementation of the guidance, are furloughed, with remaining staff, including the administrator, focusing their time during the shutdown on issues related to life and safety,” the agency said in a statement.

The FAA created the panel in January in response to the growing use of portable electronic devices and increasing calls from passengers to power up such gadgets when planes are taxiing, taking off and landing.

Regardless of the panel’s recommendations, the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission will continue to ban cellphone calls and text messages from planes.

The panel’s report has not been released, but some media outlets have reported that it recommends lifting the restrictions that ban passengers from powering up some electronic devices during takeoff and landings.

“We will post the report and issue guidelines when the lapse in funding is resolved,” the FAA said in its statement.

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