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Ear to the Ground

The New Airplane Mode: FAA to Finally Update Electronics Rules

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Posted on Sep 23, 2013
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After deliberating for the better part of a year, a Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel is set to make it possible for you to use your portable gadgets during takeoff and landing.

Although pilots and others have argued that small electronic devices—particularly those capable of sending and receiving radio signals—can interfere with airplane instruments, the hard evidence is lacking. For example, Delta Air Lines reviewed some 21 complaints from about 2.3 million flights, and couldn’t confirm any concerns.

People now routinely forget (or pretend to forget) to turn off their devices—one estimate says about a third of passengers leave electronics on—and air travel has survived. Meanwhile the airlines have started offering in-flight Wi-Fi, and it seems quite hypocritical to suggest your low-power Kindle with its e-ink display is somehow a greater danger to the flight.

As The New York Times reports, the new rules are expected to allow passengers to interact with their devices from “gate to gate,” but phone calls and Internet connectivity will be prohibited. So enjoy that movie, book or sudoku app, and feel free to completely ignore the in-flight magazine with its half-finished crossword puzzle—that is, next year, when the changes are official.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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