US to consider relaxing rules on using electronics in flight, set to aid Apple Inc, Google Inc

Sep 28 2013, 21:15 IST
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SummaryAirplane passengers would be allowed broader use of mobile devices, laptops and tablets.

Airplane passengers would be allowed broader use of mobile devices, laptops and tablets during flights, under a proposal U.S. air safety regulators are due to begin considering next week.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will receive in the next few days advice about allowing greater use of personal electronic devices on aircraft from an advisory committee drawn from government and the aviation and consumer electronics industries, according to people familiar with the matter.

The new rules are likely to increase use of in-flight Internet service provided by companies such as Gogo Inc , and may affect standards for electronic device manufacturers, such as Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics , Google Inc and Inc.

The rules also could make it easier for airlines to allow passengers to plug their own electronics into in-flight entertainment systems, allowing airlines to save the weight of providing screens for everyone.

Current FAA rules require devices be switched off below 10,000 feet and ban cellphone calls at any altitude because of the risk they can interfere with airplane radios and other systems. Passengers often are allowed to make calls after a plane, even while it is on an active taxiways.

Recognizing that many travelers want to use smartphones, tablets, laptops and e-readers during takeoff and landing, the FAA last year set up the advisory group and took public comments on what could be accomplished without compromising safety.

Many passengers have expressed strong concerns that the rules are either a nuisance, or that they are necessary to avert a crash, leading to confusion and stress. Many passengers routinely ignore the rules, leaving devices on purposely or by accident.

The 28-member committee approved the report on Wednesday and is due to submit it to the FAA by Monday, according to people familiar with the matter. The committee did not consider allowing greater use of cell phones.

Instead, the report suggest specific ways that other electronics can be made safer in other phases of flight, by plane makers airlines and others involved in flight safety.

"There's no way they can police the individual devices," "The solution is make sure the aircraft can handle whatever is thrown at it," said one person familiar with the matter.

Cell phone use has surfaced as one of the most divisive issues, but that issue was left out of the FAA's consideration since it is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

Delta Air Lines said in a letter to the FAA last year that

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