A panel advising U.S. aviation regulators will describe a path to allow broader in-flight use of devices including Apple Inc. iPhones and Amazon.com Inc. Kindles without recommending current restrictions be lifted, according to three people familiar with its work.
The Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee’s recommendations aren’t yet final and must be approved by the FAA. The agency must consider whether electronic signals interfere with a plane’s systems and how to address safety issues associated with having scores of metal devices loose during a crash landing, said the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to discuss the committee’s work.
The FAA yesterday granted a two-month extension, until September, for the group to complete its report.
“The FAA recognizes consumers are intensely interested in the use of personal electronics aboard aircraft,” the FAA said in an e-mailed statement. “That is why we tasked a government- industry group to examine the safety issues and the feasibility of changing the current restrictions.”
Calls to allow broader use of e-readers and smartphones on airliners have grown as lawmakers, including Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, have pressed the FAA to change its rules.
A survey of airline passengers by groups including the Consumer Electronics Association, an Arlington, Virginia-based trade group, found that four in 10 wanted to use their devices during landings and takeoffs. Airlines now prohibit passengers from using them at altitudes below 10,000 feet.
Thirty percent of passengers in the same study said that they’d accidentally left a device powered on during periods when use was prohibited.
The aviation rulemaking committee, chartered last year by the FAA, won’t recommend allowing mobile-phone use during flights, the people said. The Federal Communications Commission bans their use on airline flights because a phone at higher altitudes can interfere with ground towers in mobile-phone networks.
The committee believes that more modern aircraft are better protected against spurious signals from electronic devices, the people said.
Airlines may perform tests on devices and planes to show that their use during all phases of flight is safe, the people said. The report will outline how such tests can be performed, they said.
Tests for use of devices at lower altitudes, when flights are at higher risks of an accident, would be more rigorous, one of the people said.
Many devices broadcast radio signals on multiple frequencies, such as on Wi-Fi and mobile-phone bands, and have been shown to interfere with aircraft electronics in lab tests, according to tests by Boeing Co. and the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority.
–Editors: Bernard Kohn, Steve Geimann
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