The FAA might soon permit limited use of electronic devices even during take-off and landing. We reported on the study earlier this year (and even last year), but The Wall Street Journal reports the FAA has been circulating a set of draft proposals that would allow for devices such as tablets, e-readers, and smartphones to be used during flights as long as they were set to a no-transmissions airplane mode. Phone calls and other radio transmissions would still be forbidden (unless the plane has in-flight Wi-Fi, of course). (The WSJ article is paywalled, but Ars Technica also has relevant coverage.)
Studies have shown that as many as a third of passengers have accidentally left electronic devices on through a whole flight, to no apparent ill effect. And the FAA has come to realize that, as many electronic devices as are being made, expecting the airlines to safety-test each one individually before allowing has become untenable.
But as Wired took great glee in pointing out, these rule changes aren’t necessarily going to go into effect soon. The FAA asked for at least two more months to study the matter, so the report won’t be in until the end of September. And the organization’s history of caution means it could take even longer before the rules see changes. But given that they’ve been largely unchanged since the 1960s, we can stand to wait a little longer.
In addition to easing the pain of gadget withdrawal for passengers, this could also open up new avenues of business for the airlines, such as charging (exorbitantly, probably) for in-flight Wi-Fi.